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Could Your Humanities Degree Lead You to a STEM Job?

If you're a humanities major, chances are you'd never heard of STEM a couple of years ago. The acronym, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, entered into the popular consciousness alongside the growth of the industries it's associated with, and as educational programs developed and grew in order to meet the need. There is no doubt that these fields, and the jobs associated with them, are on the rise. Still, although STEM is important, we shouldn't forget about the humanities. Your liberal arts degree might be the perfect background for a job in STEM.

If you’re a humanities major, chances are you’d never heard of STEM a couple of years ago. The acronym, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, entered into the popular consciousness alongside the growth of the industries it’s associated with, and as educational programs developed and grew in order to meet the need. There is no doubt that these fields, and the jobs associated with them, are on the rise. Still, although STEM is important, we shouldn’t forget about the humanities. Your liberal arts degree might be the perfect background for a job in STEM.

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(Photo Credit: Postmemes.com/Flickr)

In fact, there are many reasons to believe that your humanities degree has prepared you to become an excellent employee – and it turns out that this is true even in STEM industries. Let’s take a closer look at a few reasons why this is the case.

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1. A little creativity and critical thinking goes a long way.

These days, it’s important to be able to think outside the box in almost any industry. The robots may or may not be coming for our jobs, but regardless, it’s important that today’s worker rise above and bring something uniquely human and creative to the table. Work in the humanities encourages and supports creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, and that’s something today’s employer wants. Your background gives you unique skills and experience that your future STEM employer will value.

Anna Packard, editorial director of Slack Technologies and former theater major, says her employer values her for the creative touch she brings to her job in tech. Her boss, Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO, who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in philosophy and history, understands the important part their educational backgrounds play it the work they do every day.

“I learned how to follow an argument all the way down,” said Butterfield at Forbes, “which is invaluable for running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true – like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces – until they realized that it wasn’t true.”

Similarly, Steve YI, CEO of MediaAlpha, appreciates the way folks with a liberal arts background see problems and situations as complex rather than as black and white. Humanities majors learn valuable critical thinking skills that serve them well in their professional lives.

“In the dynamic environment of the technology sector, there is not typically one right answer when you make decisions,” said Yi, who earned an interdisciplinary degree in East Asian Studies at Harvard. “…I need to synthesize these perspectives to decide where we need to go as a company.”

2. Humanities majors have excellent communication skills.

Just because Americans are writing more than they did 20 years ago (texts, emails, social media, etc.,) that doesn’t mean they’ve gotten better at it. Actually, many believe that the quality of our writing has declined considerably over the past few decades. But, humanities majors are different. If you’re an English major, for example, you have a solid understanding of grammar, vocabulary, even proper paragraph structure, and that makes you an increasingly rare and coveted asset to any company.

Additionally, your humanities focus heightens other aspects of your communication skills. Not only can you write, your oral communication skills are well honed as well. Excellent communication skills are more valuable than ever, and humanities majors are trained to deliver clarity and rich meaning at every turn, regardless of the medium. Being able to write and communicate verbally with skill helps humanities majors succeed professionally, and it makes them a valued asset to a STEM employer.

3. Because a touch of artistry is always a good thing.

Oral and written communication skills, creativity, and critical thinking skills are just a few points to consider when contemplating just how hirable your humanities degree has made you, but the list really goes on and on. There are also some finer points to consider, ones that might be a little harder to measure or quantify, but they’re extremely valuable nonetheless. For example, humanities majors bring a touch of artistry to their jobs, which uniquely benefits their companies.

Steve Jobs famously said on this matter, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.”

Tell Us What You Think

How do you think your humanities degree encouraged your future career success? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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