5 Ways the Humanities Matter

by Grace Dickins

Hoping to bring home the big bucks after a successful academic career? If so, the humanities may not be the first course of study that comes to mind. Contrary to popular opinion, a humanities degree won't necessarily sentence you to a lifetime of low pay. Not only that, but there are plenty of reasons beyond money to study the humanities. Let's count down the top five reasons why the humanities matter.

1. Humanities promote understanding

As society becomes increasingly more globalised, some might argue that the humanities are more important than ever before. Why? Because they foster cross-cultural understanding about everything from language to history. Considering the growing complexity of the modern world, we need all the help we can get.

2. Humanities teach us to right from wrong

In taking a lens to how others live and have lived, the humanities help us understand where we have failed, where we have succeeded, and where we can do better. Since the beginning of time, people have wrestled with the concept of right and wrong. The humanities help us examine these historical concepts and apply them to how we live today.

3. Humanities educate leaders

A 2012 study showed nearly 60 percent of the USAs CEOs and heads of product engineering have humanities degrees, according to advocacy organisation 4Humanities. Why? Because an understanding of the humanities helps people develop into informed and engaged leaders.

A recent Washington Post article spoke to the importance of humanities grads in Silicon Valley. If you're planning on a tech career, there's no right or wrong field of study, but there is an increasingly important set of 21st century skills, including the "soft skills" it takes to lead and lead well. No other discipline teaches these skills better than the humanities.

4. Humanities make us smarter

From verbal and writing skills to critical and creative thinking, the humanities teach us to ask questions and strive toward answers. They also teach equality, fairness, and social justice, along with the ability to evaluate both sides of an argument with an open mind.

5. Humanities make the world go 'round

Along with all of the many different areas of study, the humanities make a unique and irreplaceable contribution to society. The world is a vibrant, rich, dynamic place. Without the humanities, it wouldn't shine nearly as bright.

None of this is to say you can't make it into the one percent with a humanities major. Former humanities students who went to do big things include late-night funnyman Conan O'Brien (History and American Literature), filmmaking icon Steven Spielberg (English), J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon (Psychology and Economics), and the creative genius behind "The Boy Who Lived," J.K. Rowling (French and Classics). Will you add your name to this illustrious list?

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