OPINION: Ask not what can be done with a humanities degree – The Hechinger Report

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“What are you going to do with this?” It’s a question I often hear from my family as an undergraduate and graduate student.

Yes, I was an English major. My older siblings were going to nursing and medical school and all my cousins ​​were pursuing engineering, science and business degrees. So there was always an edge to that question whenever it came up at family gatherings. Doubts about the usefulness of just-in-the-art humanities degrees as job preparation.

Now I know this question was kind – and it was asked by the older generation about their desire to see a return on investment (ROI) on a college education similar to what their children experienced when they went to college first and second generation. .

College degrees changed the course of their lives. They opened up opportunities for economic and social mobility and allowed my parents’ generation to move beyond the experience of their grandparents, many of whom came to this country in the nineteenth century as first- and second-generation immigrants, beginning their working lives. farmers or day laborers.

My aunts, uncles, and parents are well aware that they benefited greatly from the great public higher education system that America started after World War II. Although their questions were difficult for me at the time due to self-doubt, they asked me out of, among other things, concern for my future.

Several years later, I now have the privilege of serving as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University, an access-oriented public research university. And it graduates large numbers of first-generation college graduates, military veterans, economically disadvantaged or transfer students, or historically underrepresented groups.

Related: Evidence: The number of college graduates in the humanities has declined for the eighth year in a row.

As the idea of ​​higher education as a public good is increasingly questioned or attacked, and as public perception of the value of a college degree shifts, I often remind my faculty of our fundamental purpose: Here we are. Teaching our students.

We’re here to engage in the kinds of high-impact discovery education that public research universities can offer at scale. Experiences that can change the course of their lives and the lives of their families.

“What He can’t Are you doing a humanities degree? “

I watched the release of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Indicators report because of my institution’s accessible education mission.“Major Human Employment Outcomes: State Profiles,” as an important occasion.

Drawing on data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the data collected and analyzed in this study help change the national narrative about both the “death” of the humanities and the low ROI on a four-year college degree.

The first national study of its kind, the report provides a state-by-state comparison of salary ranges and unemployment rates for college graduates from high school and two-year colleges in the humanities. Graduates and on the other hand college graduates in arts, education, social sciences, business, natural sciences and engineering.

In doing so, the report tells a very different story than what you’ve seen in the media lately. Main Receptors:

  • RevenuesThe earnings of humanities graduates are higher than those without a college degree and often equal or exceed those of graduates in non-engineering fields.
  • Income differences: With the exception of a few northwestern states, humanities majors earn at least 40 percent more than those with only a high school education.
  • Unemployment: The unemployment rate for humanities majors in all states is around 2-4 percent, similar to engineering and business majors and significantly lower than those without a college degree.
  • Work versatilityHumanities graduates comprise the legal, museum, and library workforces of all states. Other notable humanities graduate careers are education, management, and sales.

Without question, the overall cost of attending college should remain a concern for all of us. And income and employment are not the only measure of a person’s career or life success. But as dean, I’m glad to have the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ new humanistic indicators report and report in hand. “The State of Humanitarian Affairs 2021: The Workforce and Beyond” Report As a resource to help current undergraduate and graduate students see how humanities majors in all 50 states have positioned their degrees in various career fields and industries.

The human resource information in this new American Academy of Arts and Sciences book today’s humanities majors asks, “What do you do with this?” It’s the perfect complement to individual stories to help you think. – and clearly see the vast world of work that education opens up in these fields.

Related: Commentary: Studying the humanities can prepare the next generation of social justice leaders.

“What He can’t Are you doing a humanities degree? ” We invite you to keep George Mason’s undergraduate admissions officers in mind as they embark on their recruiting road trips.

As technological change accelerates and shapes jobs in ways that require all of us to reinvent our careers, this report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences provides an informed way to understand career opportunities and career opportunities for today’s college students. Humanities professionals in the knowledge-based economy in all 50 states and many sectors of our nation.

Ann Ardis He is dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University.

This story is about Humanities degrees Produced by Hechinger report, a nonprofit independent news organization focused on educational equity and innovation. Register Hechinger’s newspaper.

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