But can I get a job with that? Why humanities degrees matter

By Kate Schellenberg

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

Sometimes school is simple: you take engineering, you become an engineer; you go to med school, you become a doctor. But what if you’re taking courses like “Sex, Squalor, Scandal: Victorian London” or “ The History of the Body”? Your path might not be as straightforward as someone taking accounting. But if your path isn’t straight, there can be a lot more places to go.

Danielle Kinsey is a history professor at Carleton University and with CUOL. She says that in a world where jobs are constantly being created and erased, having a degree that sets you up for one job isn’t always a safe bet. CUOL’s Kate Schellenberg sat down with Dr. Kinsey to talk about the benefits of a non-STEM degree like the humanities. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CUOL: What would be the benefit of taking a degree that has no clear pathway to a job?

Kinsey: We don’t honestly have any idea where the job market is going to be in five years, right? So, instead of betting everything on being an accountant at the end of your degree, [if you take humanities degree] what you’re saying is, I’m going to bet that I’m going to have a number of different skills so I can pivot my knowledge into whatever the market is creating at that time.

CUOL: What is one skill that would set you up for many careers?

Kinsey: With a humanities degree, you get an ability to deal with ambiguity. As our society becomes more polarized into right vs. wrong, people who can negotiate through that and deal with all sorts of different opinions and a spectrum of information are going to be really important.

CUOL: What makes a humanities degree relevant now?

Kinsey: There are lots of answers to this question. And for me, they all have to do with information. We live in an information age. We also live in an age of digital revolution. So, there is more and more information coming at us than ever before.

We have to learn how to deal with that, you can’t just ignore it. So we have to learn how to evaluate between evidence-based argument and opinion.

CUOL: So, once you can distinguish between facts and opinion, then what?

Kinsey: The other side that I think we attend to very well in the humanities is being able to take information and then disseminate it to a number of different audiences. We have courses where we learn how to translate academic thoughts into podcasts, into graphic novels, into posters and other kinds of visual information that anybody can glean information from.

Danielle Kinsey received the 2019 Excellence in Blended and Online Teaching Award for her work with online courses.