Humanities majors have never gotten respect from, well, anyone. For some reason, society decided that the fields of STEM, business, accounting, and anything and everything else are far more important without even understanding that the arts are just as necessary.
I, as an English major, saw it everywhere. I have SO many stories of people not understanding the value of or putting me down for my degree, but here are the two worst and most poignant examples:
As I was approaching graduation, I went to my college's career services office to discuss job searching. The advisor I spoke with told me that she had gotten her undergrad degree in art because she loves art. She then told me that when she graduated, she had a hard time finding a job and ended up being a secretary somewhere for a little while and has never had a job in her field. She told me that it would be very hard for me to find a job and I may have to settle for an office administration position like she did, or even accept an internship because there just aren't jobs for majors like mine out there.
When doing my first phone interview for a job after graduation, I asked the interviewer if I needed to clarify anything about my qualifications. Though I can't remember her exact words, she essentially told me that she didn't understand how my classes and preparation as an English major would have prepared me for this job. The main job task was writing emails and copy for advertisements. I thought it was obvious that I am pretty good at writing since that's a hallmark English major thing. Plus, I had worked with this person before in a writing capacity, so she knew how good my writing is. Though I was surprised, I defended my degree as best as I could on my feet. I never heard back, and I always wondered if this question was why.
Trust me, every humanities major has had these experiences. Along the way, people will express their doubts about your field and tell you it isn't practical. But the truth is, they're not the ones sitting in the classes, doing the work, and gaining the skills and knowledge from the degree. Those of us who actually go through the program can see its value and know how it will apply to a future career, even if no one else does.
I was talking about this issue recently with a fellow English major friend of mine. She said something along the line of "being an English major has made me a better person," and I couldn't agree more.
STEM majors learn important and valuable skills for the workforce, and humanities majors do too. But we also learn what it means to be a citizen of the world.
We've become time travelers by escaping into stories from all sorts of cultures and time periods and sources. I may not have loved all of them, but I learned something from every one of them, be it a profound lesson, a new point of view, understanding a group of people, or being more aware of people other than myself.
In these stories, we've spent time in other people's minds and empathized with other points of view. It might be "not real," but in spending time with characters, I've felt a real connection with them because I can see parts of me in them. I've felt real emotions as they experience their story. I have laughed out loud at a sentence on a page and cried over a few heartbreaking lines.
We're taught to challenge everything. Here's an idea that's presented in this story – what do you think about that? Do you agree or disagree with that? What are the implications? What's the deeper meaning? We defend what we believe in our class discussions and our papers. You have an idea? Okay, how can you back that up? What evidence is there for that?
A humanities major learns necessary job skills through their degree by doing things like this. And along the way, what we learn shapes who we are. As corny as it is, I think being a humanities major has both prepared me for the workforce and changed who I am. I firmly believe that non-humanities majors aren't granted the opportunity to gain that second part.
After that failed job interview, I applied elsewhere for another writing position. After reading my writing samples, the interviewer told me that I had great skills that were what this job needed, and I was hired. No doubt about my degree and real work in my field – not an internship or secretarial work.Stop discouraging humanities majors, because our jobs are important too. The world would not be the same without us, so please do us a favor and keep your doubts to yourself. We know what we're doing.