Arts and Humanities Graduate Jobs and Programs
A Bachelor of Arts provides a motivated student with the opportunity to explore many interesting, challenging and diverse concepts and issues that are socially and culturally relevant. The study of Arts and Humanities provides a student with the opportunity to consider society, culture and the human experience from a range of informed perspectives, fostering a broad and flexible intellectual stance.
While an Arts degree may not provide the kind of “hard” technical skills taught in such degrees as Engineering, Mathematics or Computer Science, it instils many valuable “soft” skills such as research, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking and communication that are important for many other careers.
Because of the huge array of possible subjects available for study within the degree, a Bachelor of Arts is a springboard to an overwhelming variety of possible careers, directed by each student’s interest and degree pathway. Examples of possible careers include education, the arts, media, research, diplomacy, public service, journalism and politics. The pool of possible careers widens even larger if Arts is taken as part of a double degree in conjunction with Commerce, Science, Law or Engineering.
What do I need to get a job in this industry?
The variety of courses available in the Arts and Humanities means that it is impossible to list all the different possible directions a student may take in their BA degree. Universities may also vary in what they offer to their students by way of major and minor options. Some of the most common major options are listed below with some of the possible career directions for each choice. Of course, this is not exhaustive or exclusive, and there are many alternatives to each career suggested.
- Anthropology and Sociology
Sociology and Anthropology are connected disciplines that explore the development of human society and culture, delving into questions of what constitutes the self and society, the ways humans define and relate to themselves and each-other.
Criminology is the interdisciplinary study of crime, criminal law and the policies of social control, drawing on an extensive body of legal, psychological, sociological, historical and philosophical research to examining questions of justice, governance, regulation and conflict from many perspectives. Possible career pathways include the administration of law, policy making and criminal justice research.
- Cultural Studies (e.g. Asian Studies, European Studies, Hispanic Studies, Jewish Studies, Indigenous Studies)
Many universities offer a selection of global and cultural studies, which are usually interdisciplinary, integrating language with sources from the culture’s literature, politics, society, history and philosophy, in order to give a deeper understanding of the culture in many different contexts. These majors equip students for a career in international relations, social work, public service, tourism or the media.
- Development Studies
A major in Development Studies explores issues faced by the developing world, such as poverty, conflict, environmental degradation, human rights abuse and inequality. The ramifications and effects of various economic, social and cultural theories and practical measures that have been used to try to explain and address these issues are also explored. Careers include policy advisors, human rights and activism, and the administration of not-for-profit charity organisations.
An English major fosters an appreciation of writing through examining different forms of literature in a variety of contexts, through various theoretical, historical and cultural frameworks of understanding and criticism, and encourages a student to become committed to a high standard of academic and creative writing. English majors are particularly well equipped for a career in writing, publishing, criticism or education, as well as for jobs in marketing and sales.
- Gender Studies
Gender Studies delves into the ways in which society has and continues to define and prescribe gender-identity and gender-roles, and discriminates against people on the basis of sex, gender and sexuality.The course involves an exploration of the feminist and queer movements throughout history and today, integrating also elements of economic and post-colonialist theory.While this course is valuable for anyone concerned with some of the most pressing inequalities still facing society, it is particularly important for anyone planning to devote their life to making a more equitable society, such as activists, policy advisors, teachers, judges, journalists and writers.
Geography is the study of the environment and the ways in which humans influence and are influenced by the landscape, and the spatial, ideological and cultural links and divides between societies. Careers include sustainability consultant, disaster risk management, environmental advisor, rural and urban planner and policy developer.
History is the study of the human past, from ancient to modern times, in an attempt to understand our world, the factors, paradigms and events that led to our present state, and the possible consequences of current actions and ideologies upon the future. While the most obvious career pathways for a history major are historian and archaeologist, other alternatives include teaching, journalism, writer and diplomat.
- Languages (e.g. French, German, Chinese, Korean)
Universities typically offer many different languages as options to study, with several available at the level of major, such as Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Korean. These courses teach, over a period of two to three years proficiency and fluency in the foreign language, and in addition often provide some contextual understanding of the cultures that predominately speak these languages. Fluency in a foreign language is a great advantage to any career, however it is particularly important for those planning to work overseas in public or private enterprise or in international relations.
