Why study Humanities?

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What do people like Jack Ma (Co-Founder of Alibaba), Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks), Richard Plepler (Former CEO of HBO) and Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube) have in common? I bet most people would say that they are all extraordinary successful and wealthy people.

There is, however, another commonality. They are all Humanities majors. Jack Ma studied English, Howard Schultz studied communications, Richard Plepler studied political science, and Susan Wojcicki studied history and literature.  

In the last few decades, many people believe that the sure path to success would be to study STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The reason is that there is a massive demand for workers who specialise in Data Analysis, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Content.

These people are not wrong as technology becomes more important in our lives. Everything operates because of computers and the Internet. However, they are mistaken if they think Humanities have no place in the future.

What are Humanities?

What are humanities? Humanities include English, literature, history, performing arts, philosophy, geography, political science, communications and social sciences.

Why are Humanities subjects critical? First, they help us understand others through their languages, histories and cultures. Second, they teach us to deal critically and logically with subjective, complex, imperfect information. Third,  Humanities help us explore the moral, spiritual and intellectual sense of the world.

Connecting People

Firstly, through subjects such as Social Studies, we learn about other countries, their languages, histories and cultures. Our world is rapidly globalising, which has created vast opportunities for everybody to work in different parts of the globe.

As a result, we find ourselves visiting and working in other countries. Even if we do not work overseas, we find ourselves working with people of different nationalities, religions and cultures.

Humanities help people understand other people. As a result, Humanities graduates tend to be better at interpersonal and cultural relationships. Thus, people who studied Humanities are better at connecting with people.

Dealing with Information

Humanities help people deal with information. Our world has a lot of knowledge, most complex and some contradictory. Furthermore, much of this information is imperfect, incomplete and biased. Due to the massive amount of data, it is sometimes impossible to decide what information is right or wrong.

Humanities help its practitioners to judge evidence with scepticism and to consider an idea from different angles. Thus, students of Humanities can understand and analyse critical information, which helps them make correct decisions.

Gives Better Understanding of the World

Finally, humanities help its students to understand the future better by using their diverse worldview to explore moral, spiritual and intellectual issues.

Are you fearful that artificial intelligence will create a world like Terminator or the Matrix? Maybe philosophy can help us to reflect on its ethical concerns. Not sure what the future might be? Perhaps a history course may help us better understand the present and better picture the future.

Humanities might not seem practical, but it brings about a perspective that may help make a better world for everybody.

Are you still not convinced? Then, instead of just reading about the abstract benefits of Humanities, let us look at real-world data.

What the Real-Word says about Humanities?

Employability

In addition to employing STEM graduates, many employers also hire humanities graduates. For instance, Uber hires psychology majors to solve the problems of 'unhappy riders and drivers.' An IT company that deals with restaurants hire English majors to write marketing copy to attract restaurant owners to join them.

Employers want staff who have outstanding oral and written communication and are critical and analytical. They also want employees that can connect choices to ethical decisions. Humanities graduates naturally master all these skills.

Naysayers argue that STEM graduates can also master effective communication. However, no subject other than humanities put so much emphasis on writing, reading and debate. Consequently, it is scarce to find someone who is excellent at communication other than a humanities student.

Furthermore, humanities teach compassion and empathy. It is a generalisation if I argue that STEM students do not possess this quality. However, I will say that Humanities students do better at working with people of diverse backgrounds and motivations. The ability to work well with people of different cultures is even more critical in this increasingly diverse world.

Don't forget that technology is only as good as the people controlling it. Thus, humanities graduates can work together with STEM graduates in putting in humanistic elements to technology.

Salary and Success

How well do Humanities students in working environments? Research has found that 55% of corporate leaders studied humanities-based subjects. There is no better evidence than the success of the four persons I mentioned at the beginning. Having a humanities degree does not penalise a person's potential to be successful.

How about pay? Studies show that long-term growth for humanities students outshine non-humanities students.

For example, in the United States, the typical law student who studied non-humanities subjects before taking up a law degree earned an average of $94,000 a year. Students who studied humanities and switched to law earned much more. (Philosophy / religious majors - $110,000 per year, area studies majors - $124,000 per year, history majors - $143,000 per year, foreign languages majors - $148,000 per year). Research has found this to be true in other professions.

Conclusion

This article is not to put down STEM students. STEM graduates are essential. However, do not think that studying humanities is useless. On the contrary, they have critical skills to offer to their employers. Therefore, do consider studying humanities to better your career.