Last Monday saw my final ever assignment hand in, and the end to my English Literature degree. Over the years I’ve come up against many questions concerning my degree, and after talking to other students within Arts & Humanities, I’ve found that they’ve had similar conversations. As I’ve now come to the end of my degree, I thought I would round up the top five things that we are sick of hearing (in the hope that the next time you meet someone who studies a humanities degree you’ll think twice before asking these familiar questions!)
*After telling someone what you study* : “You must have so much free time. It must be nice to read so much”
*After explaining that despite having 6-10 contact hours a week this does not equate to free time, and that there’s a hell of a lot of reading to do and secretly thinking I’d like to see you read as much as I have to* they then ask: “So you’re going into teaching once you graduate then?”
*After saying no I’m not going into teaching*: “So if you’re not going to be a teacher, how are you going to use your degree?”
*After explaining that there are more jobs available to humanities students other than teaching, and telling the person a few ideas of jobs you have*: “Oh, so you’re not going to use your degree then?”
*After again explaining there are more jobs available other than teaching, and that my degree will be extremely useful in other areas of work and outlining how for the past three years you’ve spent analysing texts and constructing arguments about them, and conducting research and trying to understand Derrida* : they give you a look of ‘no you’re not going to use your degree, I know more than you do despite having not studied what you do’.
You would be amazed at the number of times that I have genuinely had this conversation. Despite wanting to do something other than teaching after my degree, and explaining all of the skills that I have gained, they still seem to hold themselves higher over my degree as something that was ‘just a bit of fun’. Look if I wanted to just have a ‘bit of fun’, I wouldn’t pay £9000 a year for it. Just because I studied an Arts & Humanities degree does not mean that my degree is worth any less than yours. Most of the time this conversation isn’t even with other students but people I meet out and about, especially when I go back home and see someone in the town that I knew from when I used to work pre-University.
What annoys me the most is that everyone assumes that I’m going to be a teacher. NO DEGREE HAS A STRAIGHT CAREER PATH. Even degrees that seem to lead directly toward a certain career such as dentistry or medicine, do not have a straight career path, as there’s so many variations within the term ‘dentist’ or ‘doctor’! Arts & Humanities degrees have a reputation of being ‘easy’ degrees where we frolick about in the park reading poetry and philosophy to one another, get up at midday and ‘only have to write about some books’ for assessments. Just because we have less contact time than other degrees, does not mean that I’m not reading or researching or writing assessments the rest of the time, and therefore ‘not working’.
If you only take one thing away from this post, please let it be that : Arts & Humanities degrees are not ‘easy’.
To those of you studying an Arts & Humanities degree can you relate to this? And to anyone studying outside of this faculty, when you talk to people about your degree, what do they automatically assume that you wish they wouldn’t?