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.

Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.
LEARN MORE

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.




Browse Successful Application Files

hulya559
Harvard ‘21


Accepted to Harvard, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, Emory, USC

Hi! I'm a Harvard PreFrosh interested in service, economics, math, and philosophy excited to help you.
clee94
Harvard ‘17


Accepted to Harvard, UVA, USC

Hi! Harvard senior (brother in class of '19 here as well) studying Economics and East Asian Studies while journalism, wood design, dance, baseball, cultural, & professional groups.
rubisco22
Stanford ‘21


Accepted to Stanford

A Questbridge Match and an aspiring engineer who plans to solve global issues using business, law, politics, and, of course, science.
2021stanford
Stanford ‘21


Accepted to Stanford, Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley

My spirit animal is Pikachu (that is, a math/science, politics-loving Pikachu!)

New Posts

Student Insight: How to Approach Transferring Colleges
Student Insight: How to Approach Transferring Colleges
January 09, 2018

Not sure if your current university is the best school for you? Consider your transfer options. No one really expects to go through the application process again after senior year in high school. But things...

How To Succeed on MCAT Test Day
How To Succeed on MCAT Test Day
January 05, 2018

Stressed out about your upcoming MCAT? Our friends at Magoosh will help you through MCAT Test Day! You’ve prepared for the MCAT for months, you’ve selected the right date for you—and it’...

Brown University Class of 2022 Results Released
Brown University Class of 2022 Results Released
December 21, 2017

Brown University admits 738 early decision applicants from the largest early admission application pool Brown has had since the early application program started 16 years ago. The 738 students who received good news from Brown make up 21.1% of...

Load More Posts