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Why the humanities make you employable

NU London | February 4, 2022

Here at Northeastern University London we have always championed humanities subjects. However, the media often emphasises STEM (Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology) and some students believe that they will limit their career options studying humanities subjects at degree level. The truth is, that humanities subjects are just as valued by a wide range of employers and prepare you for a multitude of careers and sectors.

Debunking myths

There is an age-old myth that humanities graduates struggle to find jobs. In reality your main challenge is likely to be knowing which of the many opportunities available are best suited to your skills and aspirations. Let’s take English Literature. If you’ve ever expressed an interest in studying English, how many times has someone asked you if you want to be a teacher? More times than you can count on one hand we’d imagine. The majority of people ask this because they are blissfully unaware of the diverse careers an English Literature graduate can pursue. In addition to becoming an English teacher, which is a fantastic career, you could also find a career in journalism, business consulting ,copywriting, human resources, events management, advertising,  archiving, content writing, sales, publishing, theatre production, scriptwriting, television, curation, social media, public relations, communications, or the Civil Service – the opportunities are truly endless. In fact, the list is so long we can’t fit it all into one post! The reason that the humanities are such valuable preparation for an enormous range of careers, is because they give you what are called ‘transferable skills’ and teach you softer skills, including communication, adapting to change, and how to understand and work with humans.

What skills do humanities degrees give you? 

Humanities subjects equip you with transferable skills and ways of thinking that employers value. Many employers actively hire humanities graduates for this exact reason. Skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, interpersonal and leadership are often noted as being highly desirable by many employers. 

Famously, Google conducted a research project surveying the data of its employees over 15 years in an attempt to discover what skills guaranteed the success of its employees. The study found  that, of the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise came in last. The study concluded that communication; empathy; recognising differing points of view; critical thinking and problem solving; and being able to make connections across complex ideas were the most important definers of success. These are the exact skills that students gain by studying a humanities subject. Coming from the world’s leading tech giant, these conclusions were shocking and highlight how soft skills, which can be transferred to many areas of the business, are of greater value than mastery and expertise in a particular field. 

Career paths you might not have thought about

Unless you aim to become a doctor or vet, you will find you actually don’t need a subject-specific degree for a large majority of career paths, and yes, this includes practicing Law! In fact a staggering 40% of graduate opportunities don’t require your degree to be subject-specific. 

Our recent humanities graduates have gone on to become:

  • Asia Pacific Strategist at Altum
  • Student Engagement Officer at London Interdisciplinary School
  • Trainee at PWC
  • Community Manager at The Merode
  • Research Assistant at UCL
  • Operations Coordinator at My Property Host
  • Emerging Tech Professional at NOEM T&D
  • Artist Manager at Nutopia Music
  • Advertising Co-ordinator at Moody
  • Junior Clerk at RAF Reiffeisen Service Centre
  • Design and Editorial Assistant at Future of Storytelling
  • Guest Relations Assistant at O2 arena
  • Software Developer at AWOWB
  • Chef de Partie at Chesterfield Arms 
  • Business Analyst at All Works Property Developer
  • Account Executive at Women in Tech forum
  • Financial Services Advisor at Nexxchange
  • Education Officer at Diversity Role Models
  • Freelance Writer at Power to Inspire
  • Junior Marketing Assistant at A&C Studios

Find more about our graduate destinations here

These give you an indication of the breadth of career opportunities available to a humanities graduate. This data relates to students who graduated Northeastern University London in 2020 and was recorded 15 months after graduation. Despite the pandemic, Northeastern University London’s 2020 graduates were extremely successful with 94% in employment or postgraduate studies, showing that humanities graduates are increasingly desired by employers. 

We could go on and on about how humanities degrees make you the most employable, however what really matters is that you choose a degree you enjoy – after all you are going to study it for at least three years!