Humanities Majors: Salary and Career Facts

A major in the humanities can encompass a wide range of topics, including art, history and literature, among others. Learn about the different types of jobs and related salaries that may be available to graduates. Get more info about course topics in the humanities. Schools offering Interdisciplinary Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Career Options for Humanities Majors?

The wide scope and flexibility of a humanities major at a college or university prepares you for a number of different careers. Because you will be covering many subjects along the way, your major prepares you to write about this material, whether that be from a creative angle as an author, or as professional in the many fields that utilize the skill of technical writing. If you are one who enjoys sharing your passions with others who might one day follow in your footsteps, you might also take what you have learned and teach others at various levels, from elementary school all the way through high school. Jobs are also available in fields like advertising, where you could gain a management position and oversee ad campaigns. Below, the table provides some additional details about careers in the humanities field:

Technical WriterElementary School TeacherMiddle School TeacherSecondary School TeacherAdvertising and Promotions Manager
Education RequiredBachelor'sBachelor'sBachelor'sBachelor'sBachelor's
Key ResponsibilitiesWrite guides, manuals, and articles focused on technical informationInstruct young students in a variety of different subjects, keep parents informed on student progress, help young students become accustomed to schoolDevelop lesson plans, generally focus on one specific subjectPrepare students for the workforce or college courses, develop lesson plansDesign advertising campaigns, develop promotional materials
Licensure RequirementsVoluntary certification availableRequiredRequiredRequiredNot required
Job Growth (2014-2024)*10%6%6%6%5%
Mean Salary (2016)*$73,160$59,020$59,800$61,420$117,810

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Can I Expect as a Humanities Major?

According to the National Endowment for the Humanities, disciplines that traditionally fall under the umbrella of the humanities include literature, languages, religion, philosophy, history and art theory (www.neh.gov). While some schools offer individual majors in humanistic disciplines, others offer a major in the humanities as a whole. If you choose to major in humanities, rather than in an individual humanistic discipline, you may be able to choose an emphasis in an individual discipline, like history or English. The degree most commonly awarded to humanities majors is the Bachelor of Arts.

As a humanities major, your studies would be focused on the core humanistic disciplines. You might be able to tailor your studies to focus on the culture of a particular region or time period, such as the Enlightenment, China or early modern Europe. You will complete courses that focus on cultural theory, including how individual people and whole cultures present their ideas and values. It is likely that you will spend a lot of time reading and writing for your humanities classes. You may engage in comparative study of different cultures, different eras within the same culture or different world religions. You may also study foreign languages, both classical and modern.

What Jobs Can I Apply For?

According to the College Board, humanities majors develop skills in critical thinking, communication and analysis (www.collegeboard.com). This major can prepare you for a wide range of careers that make use of these skills. Some possible careers in this area include writing and teaching. You may also be qualified to work in industries that require skill in communication. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), advertising is an industry that seeks applicants with skills in this area (www.bls.gov).

One specific area of writing that you might pursue is technical writing. As a technical writer, you would write equipment manuals and other books that explain mechanical operation and maintenance. You could be responsible for designing these manuals, in addition to writing them, according to the Occupational Information Network, or O*Net (http://online.onetcenter.org). You would be responsible for gathering necessary information through interviews, discussions with clients, product designers and others regarding technical requirements.

According to the BLS, you may be able to earn a teaching license with a bachelor's degree in the humanities. If your state does not grant teaching licenses to those who do not specifically hold a degree in education, you may be able to teach at a private school. As a teacher, you could work with elementary school students, teaching a range of topics, or with middle or high school students, teaching specific topics, like English or art. Most teachers are members of unions, like the National Education Association or American Federation of Teachers, which represent teachers' interests in contract negotiations and lobbying activities, according to the BLS.

In the advertising industry, you might be able to work as an advertising or promotions manager. This job centers on designing advertising campaigns and creating promotional materials for those campaigns. You may be responsible for oversight of specific departments, like the creative or media services departments, according to the BLS. Other possible tasks may include budget development, collaboration with others in a team setting and meeting with clients to set goals for advertising campaigns.

How Much Can I Earn?

The BLS states that in 2016, technical writers earned an average of $35.18 per hour, or $73,160 annually. In the same year, the top-paying industries for technical writers, according to the BLS, were lessors of nonfinancial intangible assets (except copyrighted works), paying an average of $45.70 per hour, and specialized design services, which paid $41.77 per hour on average.

A teacher's salary can vary based on the grade level they teach, according to the BLS. For example, BLS data from 2016 indicates that there were 1,392,660 elementary school teachers, and they earned an average of $59,020. That same data shows that at the middle school level, there were 626,310 teachers, and they earned a yearly average of $59,800. Also shown in that data is that there were 1,003,250 secondary school teachers, and they earned an average of $61,420.

According to the BLS, advertising and promotions managers earned an average of $56.64 per hour in 2016, or $117,810 annually. The BLS projects a growth of 5% in employment of advertising and promotions managers between 2014 and 2024, with 1,500 projected job openings.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Aspiring teachers might also consider going into career and technical education positions, where curricula such as technical and vocational subjects make up the course offerings. If your passion is in teaching those who need special attention, positions are available for special education teachers. Similar to other teachers, both career and technical education teachers and special education teachers must hold at least a bachelor's degree, and a license is required to teach in public schools.

As for technical writers, their craft can be applied to a number of other fields, including public relations, editing, and the creative side of writing and authorship. Jobs in public relations and editing may also appeal to those interested in advertising work. All of these jobs have a bachelor's degree as the entry-level education.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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