In Defense of Your Humanities Degree: 5 Reasons Why Studying the Humanities Isn’t a Waste of Time

By Danika McClure

In the wake of a graduate shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), degrees in the humanities and soft sciences have increasingly been deemed as frivolous and less valuable to the American job market. Shortages in technical industries across the country have forced lawmakers to take action, often by decreasing funding to the arts and soft sciences in favor of colleges which produce more STEM graduates.

Rosemary G. Feal, who directs the Modern Language Association of America, attributes the decline in funding for the arts and humanities in the United States particularly to “legislators who themselves have not experienced first-hand the value of studying the humanities.”

The most recent attacks on the arts and soft sciences come from Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who told members of the associated press last month that he planned on reallocating the state’s higher education budget, giving more funding to colleges which produced the most STEM graduates.  Ironically enough, Bevin received his undergraduate degree in Japanese studies from Washington and Lee University, a private liberal arts institution.

By reallocating the state’s budget, Bevin hopes to curb the state’s STEM graduate shortage. But Bevin is just the latest in a series of lawmakers that don’t see the value in a humanities education, buying into the all too common myth of the unemployable liberal arts major.

As has been noted numerous times by educators everywhere, completing a degree in the social sciences, humanities, and the arts does not automatically condemn you to a life of retail or unemployment. The opposite, in fact may be true, as studying the liberal arts teaches students a variety of skills most sought after by employers. Rather than looking for technical skills, 95 percent of employers, prefer candidates who display “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems,” skillsets which humanities majors are more likely to have upon graduation.

While there are strong voices present in politics and even the education sector, there is proven value in studying the humanities, and as a person who has spent a large majority of her life in the arts and humanities, I’ve found many of the skills I learned in these “frivolous” courses more valuable to my work than any technical education I received while attending college.  Here are 5 reasons why pursuing a humanities degree isn’t a waste of time.

  1. Thinking Only About Shortages in the STEM Fields Will Oversupply the Workforce

While it cannot be understated that America is in the midst of a STEM crisis, reducing funding for programs outside of the hard sciences will ultimately oversupply the workforce in the scientific and technological sphere. After all, this isn’t the first time that the U.S. has experienced a workforce shortage; according to The Washington Post, this is a mistake the U.S. has perpetuated previously. A generation ago, lawyers made more money than investment bankers; but in the present day, the workforce is oversaturated with law graduates, while the investment banking industry is constantly searching for qualified candidates to fill positions.

While America does need to produce a certain number of STEM graduates in order to keep up with the global economy, there are other complex issues which graduates will have to confront in future years–issues which will require adaptability, in a variety of different environments.

  1. Humanities Education Gives Employees a Global Perspective

As business evolves to be ever globally-minded, business owners, civic leaders, and politicians are increasingly looking to understand the cultural and social climate of countries around the globe, and are counting on humanities graduates to better understand the cultural, historical, and political differences present in these countries.

Many large and revered corporations have failed to expand into overseas markets by ignoring cultural differences present in those markets.

“Some of the most successful American companies, including Walmart in Germany and TJK in Holland have failed overseas,” explains Professor Harry Lane, who teaches in Northeastern University’s School of Business, “because they did not understand how cultural differences would affect their business models.”

Lane, who has spent the past 30 years teaching individuals how to adjust to overseas markets, adds, “Thanks to globalization, an executive deals with more organizations, governments, and people, many of which are vastly different from the entities the executive is accustomed to and from each other.”

Those who have spent time studying the humanities and social sciences are able and ready to help their employer adapt to a variety of situations, partially because of their ability to adapt to any given situation and their proficient social skills, but also because humanities graduates have likely dipped their toes in a variety of social subjects including politics, sociology, anthropology, and language. These skillsets and areas of study allow graduates to adapt more quickly to the history and culture of a region, adding value to employers who seek to quickly develop relationships and transition into lucrative interactions in unfamiliar territories.

  1. Having an In-Demand Degree Doesn’t Necessarily Guarantee Job Placement

Given the fact that college has become increasingly expensive over the past decade, it makes sense that people are choosing majors based on their “employability factor.” Recent studies indicate that nearly 82 percent of 2015 graduates researched their field of study before choosing a degree path at their college.

If obtaining a certain degree guaranteed you a job, this kind of long term thinking would make perfect sense. But many professors, such as Jay Halfond of Boston University, have been speaking out against this line of thinking. In an interview with EvoLLLution, the professor notes, “In my view, it is dangerous and even corrupting to proceed down a path that shows that higher education ensures lucrative jobs soon after graduation. But we need to do a far better job demonstrating the relevance of a broad, general education, while linking what we teach to what is critical in the professional world.”

