Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Choosing a Career in the Humanities

If you're considering a career as a college professor, choosing a college major in the humanities, or going to graduate school in the humanities, you need to read Patricia Cohen's article in yesterday's New York Times: "In Tough Times, The Humanities Must Justify Their Worth." By humanities, Ms. Cohen includes "languages, literature, the arts, history, cultural studies, philosophy and religion."

Some of the 300+ comments are worth reading too - readers talking about their own career choices in the humanities.

It's true that career paths go through ups and downs in popularity and outlook. But the question of whether a humanities degree, undergraduate or graduate, is worth the investment (monetary and time) has been around for awhile.

My take is that if you have a clearly defined career goal in mind, you will be more likely to achieve it - whether you want to teach philosophy at an elite college or write critically acclaimed novels.

The problem with getting a humanities degree is that if you just choose one because you have no career goals, you're more likely to suffer in finding a job later - rendering your investment less useful. At least if you "fall into" most science or technology degrees (nuclear physics maybe not so much), you have more career options to fall back on. Science and math skills are the foundation for many jobs.

Bottom line: choose your career path before choosing a training program, college major or graduate school. Do your research and investigation early - don't wait until after you've taken out all the loans, gotten the diploma, and are sitting in Career Services wondering what job to apply for. Get started with the 3 steps at our website:
  1. Know yourself,
  2. Know your options, and
  3. Make a good decision.


mubbs said...

I agree and thanks for making this blog. I wish I had been a little more diligent and strategic.

If readers want to see what they can expect in the transition from graduate student in humanities to finding a job, they can track my progress at

My advice: read, plan ahead, and educate yourself on the reality of things.

mubbs said...

Thanks for this blog---I'd advise readers to take your word and plan ahead.

If they don't believe you, they can read by blog at, a blog that tracks my difficult transition from humanities grad into employment.