The Benefits of a Degree in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The value of studying disciplines in the humanities and social sciences is often debated. Whether you choose to major, minor, or try an elective in one of our many traditional or interdisciplinary programs, we offer the courses that will give you the essential skills for success in your career and in life. Learn how to work in a team, mature in your critical thinking, and flourish as a good communicator along with so much more.

We live in a changing world, but subjects like philosophy, religion, rhetoric, and politics are as old as the oldest colleges and are still offered for good reason. Read more below about the personal benefits to you of studying in the humanities and social sciences, what employers think of hiring graduates who study in these fields, where the jobs are for humanities and social science majors, and who are the successful people who have majored in these fields.

Immerse yourself in the humanities and social sciences, or just stop by for a taste or two of any of our hundreds of intriguing and engaging courses. Open the books in humanities and social sciences and join the others who have become #BCthinkers.

Benefits to You of a Major in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Students Who Move Into Humanities Majors After Transferring to a Four-Year College Up Humanities Majors

March 31, 2022, Inside Higher Ed
Puerto Rican and Latino studies alumna Rhina Torres writes that students with an interest in humanities and social sciences majors who transfer from a two-year college to a four-year college do not receive the same institutional support as STEM majors but end up enjoying their college experience more as well as using their humanities and social sciences knowledge and skills in their future careers.

Humanities Graduates Are Happy With Their Lives

November 8, 2021, Inside Higher Ed
“Articles suggesting that humanities graduates are poor or unhappy are abundant. But the opposite is true. According to a 2019 Gallup poll cited in a new report by the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 90 percent of humanities graduates are happy with their lives, about the same as graduates of other fields.”

Why I’m optimistic about the future of the humanities

Jan. 24, 2020, CNN online
The author proposes that students enjoy studying history, literature, and other humanities majors, but they do not major in them because they worry they will not be able to pay back their student loans when they graduate. Thus the answer to falling humanities enrollments is to make college cheaper, so that students can follow their dreams without fear of massive debt.

In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure

Sept. 20, 2019, The New York Times
An article in the Business section of The New York Times reports that humanities and social sciences graduates with majors that focus on “soft skills” like problem solving, critical thinking, composition, leadership, and adaptability, catch up to STEM majors in salary by about age 40. If students are in fact “chasing lasting wealth,” humanities and social sciences majors will do well. Though STEM majors in the first few years after graduation usually make significantly more that their colleagues who majored in English or history, many of those technical fields quickly become obsolete, while the skills honed in humanities and social science fields prove to be more durable and can “prepare students for the next 40 years of working life, and for a future that none of us can imagine.”

Why Study Philosophy?

February 2019, The Mellon Research Foundation
“Philosophy steered me away from confirmation bias. In any philosophical assessment, you’re trying to figure out the validity of an argument, working to pinpoint ways to make it stronger. You’re not necessarily trying to win an argument, and you’re not taking an adversarial position. You’re really trying to look at things from a wide variety of perspectives. I think that’s very helpful to any profession.”

The Economic Gains (Yes, Gains) of a Liberal Arts Education

February 15, 2019, Inside Higher Ed
“‘[According to a recent study], attending liberal arts colleges leads to economic mobility across income groups…All the evidence shows that the bashing of liberal arts colleges, and the liberal arts, just isn’t well founded, just isn’t based on evidence,’ [There are hopes] the study would counter some of the prevailing myths, such as the one that says going to a liberal arts college means one isn’t studying STEM, when in facts such majors have seen gains at liberal arts colleges.”

Study: Mentorship Most Common for Arts and Humanities Majors?

January 28, 2019, Inside Higher Ed
“Arts and humanities majors are substantially more likely than business, natural or social science or engineering majors to strongly agree that they had a professor who made them excited about learning”

The History Major: Opening Doors to Life in a Global Economy

January 1, 2019, American Historical Association
“Research shows that … religion majors work for MTV, and English majors become psychotherapists. The study of history prepares one for life in a global economy. Historical thinking skills are widely marketable. Students of history learn to think contextually, to recognize change over time, to grapple with the complexity of the human experience, and to distinguish cause and effect”

Liberal Arts Degree Delivers Liberal Earnings and Job Satisfaction

March 13, 2018, Seattle Times
“Since 2009, students and their parents have come to believe that liberal arts majors will not be employable when they graduate ….These beliefs are unfounded. National and local data shows that unemployment rates are essentially the same for STEM majors as they are for humanities majors.”