While there are jobs that require certain skillsets affiliated with specific degrees, generally speaking, your degree may have little to do with your career success. Recent research indicates that 62 percent of college graduates are working in jobs which require a degree, but only 27 percent of graduates are working in careers related to their major.

So what are employers looking for?

Many companies have begun seeking out candidates who have skillsets that are particularly developed among humanities majors: those who are adaptable, possess high levels of emotional intelligence, and are able to fit into the company’s pre established company culture.  That is to say, employers are less worried about your degree program and GPA, and are paying more attention to your personality, adaptability, and your predisposition to upholding company values.

  1. Humanities Courses Teach You How to Grapple with Uncertainty

In many STEM courses, students are presented with factual information and straightforward answers. Humanities classrooms, by contrast, are more likely to present students with material that is subjective, in which analyzing and considering a question is more important that giving a correct answer.

John Horgan, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology explains his own defense of the humanities, writing “The humanities are subversive. They undermine the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. This skepticism is especially important when it comes to claims about humanity, about what we are, where we came from, and even what we can be and should be.”

He adds later that by the end of his courses, his students will learn to question all authorities including himself. “You’ll question what you’ve been told about the nature of reality, about the purpose of life, about what it means to be a good person. Because that, for me, is the point of the humanities: they keep us from being trapped by our own desire for certainty.”

  1. The Job Prospects and Income for Humanities Majors Aren’t as Dire as Has Been Reported

UNEMPLOYMENT RATES danika mcclure

Image Source: cew.georgetown.edu

As grim as the job prospects seem to be for humanities majors right out of school, studies show that obtaining a job isn’t quite as difficult as is typically reported. In fact, the average unemployment rate for new graduates in the humanities is right on par with those with computer science and math degrees (9% v 9.1%).

Other studies indicate that humanities majors end up making more money on average than their peers who study the hard sciences. In a column written for The Wall Street Journal, Scott Samuelson cites a study performed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities which found that “at peak earning ages (56-60 years) workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually on average about $2000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional, or pre-professional fields.” Once again, employers were looking to hire graduates with the ability “to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems.”

Author Bio: Danika is a musician from the Northwest who sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl


 Whether you’re studying the humanities or STEM, The Secrets of Top Students can help you get better grades!
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Quick Tips Part 4: How to Use Google for Academic Research

By Stefanie Weisman

Sure, you use Google to look up cute cat videos, but it can also be a great tool for academic research.  Here are some tips on how to use Google to find sources good enough to cite in your papers.

  • Use double quotes to search for an exact term or a set of words in a specific order.
  • Include “site:” to limit your search to a particular website (e.g., “site:nytimes.com”) or top-level domain (e.g., “site:.edu” – this is useful if you only want to search websites hosted by universities).
  • If you’re looking for pdf documents – which tend to be more scholarly than regular websites – enter your search term(s) followed by “filetype:pdf”.
  • When trying to find a term on a web page, don’t forget about Ctrl-F (or Command-F if you use a Mac).  Just type the word or phrase you want to find in the box that pops up, and it’ll show you all the places where it occurs.
  • Use Google Scholar to search for academic articles, and Google Books for easily searchable texts.

What are some Google search techniques you like to use?


For more tips on writing and research, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 1: Taking Notes in Class

By Stefanie Weisman

It’s back-to-school time!  I’m going to be posting a series of “quick tips” on this blog, to help you start the school year off right.

Here’s quick tip #1: When taking notes in class, make sure you use lots of symbols and abbreviations to record things quickly and efficiently.  Here’s a list to help you get started:

Symbol/ Abbreviation  Meaning
 + and, in addition to, plus
 –  except for, excluding, minus
 =  equals, is equal to, is the same as
 ∼  is similar to, is like, is about, resembles
 <  is/ has less than
 >  is/ has more than, exceeds
therefore, thus, because
leads to, results in, means, signifies
 ↑ gets bigger, increases, grows
Δ change in [something]
w/ with
w/o without
b/c because
ex. for example
vs. versus, as opposed to

You should also develop your own abbreviations for different types of courses – especially for long, complicated words that come up frequently.

And when the teacher uses multi-syllable words that take a long time to write, try to substitute them with shorter synonyms – for example, “means” instead of “signifies,” and “but” instead of “however.”


For more study skills tips, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

The Secrets of Top Students Back-To-School Giveaway

The Secrets of Top Students

The Secrets of Top Students

Hey all you students and parents out there!  Since it’s almost back-to-school time, I am giving away a copy of The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College.  All you have to do is click here to enter.

