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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

The Major Problem with the Humanities

A response to the stigma surrounding non-STEM majors

Like a lot of people, I found myself at the age of 17 staring at the daunting drop down box of options under the category “Major” on the Common App wondering what on earth am I going to do with my life. “What’s your major?” is the question I dreaded answering during the college application process and still dread today. When people would ask, my first answer was, “I don’t quite know yet” to which the person who asked would sensitively respond, “Well, that’s okay. You’ll figure it out,” followed by their story of how they switched their major x amount of times or had no idea what they were supposed to do with their life as a college student. Now that I know the answer to the question, however, the feedback I receive is much less reassuring.

As of right now, I’m planning on double majoring in English and Psychology, and when I tell people this I see an immediate shift in their attitude. Amongst the responses I have received are: “You can’t do anything with psychology unless you get a doctorate”, “English? What are you going to do with that? Teach?! You know they make no money, right?”, “You’re wasting your time and money”, “Psychology is barely a science”, “Maybe you should major in something more useful. Have you considered anything in STEM?”

These comments, though undeniably inaccurate, are nonetheless disheartening to someone who has been told by people their whole life to pursue what they love and what genuinely interests them (lest they get stuck at a job that makes them dread existence). So now that I’m doing just that, why are the same people discouraging me? And why do some people consider a career in STEM more valuable than any other career?

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Here’s the thing: every job is important. If it was not important, it would not be a job. STEM majors have witnessed a growth trend in the past decade partly due to the increase in jobs revolving around “hard science” (think math, chemistry, physics) versus that of “soft science” (political science, anthropology, sociology). That being said, any career in STEM is incredibly valuable, but I do not understand why that has to undercut the value of humanities. The two can coexist. The “total package” idea rests in a liberal arts education. 

Perhaps these people dissuading those against majoring in humanities think that they are doing them a favor, as if they are warning them about the “dangers” of a degree in humanities: unemployment, low salaries, lack of job stability, etc. However, a degree in STEM does not guarantee automatic prevention of these things either. I think the essential determining factor in a successful career comes down to the person holding the degree, not the degree in itself. Many employers find people who possess soft skills like the ability to network, think creatively, work efficiently, and have life experience much more appealing because it shows passion and desire. A piece of paper with your name on it can take you far, but perhaps honing life skills can take you further. 

Even more so, the degree you graduate with does not dictate your career. My dad graduated with a degree in Computer Science but now owns a landscaping business, my high school literature teacher has a History diploma, Conan O’Brien graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in History, and John Mulaney became a writer for SNL with a degree in English. So what if English or Psychology does not work out for me? What if you are unable land a job in Philosophy? 

I guess that leaves the opportunity to be a multimillion dollar late night TV show host, and that sounds pretty decent to me. 

Written by Abby Landfried

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