What Can You Do With A Humanities Major? More Than You Think

Nine of 10 employers say communications skills matter more than choice of major

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By Jessica Santina, OnlineDegrees.com

As the U.S. economy rebounds and companies continue adding jobs, it won't necessarily be finance or technology prowess they want most from new hires -- it's communication and critical-thinking skills they'll be after. The National Association of Colleges and Employees reports that the quality employers most want from applicants is the ability to communicate effectively. That must be why a recent Georgetown University study found that information studies majors had a higher unemployment rate (14.7 percent) than English majors (9.8 percent) or history, religious studies and philosophy majors (9.5 percent).

Long the butt of jokes and disparaging remarks, the humanities major has gotten a bad rap for its perceived inability to lead to a decent job, creating what Bracken Darrell, the CEO of Logitech, calls an "endangered species." The ability to think and write well, along with interpersonal skills, problem-solving and analytical abilities and other high-touch skills such as empathy, are all highly valued by today's best employers, and they're found sorely lacking among today's college graduates. After all, these soft skills can't be outsourced or automated.

Jobs typically associated with liberal arts majors -- such as English, journalism or art -- are thriving, and the pay is not too shabby, either. Take a look at this sampling from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2012-2013:

- Public relations managers and specialists -- These fields are expected to grow at a faster than average 21 percent between 2010 and 2020. In May 2012, the mean annual wage for public relations specialists
was $61,980.

Find a job now as a public relations manager and specialist.

- Psychologists -- Demand for psychologists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2010 to 2020, also faster than average. Clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a mean annual wage of $72,220 in May 2012.

Find a job now as a psychologist.

- Graphic designers -- Employment of graphic designers is expected to increase by 13 percent nationwide this decade. While those working in print may see employment decline, those in computer systems design and multimedia should see explosive growth of 61 percent. In May 2012, graphic designers earned a mean annual wage of $48,730.

Find a job now as a graphic designer.

What may be surprising, however, is the number of jobs available to humanities majors that are not typically associated with the field. In a recent survey of business and nonprofit leaders, the Association of American Colleges and Universities reveals that 93 percent of employers believe "a candidate's demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate's] undergraduate major."

In fact, a long list of incredibly successful businessmen and women began their careers as liberal arts majors. Mitt Romney; Peter Theil, co-founder and CEO of PayPal; Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express; former Disney CEO Michael Eisner; CNN Founder Ted Turner; former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy; and FDIC Chair Sheila Bair are just a few of the notable names that hold degrees in the humanities.

The research, analytical and interpersonal skills gained in a humanities program can lead to a host of careers outside the field. Surprisingly, among those accepted into medical schools in 2010, 51 percent were humanities majors. That same year, nearly half of those in Stanford's business school entered with an undergraduate degree in the humanities. And Forbes.com reports that a study by a Chicago State University professor found that the top 10 majors with the highest law school acceptance rates included philosophy, anthropology history and English.

According to the NACE, humanities majors can choose from a wide range of career paths, depending on their specific concentration. Here are a few examples of occupations that graduates might consider:

- Market research analysts -- Market research analyst positions are expected to see job growth of 41 percent between 2010 and 2020, says the BLS. Bachelor's degrees in social sciences, communications or math are usually accepted for this high-paying job, which saw a mean annual wage of $67,380 in May 2012.

Find a job now as a market research analyst.

- Human resources managers -- Those working as human resources managers -- a job that should grow by 13 percent this decade -- come from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from finance and business to psychology or education.

Find a job now as a human resources manager.

- Medical and health services managers -- Because analytical, communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills are key necessities in medical and health services manager positions, a bachelor's degree in a humanities subject, paired with additional post-graduate training in health care administration, could lead to this job that's expected to grow by 22 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Find a job now as a medical and health services manager.

As outsourcing and automation continue to erode a large percentage of strictly left-brained, white-collar jobs, experts believe the skills typically associated with humanities majors will be increasingly coveted by employers.

Jessica Santina is a writer for OnlineDegrees.com. This article was originally published on OnlineDegrees.com.

Why Companies Should Want to Hire Humanities Majors

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