Liberal Arts Degree Isn’t a Roadblock to Becoming CEO

March 22, 2017, Good Call
“The success of liberal arts degree majors isn’t an accident, according to James J. Winebrake…. ‘I have always believed that a liberal arts education provides students with a skillset that allows them to succeed in leadership positions, especially in this new economy.’”

Employers Want and Need Humanities and Social Sciences Majors

When It Comes to Future Earnings, Liberal-Arts Grads Might Get the Last Laugh

January 14, 2020, The Chronicle of Higher Education
A recent United States Department of Education report suggests that the 40- year return on investment for liberal arts majors exceeds that of all U.S. college graduates by $200,000. Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said that “Employers are looking for employees who can advance in the profession, not just entry level work…that will be the future of the workforce.”

The Most Unexpected Workplace Trend Coming in 2020: the Return of the Liberal Arts Major

November 26, 2019,
More research points to the slowing need for tech specializations and the future growth of liberal arts training and degrees in such fields as literature, philosophy and history.

The world’s top economists just made the case for why we still need English majors

October 19, 2019, The Seattle Times
The number of students majoring in English and other humanities fields has slumped since the Great Recession of 2008 in favor of tech subjects that parents believe will ensure their students a good job. But most economists attest that skills and knowledge learned in traditional liberal arts fields lead to better job performance outcomes than what students learn in more specialized fields. For example, Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Shiller has written that what he learned about the Great Depression in a history class was far more useful in understanding the last period of economic and financial turmoil than anything he learned in his economic courses.

The Value of the Liberal Arts in a “Techie” World

January 2019, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
“Why [are] soft skills relevant[?] One of the arguments is, if machines are taking over the really routine stuff, then what’s left is the more complex, the more improvisational, the more unscripted tasks. Those things require human specialization….If anything, in this more robot-enhanced, machine learning future, people need to have these soft skills. They need to be curious. They need to have flexibility to continue to be adaptive and focus on these human skills.”

Survey: Employers Want “Soft Skills” from Graduates

January 17, 2019, Inside Higher Education
“Employers want college graduates who have “soft skills,” such as being a good listener or thinking critically, but they have difficulty finding such candidates… The most in-demand talent among employers was listening skills—74 percent of employers indicated this was a skill they valued. This was followed by attention to detail (70 percent) and effective communication (69 percent). About 73 percent of the employers said that finding qualified candidates was somewhat or very difficult.”

Talking to Employers about Your Degree: The History Discipline Core on the Job Market

January 1, 2019, American Historical Association
“History is a dynamic course of study that will help you become an inventive and capable thinker, researcher, writer, and communicator.”

What Employers Want: Thoughts from a History B.A. in Business

January 1, 2019, American Historical Association
“I can answer the question ‘what do employers value in history majors?’—more specifically, what does a history major bring to an electric utility like Exelon, or to Tesla, Microsoft, Apple, Lucas film, or Morgan Stanley?—with real confidence and relative precision. We bring perspective on the flux of institutions; we think and write with clarity; we have a grasp of enduring human foibles; and we find delicious relevance in vignettes.”

Data Reveals Why The “Soft” In “Soft Skills” Is A Major Misnomer

October 2, 2018, Forbes
This article discusses how those abilities normally termed “soft skills,” like critical thinking, good communication, persuasive writing, and teamwork should be re-named “power skills,” because they lead to success in the corporate world.  The article asserts that there should be more focus on and appreciation for “power skills,” which, going forward, will be more in demand than “hard skills” like web development, digital literacy and analytics. The article notes that entrepreneur investor, Mark Cuban, predicted that in 10 years, “a liberal arts degree in philosophy will be worth more than a traditional programming degree.”

Why This Tech CEO Keeps Hiring Humanities Majors

July 15, 2017, Fast Company
“At my company, [Vidyard], as at many tech companies, developers only make up 15–25% of our workforce. While tech businesses are booming, many of the jobs waiting to be filled require broader skill sets than just great engineering chops….the truly irreplaceable jobs—not just of the future but of the present—are the roles that intermingle arts and science. My employees with humanities backgrounds regularly show they’re willing to learn new skills and try new things.”

