Technology is rapidly developing the way people travel, communicate and do business everyday. How will you know what job you want to do in twenty years if technology makes it obsolete in five? Choosing a major may feel like a trivial attempt to begin a career path. That’s why focusing academic studies through a degree in humanities is becoming a more versatile option for students.
Dr. Damon Horowitz, who currently works as the Director of Engineering for Google, recently spoke at a Stanford University conference encouraging students to quit their technology jobs and get a PhD in the humanities. According to Horowitz, understanding how humans interact, how their history works and how they communicate is as important to a company like Google as developing the technology for today’s digital tools.
Hiring numbers align with Horowitz’s mission. Google expected to hire 6,000 people in 2012, and they expect 4,000 to 5,000 of those new hires to be from the humanities or liberal arts, according to Google’s Vice President of Consumer Products Marissa Mayer in an article for Times Higher Education.
What scares a lot of students about a degree in humanities is that it does not prepare for a specific career. It does not connect as well to professions as accounting or engineering degrees. The good news? As technology continues to change at a rapid pace the ability to adapt and learn in new situations is growing in value, and that coordinates well with the skill set humanities students attain through their education, according to Kansas State University.
This guide will give you a small taste of the jobs that may be awaiting you as a humanities student.
Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford University, wrote a column about why Silicon Valley needs more humanities majors.
“Technologists and engineers focus on features and too often get wrapped up in elements that may be cool for geeks but are useless for most people. In contrast, humanities majors can more easily focus on people and how they interact with technology,” said Wadhwa. “A history major who has studied the Enlightenment or the rise and fall of the Roman Empire may be more likely to understand the human elements of technology and how ease of use and design can be the difference between an interesting historical footnote and a world-changing technology.”
Wadhwa’s opinion aligns with that of Horowitz and other top technology executives of organizations around the country. A 2008 study from Duke and Harvard Universities surveyed 652 chief executive officers of technology and engineering companies in the U.S.
Only 37 percent had degrees in engineering or computer technology. The rest were in fields as diverse as humanities, finance, healthcare and business. Student’s don’t need to follow a traditional path. If you are passionate about the humanities there is no reason to believe you can’t become a CEO of a technology company one day.
Technical writing is a career with staying power, and one that suits humanities students well. Technical writers may serve a number of functions in the process of designing manuals or explaining mechanical operation and maintenance, according to the Occupational Information Network. Work may include gathering information through interviews, working with clients or consulting with product designers and experts.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) technical writers earned an average of $30.42 per hour, or $63,280 annually in 2010. Among the top-paying technical writing industries, natural gas was at the top with an average pay rate of $42.76 per hour. Computer equipment manufacturing was second paying an average of $41.24 per hour.
As a humanities student you will hone your communication, analysis and critical thinking skills. These traits align well in the advertising industry, according to the Degree Directory. Understanding the best ways to communicate, motivate and connect to people is critical to building effective advertising campaigns.
In this industry you may be expected to design campaigns, create promotional materials or work on tasks such as developing budgets, collaborating with a team or organizing clients and meetings. Working as a team is important to this kind of work — excellent communication skills are critical.
According to the BLS, advertising and promotions managers earned an average of $52.05 per hour in 2010, or $108,260 annually. The job center network O*Net projects little or no change in employment of advertising and promotions managers between 2008-2018.
There is a growing discussion about the importance of treating the field of medicine as less of a science and more of an art. Baylor University describes it as a way to provide insight into the human condition, suffering, personhood or offer a historical perspective on medical practice. Dr. Lauren Barron believes the field of humanities can better prepare caregivers.
For those students who have an interest in the field of healthcare there are specific medical humanities programs that incorporate humanities disciplines such as literature, philosophy, ethics, history, religion and medical education.
The skills developed in a humanities program can prepare students for careers in hospitals, clinics, public health departments, pharmacies and other medical services. Employment in the healthcare industry has been growing for decades, according to the BLS. The BLS estimates salaries in the healthcare field in the range of $40,000 up to well over $100,000 depending on the specific job.
Teaching is a natural path for many in the humanities because it allows you to transition the discipline you are passionate about into a career.
According to the BLS, states differ in requirements to obtain a teaching license with a bachelor’s degree in the humanities. For states that require a license, and students who don’t want to go back to school teaching at a private school, community college or an alternative school is an option.
Teacher salaries vary widely depending on grade level, according to the BLS. Data from 2009 indicates that elementary school teachers earned an average of $53,150 and middle school teachers earned an average of $53,550.
Professors in higher education typically earn more money. The average salary of a humanities professor at 4-year universities in 2010-2011 was $83,573, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.