35,000 hours and 25,000 dollars. That’s roughly the average of what people spend on earning their BA’s. Not to mention the beer, sweat and tears. And hangovers. That’s all fine, if you’ve got a STEM degree. Then you can safely venture out into the world, feeling assured that your skills will be put to good use and the money will be rolling in accordingly. But if you decided to get a BA in History? Tough luck. You’re on your own

If you’re a humanities major who studied Philosophy, History or English Literature, you’re not going to be attractive in the job market. Even if you can deliver a great speech on Faulkner’s bibliography or explain Kant’s philosophy of epistemology to a layman, it’s not going to cut it.

There will be no sugarcoating, since there aren’t that many positions opening for a 16th century philosopher, theologian or history buff in 2014. That’s the harsh reality that most people are painfully aware of when picking their major. Yet they stick to it.

But alas, there is hope. Don’t shove the degree down the garbage disposal just yet. Quit rehearsing “You want fries with that?” in front of the mirror and wondering what’s REALLY in the secret sauce.

While the degree itself is largely useless in the job market, there are some skills that tend to be common for most subjects within the Humanities. The key is to extract these skills and to utilize them to harvest the profits of lucrative job markets (there are other articles explaining how you tap those markets). Below are four different aspects that most people with half a brain tend to acquire and develop during a BA in Humanities.

How these skills are to be put to use isn’t set in stone. Be it marketing, teaching English or making a leap into publishing, they all require a good dose of…


Unlike with STEM-subjects, in Humanities the lines between correct and incorrect are generally quite blurry. It is not uncommon that two contradicting conclusions can be equally valid, if they are backed by enough (fairly) solid evidence.


This encourages students steer away from linear explanations and rigid conclusions and to think outside of the box. Creativity is a muscle that, like other muscles, benefit and strengthen from use. A creative mind comes to good use in many professions and is a desirable trait for most employers. If you dare to think outside the box, you’ll be more likely to provide value to the company – or even to give rise to a business of your own.

Seeing the Big Picture

When it comes to explaining the causality behind how Protestantism could have laid the foundation for the rise of modern capitalism, you have to gather facts from multiple sources and see how they fit together. Or even force them together. Many subjects that fall under the Humanities category require you to zoom out – to see the whole picture – in order to fully understand how the smaller components in a system work. The microcosmos is reflected in the macrocosmos.

The Old Library at Trinity College Dublin

When you develop the ability to take in the whole image, you can make a better assessment of any situation and which effects that may follow. Whether it is seeing how seemingly unrelated subjects are actually deeply intertwined or how the one small aspect of a system greatly affects the whole, Humanities can help students to develop an acute sense for this.

To be able to look at things from a grand perspective can be pay off in many ways. From making everyday decisions and planning career moves to re-thinking the structure of a business organisation. In the business world, this is a skill that can serve you very well if you’re able to see patterns and connect dots, which others were unaware of – always planning one step ahead.

Strong Communication Skills

A STEM major can be very adept at configuring a local computer network at a company, but be very unfit for mailing out simple login instructions. A BA in Humanities is heavily focused on the written word – be it by writing essays, dissecting poetry or composing short stories. This results in many BA graduates with a good command of the written language.

This is widely applicable in many fields of work, not only careers that are focused on communication. Being a strong and solid communicator is something graduates should cherish and promote. Especially since it seems like a skill that is diminishing with each passing text message sent from a smartphone.

Research: Analyzing and Processing Information

Collecting data, reading dozens of books and browsing through endless Wikipedia entries looking for footnotes. This is all part of a studying History, Anthropology or whichever BA subject you can think of.


Through this many students can develop strong research skills and a great knack for summarizing information in a way that’s easily digested and interesting to the reader. Research is something that’s always needed in some shape or form and the ability to effectively distill vast amounts of information into a business presentation should be desirable to any employer.

The above is just a handful of the general skill set that comes with a BA in Humanities. It’s up to you to find where you can apply  your specific set. Where does your particular knowledge come in handy?

Put these skills to good use. Think outside the box. Look outside of America. Look outside of Europe. Look East. Look South. Explore the opportunities that lay before you and sound your “barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world”.

If you’ve studied English Literature you don’t need Google to tell you where that’s from.