Why study the humanities?

The world needs humanists

In a world that’s increasingly automated, people who can use words effectively are vital to building relationships and perceiving new possibilities. Countless leaders agree—for example, Steve Jobs has mentioned that "it's in Apple's DNA that technology married with liberal arts married with the humanities yields the result that makes our heart sing."

When you graduate with a humanities degree, you'll have a skill set that employers are actively looking for—humanities students gain expertise in creative thinking, communication, problem solving, relationship building, and more. No matter what you want to do, choosing a humanities major from the University of Illinois will prepare you for a bright future.

Hear from English and Latina/Latino studies alumna Issy why humanities education is important for all students, read on to learn more, and then apply to a humanities major at the University of Illinois.



What are the humanities?

What is the study of humanities? Humanities involve exploring human life's individual, cultural, societal, and experiential aspects. Studying humanities helps us understand ourselves, others, and the world. If you're interested in humanities, you'll find a variety of subjects to choose from.

The objects of the humanities are the values we embrace, the stories we tell to celebrate those values, and the languages we use to tell those stories. The humanities cover the whole spectrum of human cultures across the entire span of human history.

The College of LAS offers dozens of humanities majors, so as a student at UIUC you're sure to find a path that's right for you. Many of your classes will be small enough to allow intense, in-depth discussion of important topics, guided by teachers who are leading experts in their fields. You will learn from people who know you and take a personal interest in your success. This experiential, interactive learning is deeply satisfying, a source of enjoyment that is one good reason to major in the humanities.

What you learn also will be useful in any career you pursue. Specialized training for a specific profession has a very short shelf life, but the knowledge and skills that come with studying the humanities never go out of date.

To study the humanities is to cultivate the essential qualities you will need in order to achieve your personal and professional goals as you help to create a better society for all human beings.

Why are the humanities important?

Studying the humanities allows you to understand yourself and others better, offering better contexts to analyze the human experience.

So, why is humanities important, and why is it critical to study them? Human values are influenced by religion, socioeconomic background, culture, and even geographical location. The humanities help us understand the core aspects of human life in context to the world around us.

The study of humanities also helps us better prepare for a better future. They teach you skills in the areas of critical thinking, creativity, reasoning, and compassion. Whatever your focus, you'll learn the stories that shape our world, helping you see what connects all of us!

What is humanities in college? What will your courses look like? Just a few popular humanities majors include English, philosophy, gender studies, and history. And while these studies might center around different topics, settings, and even periods in human history, they all share a common goal of examining how we are connected.

Humanities studies may seem less concrete than STEM studies, and some might consider them a luxury we can't afford in a culture that values capital over society. This raises some common questions: Why is humanities important right now? Is it even relevant to our lives today? The answer to those questions lie in how the humanities help us in understanding human culture, emotions, and history—which is vital now more than ever!

As technology advances—such as with artificial intelligence and machine learning becoming more common—it might seem like human beings are becoming less central to the world's workings. That may lead to asking, "why is humanities important if humans are required less in day-to-day operations?" The reality, though, is that rapid changes and development in our world only make the constant aspects of human nature more crucial to explore and celebrate. A deep understanding of humanity gained by studying the humanities helps us not only navigate but also thrive through these changes. The humanities are vital to preserving the core of what makes us human.

So, why study humanities? 

What is the study of humanities going to do for my career? Why is humanities important for my work?

These are two questions commonly asked when students consider an academic journey in the humanities. The journey from classroom to career may not seem as direct for humanities students as those following more defined career paths. However, it’s that nebulous nature that make them such excellent choices. The skills you learn from your studies, like creative thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication, are essential to any career and industry.

And if you are asked, "What is humanities studies' advantage compared to more 'concrete' subjects like math or science?," you can simply answer that the humanities make you stand out. Employers highly value the nuanced skills gained from humanities studies. In today's rapidly evolving job market, the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and understand complex social and cultural contexts can set candidates apart.

Ready to take the next step? 

You’ll be ready for any future you can imagine by earning a degree in the humanities from the University of Illinois. Apply to a humanities major today!