This notion, Hora said, arose from the Great Recession during which many college graduates struggled to find work.
“You had a number of arts and humanities graduates that were underemployed, which means they were in jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “After the recession, underemployment was at a pretty high rate for all college graduates, but especially for humanities majors.”
Since then, unemployment in the humanities has been decreasing. From 2013 to 2015, the unemployment rate for college graduates ages 24 to 54 with a bachelor's in humanities went from around 5 percent down to 4 percent. Unemployment in individuals with advanced degrees in all fields decreased from 4 percent to 3 percent for ages 24 to 34, but stayed relatively stable for ages 35 to 54.
According to Hora, the key to being an employed humanities major is knowing how to market themselves, and universities have a responsibility to teach undergraduates how to properly present themselves to potential employers.
“We’re talking about disciplines that don’t have a really tight one-to-one correlation with occupation – there’s not too many occupation titles out there for a historian,” he said. “Part of the story of this recent data is the skills that you get in your major, they’re marketable and they’re in demand.”
Ellie Gifford, a first-year art history major, said she chose this field because it is a subject that she is passionate about.
“A lot of my friends ask me why I would choose to major in art history since it’s something they don’t see as conducive to success,” she said. “I think humanities majors in general are more versatile – they’re more used to adapting to different situations and can work in a lot of different places.”
Gifford is not concerned with where her degree in art history will take her. She is open to pursuing a variety of career paths — art-related or otherwise.
“For me, it’s more about what I’m passionate about rather than the money and goal-driven opportunities that a lot of other people are concerned with.”