Are Humanities Majors Still Relevant?

April 08, 2016

These days, college-bound students have plenty of choices when it comes to their course of study. Whether they’re interested in studying the classics or are looking for a more niche subject matter, depending on the school, there’s a seemingly endless list of options.

But with career paths changing and job opportunities calling for different skills, there has been a decrease in the number of students graduating with a degree in the humanities. Majors like English have struggled greatly, and at some schools, have seen a sharp decline in the number of students enrolled in that major. In the last 10 years, Harvard has seen a 20% drop in humanities majors, falling to what is now just 7% of all degrees given. At the University of Maryland - College Park, there were 792 English majors in 2009. But by 2015, that number had decreased by almost 40%, leaving just 483 students majoring in English. In the same time frame, the number of Computer Science majors had more than doubled, jumping from 796 students to 1,730 students.

This shocking decline at colleges all across the country has left all sides reevaluating what to do. Some schools, like Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, have actually shut down some of their humanities programs, while administrators at Stanford and the University of Virginia are concerned. What’s causing this trend away from the humanities? Job prospects and salaries play a role, as potential majors see the current job market shifting towards science and technology.

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However, departments, much like the English department at the University of Maryland - College Park, have focused on rebranding the humanities. Stanford recently started offering a joint major in English and computer science, hoping to bridge the gap between the humanities and sciences. Ultimately, departments and administrations seem to be shouldering the blame. “We have failed to make the case that those skills are as essential to engineers and scientists and businessmen as to philosophy professors,” says Leon Botstein, president at Bard College. Those skills, like critical thought, understanding questions, and sort out conflicting issues, don’t end after a major in the humanities.

So, is majoring in the humanities a bad thing? Not at all, says Wilson Peden from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Median salary and unemployment rates for humanities majors are slightly below and above the numbers for all degree holders, respectively. Even with programs struggling and students questioning the importance of the humanities in general, humanities degrees seem to be as important as ever.

Sources: Association of American Colleges and UniversitiesHarvard MagazineWashington PostNew York TimesInside Higher Ed

About The Author

Drew Evans
Drew Evans

​Drew is a content and social media guru. When he’s not working, he loves to photograph, play music, play sports, and travel. He is also weirdly obsessed with Thai food, Girl Scout cookies, and learning new languages (even though he’s not fluent in any). For any editorial ideas, contact info@admitsee.com.




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