What Are Humanities Courses in College?

The humanities are disciplines that study human culture and experience, including areas such as the arts, history and language. College undergraduate programs typically include humanities classes as part of general education requirements, even for majors such as engineering.

In addition, many students choose to major in humanities at the undergraduate or graduate level. Whether you take only the minimum classes or declare a humanities major, these subjects add value to life after college.

Examples of Humanities Classes

Examples of humanities classes are the arts, including the history, theory and practice of music, art and theater. The humanities subjects also include the languages and literature of ancient and modern peoples -- for example, English, Latin, Japanese and German languages and literature. Other disciplines coming under the umbrella of humanities include religious studies; ancient, medieval and modern history; and philosophy.

For example, the humanities offerings at the University of Kentucky include Introduction to Film, Introduction to Music, History of the British People Since the Restoration and Introduction to Philosophy. The university offers more specialized humanities classes, as well, such as The Making of Modern Kentucky and Mapping Russia. Students can also fulfill humanities requirements by taking History of Hip, Fairy Tales in European Context, or Town and Gown in Fact and Fiction, which is a local history course that focuses on the relationship between college campuses and the communities where they are located.

Basic Benefits of Humanities Classes

Humanities have been a foundation of liberal arts education since ancient Greece, according to the Stanford University website. Study of the humanities hones students' skills in creativity, critical thinking, accessibility and reasoning. In addition, the study of these subjects develops strong abilities in oral communication and writing. Some humanities classes may be presented to students in their high school classes, but others are mainly offered in a student’s higher education journey.

Because humanities classes show students the world from varying points of view, they enlarge students' understanding of other disciplines. Study of the humanities increases students' understanding of the past and present, and prepares them to create the future. These classes can add knowledge to one’s understanding of American studies, like American culture, art history, social sciences, human experience and many cultural studies.

Jobs for Humanities Majors

Employers in many fields value humanities grads because they are proficient in other disciplines and can adapt to different circumstances. The communication skills and understanding of human nature that students acquire through a humanities degree make advertising a popular career choice.

These grads can have an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in humanities. Many arts degrees, like visual arts, also offer room for humanities interests in their platforms as well, like a bachelor of arts. Humanities students do not always have to major in humanities to take an interest in the concepts presented, so many take the study of humanities courses as electives or as requirements for their main degree.

Students who have majored in a foreign language and culture often choose a foreign service career. Other humanities grads put their research and writing skills to work in journalism or a career in media. English, literature and communication majors frequently work in publishing -- for example, as editors. Humanities courses can allow for thinking skills to be learned, used and applied in other areas of study.

Careers With a Graduate Degree

Many humanities graduates complete additional education to qualify for a specific profession. For example, these majors are excellent preparation for law school, where the ability to write, speak and think well is a major asset. Other humanities graduates earn a teaching credential to qualify as public school teachers, or they earn a master's degree or doctorate to qualify for college teaching. If they also take the necessary science prerequisites, humanities majors qualify for medical school. In fact, medical schools typically require humanities classes for admission.

Lifetime Advantages of Humanities

Whether a student declares a humanities major or only takes the required classes, these studies help a person lead a more satisfying life. The insight you gain from humanities teaches you to question your values and the values of society, according to Professor Mark Edmundson of the University of Virginia.

Because you question everything, you can decide for yourself whether success means earning millions or finding fulfillment through family or service to others. Rather than following the crowd, the person trained in the humanities knows how to live the well-examined life, as Plato recommended. These courses also allow students to become more knowledgeable about the world around them, through studying concepts like western civilization, prehistory concepts, linguistics, and African American studies.

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