While the economy is still mired in a recessive state, slowly working itself back towards high employment and higher wages, it seems that the students who find it hardest to get a job upon graduation are those who major in the humanities or liberal arts. While engineers, scientists, and accountants slot easily into new jobs, English, history, and philosophy majors find themselves only able to apply for jobs that are marked with the dreaded “All Majors Welcome” label. This is not a slight on those who receive a job, merely a factual statement that demonstrates the complete reversal the United States had undergone since C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” – Science vs. Humanities – in the early 1960s.
I myself am a historian, someone who got his bachelor’s degrees in 4 years and then graduated in 2010, right in the middle of the worst recession since the 1920s. My options were few and far between, and no matter how hard I looked, jobs never appeared. Instead –and perhaps against my own best judgment – I chose to return to school, again choosing history for my graduate program. As I plan to graduate in June of this year, I find myself stressing over the thought of looking for and applying to jobs. It is not the process that scares me, but rather, the fear of being told “No” or, worse yet, not being told anything at all.
While this may seem somewhat depressive and very much not arguing for the humanities as the title implies, the realization that students in the humanities have a harder time finding a job has actually changed my perspective and opened my eyes to the possibilities that we sociologists, historians, and language majors can offer to the professional world.
As a history student, the skills that I have learned and the knowledge that I have gained may seem like little more than a memorization of names, dates, and facts to an outsider. However, to me, I know that I now possess critical thinking skills that allow me to synthesize and evaluate a variety of sources and compile them into a larger body of work that conveys a new importance and a new meaning. I have gained a knowledge and appreciation for different cultures and their histories, allowing me to connect with their stories and better understand what they have gone through. Similarly, I now have better communication and collaboration skills, working efficiently and effectively with others to succeed in ways that others cannot.
When I graduate from OSU, I may not become a historian and my understanding of a war or a famous historical figure may never again come in handy. That does not make my degree in the humanities a failure or a waste of time, rather it demonstrates that sometimes the content of what we learn is not the most important, but rather, it is the context, the process, and the manner in which we learn that will truly help us in the future.
Posted by Peter Rumbles, Career Services Assistant