College application season is one of the most important times for high school students who seek to further their education. From applying to FAFSA, taking the SAT/ACT, and writing personal essays, there is a lot to do for a student who dreams of going to college. However, one of the first decisions a future undergraduate has to make is choosing which major to study. According to Bestcolleges.com, the top 5 popular majors in California have been: Computer and Information Sciences, Engineering, Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, and Biological and Biomedical Sciences. There is something interesting that can be observed from this list: humanities majors are not in it.
Historically, humanities majors have been unappreciated and even mocked for various reasons. To start, a common misconception about having a humanities degree is that there are few opportunities in the job market. Many assume that studying these majors will only lead to teaching; although becoming a teacher is an option, it is not the only career path. Researcher, lawyer, archivist, entrepreneur, lobbyist: these are only a few of the many opportunities that a humanities degree can get you. Another common misconception is that humanities professions are not well-paying. For example, President Obama mocked those with a degree in art history during the 2016 national address: “I promise you folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.” Reflecting on the list of professions mentioned previously, all those jobs have an average salary of around $50,000 and more.
Still, humanities continue to bear the burden of being identified as a “worthless” major/degree. According to a study conducted by the WashingtonPost, the most regretted college majors in 2019 among college graduates were humanities and arts. It is as a result of these types of misconceptions that humanities is unfortunately being perceived as a useless major. However, those with this belief are very much underestimating the significance of this discipline.
Things are Changing
It’s safe to say that our world has been dealing with many concerning issues for the past few years. With the pandemic, climate change, and social issues, the need to protect our world begins with understanding it and its problems. This all starts with education. According to the UniversityofCalifornia.com, there has been a “national boom” in students majoring in humanities at several top universities. They claim that the reason for this is due to the need that humanities classes provide students with the ability to “tackle society’s issues from many perspectives and approaches”. Through humanities, students can learn to be empathetic, open-minded, and creative; all of which are greatly important in solving global issues.
As a result of this mindset, universities have been seeing record numbers of students majoring in the division of arts and humanities. For example, at UC Berkeley, the number of first-year students enrolling in arts and humanities is up by 121 percent, making it their “highest applicant year in a decade”. The dean of UC Berkeley’s Division of Arts and Humanities, Sara Guyer, comments on this trend and believes that more students are valuing how humanities provide them with the ability to “recognize the value of open-ended, creative and critical inquiry in addressing urgent questions”.
Furthermore, it’s not just the universities and their students who are recognizing the importance of humanities. Just last month, President Biden signed an executive order to promote the arts, humanities, and museum and library services by “(integrating them) into strategies, policies, and programs that advance the economic development, well-being, and resilience of all communities”. As stated in the Executive Order, this is because they are “essential to the well-being, health, vitality, and democracy of our Nation”. UC Berkeley has also taken a step towards emphasizing the importance of humanities by developing the Course Threads program, which allows undergraduates to take courses from other departments to explore the intellectual themes that connect other disciplines to their major.
From understanding who we are to gaining soft skills that many jobs are seeking, humanities have been and will always be an important discipline. No one should feel discouraged by what they choose to study, because regardless of the words on a Bachelor’s Degree, you will always have the opportunity to create a positive difference in the world.