Not Lost in Translation: The Growing Importance of Foreign Language Skills in the U.S. Job Market (pdf)

March 2017, New American Economy
“Today’s employers are increasingly seeking out multilingual employees who can help them better compete and serve a wide range of customers. Immigrants may very well play an important role filling such labor gaps…The native-born can play an equally important role in meeting this demand, and in recent years a number of states have taken steps to recognize and promote students who thrive in foreign language education.”

A Good Job for a Humanist

February 2017, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
“This broad category of work—this much needed function in the core of the data analytics world that will re-shape every industry and every public sector activity—is crying out for the distinctive capacities of humanists….[There is a] need for people who can categorize, organize, and find meaning in the colorful and flavorful subtleties of human endeavors while avoiding reductive fundamentalism—the naïve idea that every can casually be reduced to some uniform binary code. Left to their own devices, the algorithmic wizards behind the curtain do not know how to figure out what matters. Humanists do.”

Finding a Job With a Humanities and Social Sciences Major

Vault Career Intelligence (Brooklyn College Library subscription database)

Information on companies, internships, and jobs. Includes tips for preparing for a job search and blogs on a number of job-related topics. Students can create profiles in order to be recruited by employers and to get alerts.

Talent Desk

A search site that uses U.S. Census data. Enter your college major and find careers others have found with this major, their earnings, and job growth potential.

How Can Colleges Help Liberal Arts Majors Enter the Job Market? Here’s What You Told Us

December 11, 2018, Chronicle of Higher Education
“Professors in any field can—and should—help their students see the career applicability of their liberal-arts programs.”

One Way to Set Up Liberal Arts Majors for Success: Focus on Skills

December 4, 2018, Chronicle of Higher Education
“One of the things I like in the ‘Robot Ready’ report, from Strada, is the way it takes an in-demand but vague job skill and then sort of reverse-engineers it to show the ways someone with such a skill might apply it in a variety of fields. The report shows, for example, that a person skilled in communications might eventually work as a grief counselor in behavioral health, as a social-media manager in marketing, or in management training in human resources.”

Institutional Support for Humanities and Social Sciences Majors

CUNY Researchers to Study Community College to Four-Year Institution Transfer

January 6, 2019, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
“We’re going to be doing a variety of statistical analysis of Gutman students to see who’s interested in the humanities and what happens to them, but we’re also going to be doing focus groups with Gutman students to talk to them about their interest in the humanities and where they may want to continue their education.”

$2 Million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant to Expand Cleveland Humanities Collaborative

January 3, 2019, Crain’s Cleveland Business
“Together, we’re building a special partnership that advances the humanities in a region known for its cultural institutions and scholarship.”

UCI Gets $1.1 million Grant to Pilot Study on Value of a Liberal Arts Education

December 10, 2018, Los Angeles Times
“Developing thoughtful and robust models and measures of the economic, social and personal outcomes of a liberal arts education will greatly help all of us understand better what the worth of such an education is and communicate that value to academic decision-makers and the public.”

Community Colleges and Universities Collaborate to Foster the Next Generation of Humanities Scholars

February 2018, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
“Today, community colleges are an increasingly important part of the higher education ecosystem because of their potential influence on intergenerational mobility and their immediate impact on addressing the causes of social inequality. Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States are enrolled in two-year institutions.”

The Humanities Proposition

June 2016, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
“A university is only as strong as its ability to deal with the forces of change—not to resist them doggedly, but to redirect them in productive ways. When particular models of higher education are no longer sustainable or desirable, they will disappear or lose market share. The independent liberal arts college, for example, educated about a quarter of all college students in 1950, but today enrolls only two percent of all undergraduates.”

Successful Humanities and Social Sciences Majors

Comm Grad Spotlight

National Communication Association
“Spike Lee has a B.A in Communication, is a film director, producer, writer, and actor whose movies are known for exploring race relations…Peyton Manning has a B.A in Communication and is a former NFL quarterback who played 18 seasons before retiring in 2015…Oprah Winfrey has a B.S., Communication, she is a talk show host, producer and actress and is best known for hosting “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which ran for 25 years and received three Emmy Awards”

21 Wildly Successful CEOs With Liberal Arts Degrees

August 4, 2015, Business2Coummunity
“We’ve all heard the arguments in favor of liberal arts majors, like history, philosophy or political science. They’ll help you think critically. They’ll open your mind. They’ll train you to be a more thoughtful, well-rounded person. They just won’t make you much money. Or will they? FindTheCompany scoured its database of nearly 100,000 executives, and it turns out some of the most successful CEOs were liberal arts majors.”