Linguistics is the study of language and communication, from verbal speech to written and performed signage – the structure, history, use and psychology of language; how we make meaning from language; and the application of linguistics in various contexts, from cross-cultural communication to computer programming. Career pathways for linguistics majors include language teaching, translation, PR, marketing and journalism.
Philosophy is the study of knowledge, existence and reality. The study of philosophy at a major level fosters an ability to think deeply, reflectively, imaginatively and critically, reason logically and argue constructively. The course explores questions about all aspects of human life, and draws on intellectual tradition while encouraging a questioning and investigative approach to commonly accepted beliefs. Philosophy, far from the “useless” subject it is portrayed as in popular culture, is an asset across all careers, especially those that deal with moral and ethical issues such as business, law, education, medicine and government.
The study of politics involves the examination of political systems and processes, government and public policies; the values that underpin Western political discourse such as equality, liberty and justice, and the conundrumsthat lead to such diverse political solutions across history and culture as tyranny, democracy and anarchy. A politics major is not only a good first step towards a career in politics, but is also beneficial for those looking to work in international relations and law.
Regardless of the type of industry one seeks to enter, practical real-life experience is always of benefit when applying for employment. However, for Arts students, specific targeted industry experience is not as crucial as it is for students of other degrees like Engineering. This is because the breadth of graduate jobs available to Arts students is wider and less confined to a specific industry. Arts graduates may work in across the business, media, government, teaching, administration and entertainment sectors, so the type of work experience that is best depends on the career direction. Furthermore, since a Bachelor of Arts teaches “soft skills” which are easily transferrable across many different sectors as opposed to technical skills which are industry-specific, work experience in one sector (like business administration) will still be advantageous if applying for a graduate job in another sector (like public service).
While there aren’t as many internship programs specifically targeted to Arts students as there are for Engineering or Commerce students, the public service offers Arts and Humanities vacation positions or cadetships in many government departments such as the Department of Social Services. An alternative way to get work experience is to take a part-time job or a volunteering position, in an area related to one’s chosen career path.
Job Prospects for Arts Graduates
Despite the public perception of Arts graduates as “burger flippers”, the broad knowledge and the skills of critical thinking and communication provided by Bachelor of Arts are qualities that are favourably perceived by many employers. Work may be found across many industries – from media and communications to public service; NGOs to big corporations; self-employment, entertainment and the arts to education.
One important way that an Arts student can dramatically increase their employability is to gain some business skills. Most jobs, even in the creative industries, have a financial side of which it is important to be aware. Fortunately, most Arts degrees provide the opportunity to learn basic accounting, economics, marketing and statistics as electives or even as a minor– enough to solidly ground any individual’s career plans in financial reality, and provide them with some extremely useful and transferrable skills that are attractive to any business employer. Many Arts graduates find themselves working for private enterprises, in HR, management or marketing roles. Doing a double degree is even better, opening the field further to possibly include finance, law or engineering.
Because of the relative non-specificity of a Bachelor of Arts, it is common for these graduates to develop a “portfolio career” - one that is more flexible, autonomous and stimulating than a typical career path, but one that has less stability and more risk. On the other hand, it is also possible for an Arts graduate to obtain extremely secure and financially rewarding jobs in areas such as public service. A further option (and a choice that is made by up to a fifth of Arts graduates), is postgraduate study, such as a Masters of Education, a Juris Doctor, a professional qualification like Chartered Accountancy or a PhD, which allows one to pursue more specialised careers.
Due to the variety of employment opportunities available to Arts graduates, salary figures are difficult to determine with certainty. It depends upon the hiring organisation – whether it is a business, self-employment or the public sector. The consensus appears to be that starting salaries for so-called “liberal arts” graduates are on average lower than those for graduates of Commerce and Engineering. Within the Arts career pathwaysLaw, Marketing and HR are among the highest starting salaries from $55-75k, probably due to the main employers being large companies. Public service is not far behind, starting around $65k. Advertising, Media and Educationare within the middle of the salary range, while office administration and support is at the bottom, around $45k.
For those working in the arts, such as actors, writers and visual artists, income is usually composed of partly arts-related income, supplemented to a greater or lesser extent by a “day job” of non-arts-related work.