The Myth of the Unemployed Humanities Major

Students who work their way up to leadership positions in clubs, get work-study jobs or internships writing press releases or running social media accounts or editing newsletters, who take challenging courses (and do the hard work necessary for getting an A), and who practice writing and talking about what they learn are already demonstrating the skills employers want.

Writing a few music reviews for bands you like couldn’t hurt, but volunteering to cover the student council meetings, learning how to lay out pages in Indesign, learning how to sell ads and send invoices, learning how to use a camera that takes high-resolution pictures that look better than everyone else’s iPhone snapshots, learning how to edit those pictures so they look good in print (because the paper will be slightly gray, not white) ; learning how to manage a budget for special magazine issue, learning how to manage writers and photographers who need to be reminded of upcoming deadlines — all these are complex real-world survival skills. It’s possible to slide through college without learning these skils, but these are vital learning opportunities that usually don’t come with a grade attached. Students who learn this lesson early are far more likely to succeed, both in the classroom and after graduation.

image[P]ersistent or not, the myth of the unemployed humanities major is just that: a myth, and an easily disproven one at that. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has been tracking differences in the employment of graduates from various disciplines for years, demonstrating that all graduates see spikes and troughs in their employment prospects with the changing economy. And AAC&U’s employer surveys confirm, year after year, that the skills employers value most in the new graduates they hire are not technical, job-specific skills, but written and oral communication, problem solving, and critical thinking—exactly the sort of “soft skills” humanities majors tend to excel in. —AACU