Discussions Around the Humanities and Social Sciences

Opportunity Knocks for Liberal Education

December 17, 2020, Inside Higher Ed
The work we do now sits squarely in the middle of what so ails our nation and what is required to fix it, writes Matthew C. Moen.

Can Educating Women in the Liberal Arts Lift Asia’s Communities Out of Poverty?

Oct. 11, 2019, Chronicle of Higher Education
The American University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, was founded by Kamal Ahmad in the belief that educating women will be the single most direct way to grow community incomes and make progress in educational reforms. But rather than focusing on vocational or professional training, Ahmad offers a classic liberal arts curriculum, arguing that an education grounded in critical thinking and inquiry will help “women take charge of their lives, with their mind their instrument of power.” Supported by international donors, the AUW educates girls from impoverished neighborhoods in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan and currently enrolls 800 girls eager to embrace an American model of a higher education in the liberal arts.

The Need for a Recovery of the Humanities

May 14, 2019, Inside Higher Ed
“To paraphrase Dewey: we can recover the humanities if we cease trying to refine them as insular tools for academics and cultivate them instead as a frame of mind for dealing with the problems of today’s world.”

The Cognitive Outcomes of Liberal Education

January, 2019, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
“In view of the range of possibilities and the complexities in designing such studies, organizations and researchers seeking to make further progress in understanding the impact of liberal education practices on cognitive growth should proceed deliberately.”

The Outcomes of a Liberal Arts Education: State of Research

The Mellon Research Foundation
“Recent decades have seen a growing emphasis on a set of capacities and dispositions complementary to the cognitive capacities…that are important in education and in life.  This cluster of qualities, which include interpersonal capacities like the ability to work well with others and intrapersonal qualities like perseverance and self-control are often grouped together.”

Cuts Reversed at Stevens Point

April 11, 2019, Inside Higher Ed
“The curricular innovations are based on a strong focus on maintaining and enhancing instructional quality,” and many of the new and modified degree programs are “likely to be more interdisciplinary, which follows trends in research practices.”  (Update to New York Times story, “Students in Rural America Ask, ‘What Is a University without a History Major?’” below.)

A Future for the Humanities

April 2, 2019, Inside Higher Education
What attracts students to these works, and the teachers who render them present? The answer may be simpler and more profound than the professoriate will acknowledge: human experiences matter more than objects, and encounters with the most searing elements of our humanity are the most fundamental experiences of all.

Are the Humanities History?

April 2, 2019, The New York Review of Books
“Defenders of the humanities generally emphasize what the field can do for the individual: they promote self-discovery, breed good citizens, and teach critical thinking.”

The Humanities at Community Colleges

March 11, 2019, Inside Higher Education
“Much of the public discussion about the humanities focuses on four-year colleges and universities. But humanities instruction is extensive at community colleges as well. In an effort to draw attention to the extent of the humanities at two-year colleges, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences conducted a national survey of community colleges and is today releasing the findings as part of the Humanities Indicators project.”

The Decline of Historical Thinking

February 4, 2019, The New Yorker
“Yes, we have a responsibility to train for the world of employment, but are we educating for life, and without historical knowledge you are not ready for life,”

Students in Rural America Ask, “What Is a University without a History Major?”

January 12, 2019, New York Times
“In the coming months….the University of Wisconsin [will be] making hard decisions and ‘doing fewer things better.’ The proposal [is] especially bitter for liberal arts professors, who have viewed their disciplines as the backbone of the college experience…. ‘If you want a career-focused program, I think then you could look at a community college or tech school,’ said Madeline Abbatacola, a senior studying history and wildlife ecology. Universities like hers, she added, ‘have a different lane.’”

Lies About the Humanities—and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

December 7, 2018, Chronicle of Higher Education
“If you participate long enough in public discussions about the role of the humanities both within higher education and in broader civil society, it becomes apparent that quite a lot of people have opinions about what scholarship and teaching in humanistic fields entail, but few demonstrate even rudimentary knowledge of either…. If you think the stakes of correcting the misrepresentation of humanistic work are simply about preening academics or ivory-tower musing, think instead about the students interested in literature, history, philosophy, and language. When you malign and misrepresent what scholars do, you’re punishing students.”

