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Phoenix Forward magazine

5 reasons to get a degree in humanities

If you love reading English literature or are fascinated by Greek philosophy, don’t drop the subjects because you think they won’t help you land a job.

Instead, consider pursuing a degree in humanities.

You’ll have the chance to study what interests you while gaining the kind of general knowledge and intellectual skills that many employers value.

“These courses teach students to think deeply and synthesize information in a way that is not found in other disciplines,” says Charles Walker, who holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and is area chair for English and communication programs at the University of Phoenix Charlotte Campus.

Here, Walker describes five skills a humanities degree can provide to help prepare you for the working world:

Critical thinking

In courses such as religion, philosophy and literature, students are required to read historical texts and then make individual interpretations, Walker explains. In a religious studies class, for instance, each student might offer a different understanding of what it means to practice Buddhism. And that’s OK.

“The critical-thinking skills that are acquired by reading and analyzing these types of complex materials,” Walker notes, “are the very skills one needs to be a successful manager or strategic thinker in the workplace.”

Cultural sensitivity

Having a respect for people who don’t look or act exactly like you, Walker notes, will help you work cooperatively with others, a strength that is especially important in today’s global economy.

“Students in humanities study a curriculum which covers the breadth of the human experience throughout history,” he says, explaining that the material helps “develop an appreciation for other cultures across different races and backgrounds.”

Ability to research

“The most pleasurable part [about the humanities], which is also the most frustrating,” Walker says, “is that unlike other disciplines, there are no clear answers.”

As a result, students must dig for information to bolster their interpretations, and they become highly skilled at doing research, an attribute that will help them in their careers because they’ll know how to work independently to solve problems.

Effective communication

All humanities students take courses in which they learn to tailor their writing and verbal expressions to different audiences.

“The ability to read your audience and effectively communicate your ideas is crucial in business,” Walker notes, “because employees need to be able to collaborate with co-workers and rally support for ideas.”


Ethical and social responsibility

Whether it’s reading literature, philosophy or religion, humanities courses require students to look at the world through the experiences of other human beings. This allows students to connect personally with the material, Walkers says, and is an effective way to learn valuable lessons.

It’s one thing to listen to a dry lecture on business ethics, he notes, but it’s another to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and discuss ethical and social responsibility. “Sometimes,” he says, “you can teach a lesson better through storytelling than just listening to a list of rules.”