Rules: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The 50th eligible entrant will win. This giveaway started Aug 14, 2015 10:16 AM PDT and ends the earlier of Aug 21, 2015 11:59 PM PDT or when the prize has been awarded.

Click here to enter giveaway.

About the book:

The Secrets of Top Students includes tips and techniques that every student should know. For example:

  • What is the first thing you should do when taking a math test?
  • What is an often overlooked place for coming up with a thesis?
  • What music should you listen to while studying?
  • Why is it bad to be a perfectionist?
  • What are the good and bad types of motivation?
  • What foods should you eat to boost your brainpower?
  • How much do top students really study?
  • Should you bring your laptop to class?
  • What are three game-changing learning techniques?
  • And much, much more.

Written in a conversational, down-to-earth manner, The Secrets of Top Students shows you how to maximize your learning and get the grades you want. Filled with innovative, time-saving techniques, this book also includes advice on motivation, the mind-body connection, and technology inside and outside the classroom.

Infographic: Top 10 Trends for Back-To-School and College 2015

The summer is half over! Have you done your back-to-school shopping yet?

Top 10 trends for back-to-school and college 2015

Source: National Retail Federation


Don’t forget to order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students for the new school year!

How to Embrace College Culture As a Long Distance Learner

Guest Post

Thirty years ago, the thought that people could someday experience higher education schooling on a personal computer without ever stepping foot in a physical class room would have been unfathomable. It has been transformative in a time when cost and convenience are both matters which would otherwise inhibit one’s ability to access education.

However, some might argue that a great part of the experience can be lost in translation. Many people who attend online universities tend to be uninterested, or feel out-of-touch, with college culture since these people tend to be later-in-life students or have limitations in regards to physical access to an institution – and that’s okay.

But for those who want the social and cultural experiences of college from the comforts of a strictly online education, it can be difficult to do without extracurricular activities on your schedule. If you are unable to attend school at a physical campus and you would like to be more involved in the college lifestyle, here are four ways to do that from a distance.

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Eight Rules for Writing a Great Paper (Guest Post)

Lois Weldon is a professional writer at the dissertation writing service Uk.bestdissertation.com.  She is an ESL teacher.  Her hobbies are decoupage and writing poetry.  She loves Marvel comics and homeschooling her 7-year-old son.

If you’re a college student, you’ve probably completed hundreds of writing assignments and become intimately familiar with the writing process.  But writing does not stop with graduation – you’ll have plenty of opportunities to write even after you finish school. No matter how much writing you’ve done, it never hurts to learn a few tips and tricks to facilitate the writing process.

Read these tips before writing that paper.  Photo by gudmd.haralds via Flickr.

Does this look familiar to you? Read these tips before writing that paper! Photo by gudmd.haralds via Flickr.

  1. Make an outline. The importance of having an outline can never be overstated. An outline is a blueprint for your assignment. Developing an outline will help you organize your ideas, conduct better research, and estimate the word count for every section.
  2. Take note of the structure. When doing your writing assignment, make sure it has an introduction, a body and a conclusion. An introduction should introduce your topic and provide background information, while the body of the paper should contain the supporting evidence for your paper. Lastly, provide a conclusion by summarizing your argument and putting it in context. Remember: the conclusion is your last chance to impress your readers, so make it memorable!
  3. Ensure continuity of ideas. Imagine if your paper is all over the place – that is, you discuss a certain topic in one paragraph, then introduce an entirely unrelated topic in the next paragraph. Your reader will not be pleased. It’s important to maintain continuity so your readers will be able to follow your train of thought.
  4. Keep it objective. When it comes to academic writing, what really count are facts and relevant information. While your opinion does matter, refrain from incorporating it on your writing assignment. It is imperative that you present a clear and unbiased picture based on evidence and expert studies. Unless your opinion is being asked, don’t include it in the paper.
  5. Use bullets and numbering. In some academic writing, bullet points are preferable to long-winded paragraphs. This will allow you to discuss each point in an efficient and organized manner. Plus, it’s easier on the eyes.
  6. Take note of the word count. When writing your assignment, keep in mind that too few words means you won’t be able to express your ideas effectively, while too many words can lead to superfluity or duplication of ideas. If you are given a required word count, stick to it! In your outline, indicate how many words you should allot per section.
  7. Use examples. In a writing assignment, you must show that you understand the resources and materials you gathered from research. Use concrete examples to apply what you’ve learned and support your arguments.  You should also make use of tables, statistics and figures in your paper.
  8. Cite your sources. When it comes to academic writing, citing your sources, especially when you’re borrowing an idea or theory, is a must. Plagiarism is a form of stealing and you don’t want to compromise your future just because you did not acknowledge someone else’s work.

For more tips on how to write a paper and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!