The humanities are those 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 and reasoning. In addition, the study of these subjects develops strong abilities in oral communication and writing. 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.
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. 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.
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.