It is no secret that a humanities-based education has received a bad rap in recent times. The global economic crisis, which has eroded middle-class incomes, the rise of digital technologies, and a mindset that associates professional success with a STEM or Business degree, have all played their part.

Who needs a degree in the humanities, skeptics say; it is a sort of Ivory Tower for the self-indulgent, those naïve—or idle— enough to spend time philosophizing on the human condition instead of grappling with life’s practical challenges. And why should parents waste a fortune so their children can undertake a useless degree?

Enrollment figures in humanities programs in European and US universities tell the sad tale of humanities’ loss of momentum. A recent article in The New Yorker bearing the ominous title “The End of the English Major” tells us that the number of students in the US majoring in literature and history programs has dropped by no less than a third over the past decade.

And yet, contrary to public perceptions, it is becoming more and more apparent that employers are looking for the very skills that a humanities-based education can offer.

A 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review reported on outcomes of a survey commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). The point of the survey was to identify the skill set most desirable in the 21st-century job market.

Responses by 501 business executives and 500 hiring managers, overwhelmingly showed that the most valued types of college learning involve a broad knowledge base, critical thinking, ethical judgment, team work, and the ability to communicate–all of which are cornerstones of a humanities-based education.

Likewise, in March 2023, the UK Higher Education Policy Institute identified a strong correlation between the skills of humanities graduates and the skills valued by employers in eight of the ten fastest growing sectors.

And not only that: a 2020 report by the British Academy shows that arts, humanities and social science degree holders land jobs in eight of the ten fastest-growing sectors of the economy—including the tech and media industries—more often than their STEM graduate counterparts.

So, what makes a humanities graduate competitive in today’s job market? The answer is their potential for creativity and innovation, which in turn requires knowledge of cultures and historical traditions, a deep understanding of semantics, and an ability to select, integrate and synthesize information.

No wonder, then, that a humanities education proves a powerful career perk—especially when combined with training in technology. In recent years, for instance, there has been growing interest in the field of digital humanities, an area at the intersection of humanities disciplines and computing or digital technologies.

The American-style system of higher education offers one additional advantage here, by offering the possibility of transdisciplinary studies through a double-major—such as pursing a humanities degree in parallel with a degree in, say, communication, management, computer science, etc.

Only this year, Oxford University released data on the career destinations of 9,000 humanities graduates from 2000 to 2019; they show that “studying a humanities subject can transform working life,” because humanities graduates possess more “resilience and adaptability.”

Add to this both cross-cultural understanding and awareness of ethical issues, which are pivotal ingredients at every level of professional life in the global economy, and the answer to the question “Are the humanities dead?” becomes a no-brainer:

The humanities are not only not dead, they are here to stay.

* Dr. Maragou is Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Deree–The American College of Greece