We’ve all had the argument with our flatmates.
“What’s the point in doing an arts degree? It’s just a massive waste of time”
“You only have four contact hours a week?! What a waste of money”
“So, I’m assuming that you’re hoping to get into teaching?”
I’m in my final year of studying History at undergraduate level, and I’ve had all of these above statements said to me more times than I can care to count. In one rather fabulous moment of first year, a mechanical engineer commented ‘Really? History? It’s statistically proven that you’d earn more without a degree than doing a degree in that’.
Funnily enough, that’s one of the beautiful things about humanities students: we refuse to relegate the things we learn about to a bunch of statistics and trends. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for doing that, and I’m totally appreciative of the hard work, ability and commitment that engineering and science degrees require, (I did Maths A-level and even now the phrase ‘parametric equation’ makes me shudder). Sometimes though, I just wish people wouldn’t try to undermine or question my choice of degree.
I chose to study History because I enjoy it and I’m good at it. I had the qualifications to study Maths, but I’ve always been curious about history and passionate about reading and writing. Throughout my degree, I’ve had an average of six hours of contact time a week: but that’s because we’re expected to read and write in our spare time, which suits me just fine. Moreover, it’s given me the chance to get a part time job, do some volunteering, and get involved in the Students’ Union. I’d like to think that, more often than not, I’ve worked hard at my degree whilst striving to accomplish other things that will hopefully make me even more employable.
But that’s another thing – arts students do get good jobs. In 2011, a comprehensive report found that 60% of over 800 leaders in their fields had studied arts, humanities or social sciences at degree level. This included CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, MPs, and top experts in creative industries. Global professional companies, such as Ernst and Young, are even specifically seeking to employ graduates with backgrounds in Geography and History.
My point is that I have hope. My degree in History has taught me how to formulate arguments, distil huge amounts of information, work effectively in a group, and to articulate my thoughts with conviction. Most importantly, it has allowed me to develop my creative skills.
Of course I value STEM subjects. But I’d also like the world to realise that art degrees are just as equally as important and esteemed.
For more information:
Value of Humanities Research press release http://www.nchum.org/sites/default/files/Value-of-Humanities-research-press-release_0.pdf
Ernst and Young https://www.shef.ac.uk/history/prospectiveug/careers/opportunities/index