Making the Case for Liberal Arts

May 17, 2018, U.S. News & World Report
“It’s no surprise that much of the conversation at gatherings of university officials these days is about how to prove the value of the liberal arts….What is surprising is that, five decades into a crisis that now has become existential, the to-do list in a session at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities earlier this year, about turning this around, began with a remarkably basic question: ‘Define “liberal arts.”’”

Who Majored in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and Where Are They Now?

African and African American Studies

  • Angela Bassett, actor
  • Vince Carter, NBA all-star player
  • Mae Jemison, astronaut
  • Ranna I. Parekh, psychiatrist

American Studies

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter, musician
  • Janeane Garofalo, actor
  • Maria Schriver, journalist
  • Emily Silver, Olympic swimmer
  • Jesse Thorne, radio producer

Children and Youth Studies

  • Biana Mashevich, attorney
  • Theresa Murzyn, senior user experience researcher, Comcast
  • Martin Woodside, poet and teacher
  • Ella Yadushlivy, teacher


  • Jerry Brown, former governor of California
  • Ted Turner, founder, CNN

Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders

  • Oprah Winfrey, actor and media executive


  • Robert Iger, CEO, The Walt Disney Company
  • Howard Schultz, Starbucks founder


  • Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York
  • Michael Eisner, CEO, The Walt Disney Company
  • Jodie Foster, actor
  • James Franco, actor
  • Hugh Grant, actor
  • Andrea Jung, CEO, Avon
  • Judy McGrath, CEO, MTV
  • Gloria Naylor, author
  • Hank Paulson, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
  • Joan Rivers, actor
  • Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and current senator from Utah
  • Martin Scorsese, director
  • Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  • Sting, musician
  • Harold Varmus, Nobel Prize–winning cancer researcher
  • Emma Watson, actor
  • Renée Zellweger, actor


  • Carly Fiorina, CEO, Hewlett-Packard
  • Conan O’Brien, comedian
  • Sam Palmisano, CEO, IBM
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube

Interdisciplinary Studies

  • Steve Carell, actor
  • Sacha Baron Cohen, actor
  • Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense
  • Elana Kagan, Supreme Court Justice
  • Ayn Rand, author
  • Stephen Schwarzman, CEO, Blackstone Group

Judaic Studies

  • Mayim Bialik, actor and neuroscientist


  • Larry Bohn, investor
  • Nils Hasselmo, former president, University of Minnesota
  • Paul Watson, environmental activist

Modern Languages and Literatures

  • Ashley Judd, actor
  • A.G. Lafley, CEO, Procter & Gamble
  • Joan Lunden, TV host
  • Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico;
  • J.K. Rowling, author
  • Mary F. Sammons, CEO, Rite Aid
  • Gail Simmons, culinary expert


  • Herbert Allison Jr., CEO, Fannie Mae
  • Sheila Bair, chair, FDIC
  • Stewart Butterfield, founder, Flickr
  • Ken Chenault, CEO, American Express
  • Carl Icahn, activist and investor
  • George Soros, hedge fund manager
  • Peter Thiel, founder, PayPal

Political Science

  • Richard Anderson, CEO, Delta
  • Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs
  • Larry Fink, CEO, BlackRock
  • Dan Hesse, CEO, Sprint Nextel
  • Brian Moynihan, CEO, Bank of America

Puerto Rican and Latino Studies

  • Jim Himes, Congressman from Connecticut
  • Anetta Kahane, journalist
  • Kristie Kenney, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand
  • Ken Keen, U.S. Army general
  • Steven Loza, ethnomusicologist


  • Saul Bellow, author
  • Shirley Chisholm, former Congresswoman from New York
  • Christopher Connor, CEO, Sherwin-Williams
  • Stephanie Izard, as seen on Top Chef
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., minister and activist
  • Michelle Obama, attorney and former First Lady
  • Maxine Waters, Congresswoman from California

Studies in Religion

  • Shane Battier, NBA player
  • James Comey, former director, FBI
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal, actor
  • Rashida Jones, actor

Urban Sustainability

  • Patrick Chung, co-founder, XFUND
  • Damien Hughes, former General Secretary, Caribbean Football Union

Women’s and Gender Studies

  • Haleh Afshar, Muslim feminist
  • Malini Chib, disability rights advocate
  • Anne Hathaway, actor
  • Theopista Sekitto Ntale, banker, entrepreneur and philanthropist
  • Charlotte Wessels, singer / songwriter

Brooklyn. All in.