What are you going to do with that? Careers in the Humanities

Every student who choses to study a subject in the humanities hears it at least once.

“What are you going to do with that?”

Sure, it's irritating and patronizing,  but the reality is that jobs for students of history, philosophy, linguistics and other subjects in the humanities are not as plentiful as in other study fields. Still, whether you end up in the United States or Germany, a degree in the humanities will provide you will the skills needed to succeed in a wide range of positions.

The following is an interview between Die Zeit, a popular German publication, and Gianna Reich, the 29 year old founder of geisteswirtschaft.de, a website dedicated to helping guide humanities scholars in the job market. 

Die Zeit: You blog about the humanities in relation to the economy. Why?

Gianna Reich: Out of necessity. I study German and Cultural Studies and wanted more information about job opportunities in our economy. Unfortunately, there isn’t much available.

DZ: For your blog you interview scholars and other graduates with backgrounds in the humanities about their work. Which have stood out most to you?

GR: A philosopher who optimizes and tweaks search engines. There was also an art historian who works at a software company.

DZ: Have your studies worked against you rather than for you in terms of preparing for work positions?

GR: No! As a graduate of the humanities, one has many great skills: one can comprehend and understand 200 pages of material quickly. We know how communication works and can work well in group-oriented projects. For example, I work with an IT Start-Up. I translate their jargon into customer-friendly language that even my grandma could understand!

DZ: But job postings for humanities grads are in short supply.

GR: With media-related or culturally-focused companies, there is certainly high competition for the few positions available. But one can also take a look at other fields. I spend every week looking into alternative job-positions for graduates of the humanities, beyond publishers, media outlets and museums.

DZ: And what have you found?

GR: Everything is possible. Banks are looking for editors for their printed material. Deutsche Bahn is looking for presenters for their internal communication. Humanities graduates can also work in customer service or project management, or they can organize further education classes. Graduates from the humanities are perfect for any position involving face-to-face interaction. 

This interview originally appeared in German in Die Zeit’s Studienführer 2016/2017.