Studies in Humanities: College and University Program Options

Humanities can be described as the broad, interdisciplinary study of society and culture throughout history. Degree programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels from many public and private colleges and universities. Keep reading to find out more about studying humanities.

How to Select a Program in Humanities

A humanities program, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, prepares students to think critically, write and speak effectively and conduct independent research. Humanities programs do not prepare students for specific careers. Rather, they teach skills that are useful in many employment settings.


  • Career goals
  • Area of research for graduate students

Career Goals

Students may want to look for schools that offer career services that can help them direct their studies to ensure employment upon graduation or to plan for further academic study. It can also be useful to get an idea of the career paths previous humanities students have pursued. Some common career paths include academia, law, teaching and public service.

Area of Research for Graduate Students

Humanities is a wide-ranging area that covers many disciplines, including art, languages, social sciences and more. Students may want to consider their own specific research interests when choosing a master's or doctoral degree program, and choose a school whose faculty can offer mentorship in that area.

Humanities Program Overview

Bachelor of Arts in Humanities

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs in the humanities are highly interdisciplinary and allow motivated students to design their own courses of study. Many programs emphasize multiculturalism and help students understand societies other than their own. Most schools require current students to complete an additional application demonstrating academic ability and curiosity to enter into a humanities program. Programs help students develop analytical and communication skills while providing them with coursework in:

  • Philosophy
  • Art history
  • Literature

Master of Arts in Humanities

Master of Arts (M.A.) programs last 1-2 years and help humanities students synthesize and expand upon their knowledge. Students might pursue an M.A. in conjunction with another graduate-level degree, such as a law or education degree, or in preparation for a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program. Artists and writers may find that an M.A. in humanities helps them develop critical understanding of their fields. Master's programs in the humanities do not normally include funding, so tuition and fees should be taken into account in choosing a program. A bachelor's degree with relevant coursework is a prerequisite. Examples of areas students might study in a master's degree program include:

  • Religion
  • Art
  • Philosophy
  • Literature
  • History

Ph.D. in Humanities

A limited number of schools offer Ph.D. programs in the humanities. Students complete 2-3 years of advanced coursework and usually must fulfill a foreign language requirement. Completion of an original, independent dissertation normally requires an additional two years of study. Most Ph.D. graduates work in teaching or research positions. A bachelor's or master's degree and a record of academic excellence are requirements for entry. Examples of course topics for the Ph.D. include:

  • Aesthetic theory
  • Historical perspectives on the arts
  • Contemporary thought and criticism

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