Humanity Studies Programs: Degree and Course Information

Oct 15, 2019

Degrees in humanity studies are offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral level. While areas of focus may vary for each student, the curriculum integrates disciplines such as history, literature, philosophy, theology, art and social sciences.

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Essential Information

Humanities studies programs provide an interdisciplinary liberal arts education that examines the human experience. Students considering humanities studies should be interested in how multiple disciplines address what it means to be human. Programs are available at the bachelor's master's, and doctoral levels.

In addition to standard requirements, applicants to bachelor's programs may also require letters of recommendation, a minimum grade point average and an essay describing the applicant's interests in pursuing a college degree.

Master's programs allow students to focus on more specific concentration areas, and require them to complete and defend a master's thesis. Admission to a master's program usually requires a bachelor's degree in a subject area related to the student's intended area of study. Most programs will also require a certain score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and a writing sample.

Doctoral programs are increasingly research-intensive, requiring students to produce an original dissertation and demonstrate foreign language proficiency. Admission to doctoral programs in humanities studies typically requires a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, letters of recommendation, a statement of interest, a minimum undergraduate grade point average, and acceptable GRE scores. Some programs require intermediate knowledge of a foreign language.

Bachelor of Arts Degree in Humanities Studies

Humanities students examine how individuals and groups define themselves and their place within their culture and era. Students learn how various disciplines document the endeavors of the individuals or groups being studied. Humanities studies programs may vary significantly, though most focus on intersections between literature, art and philosophy, and culminate in a senior thesis requirement that demonstrates the student's ability to present and analyze a selected topic from an interdisciplinary perspective. Common courses include:

  • Philosophy and history of ideas
  • Visual arts
  • Literature
  • History

Master of Arts Degree in Humanities Studies

Depending on the school, a Master of Arts in Humanities Studies may also be called a Master of Liberal Arts. The program typically takes 1-2 years to complete. Students take courses and seminars related to their chosen specialization and typically complete a master's thesis. Typically 40-80 pages in length, the thesis is a substantial research paper of original scholarship. Some programs also require an oral defense of the thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Humanities Studies

During the course of study, doctoral students engage with significant texts about, and theoretical approaches to, cultural and intellectual history. The curriculum is dictated by the student's specialization and approach, and typically takes 4-7 years to complete. Courses and seminars generally make up the first three years of a program, with the student spending the final years researching and writing a dissertation. An oral defense of the dissertation is also required.

Continuing Education

The bachelor's degree in humanities may prepare students for graduate studies in humanities and other liberal arts fields. Students who intend to pursue a graduate degree should choose an emphasis for their bachelor's degree program that is relevant to the graduate field they intend to study. For example, a student interested in an art history graduate degree should emphasize visual arts in their bachelor's degree program.

While a master's degree in humanities studies is not typically required, it can provide a strong foundation for a doctoral program in humanities. Courses taken for the master's degree will typically count toward the doctoral program credit requirement.

Popular Careers

A master's degree holder may be qualified to teach humanities at a community college; however, the degree is often pursued as its own reward. It is appropriate for people who desire a liberal arts graduate degree but are not interested in pursuing a doctorate or who would like to try graduate school before committing to a doctoral program.

Employment Outlook

A doctorate in humanities qualifies its holder to become a college professor in the humanities or a related liberal arts field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 11% increase in employment of postsecondary teachers from 2018 to 2028, representing much faster-than-average job growth for all occupations. The BLS also reported that, as of May 2018, median annual salaries for liberal arts professors at colleges and universities depended on the discipline as follows:

  • English Language and Literature: $66,590
  • Art, Drama and Music: $69,960
  • History: $74,590
  • Philosophy and Religion: $71,890

Humanities studies programs are interdisciplinary degrees that qualify individuals for future careers as liberal arts professors at community colleges and universities.

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