Humanity Degrees by Degree Program Level

Humanities programs offer students a study of liberal arts through multi-disciplinary coursework examining world cultures through linguistics, literature, communication and the arts. Graduates can work in a wide variety of careers.

Essential Information

Humanities degree programs are available at associate's (2 years), bachelor's (4 years), master's (2 years) and doctoral (timespan varies) levels. These programs incorporate human values expressed through literary and philosophical writings, art, language, and other areas. Students receive instruction in critical reading and interpretation as well as analytical thinking and writing, which are highly desired skills in a wide variety of careers. In advanced degree programs, students are able to specialize their coursework to better suit their professional aspirations.

Some specializations within these programs may include classical languages, film and media studies, philosophy, religion, art history, aesthetic and creative studies, romance languages and literature, comparative literature and cultural studies. Requirements for graduation might be composed of a final project, exam, thesis, and/or dissertation.

Associate of Arts in Humanities

An associate's degree in humanities program is dedicated to nurturing a student's interest in the arts and humanities. Applicants must submit transcripts from high school, a GED program or previously attended colleges, and an application. Students may be required to take assessment tests that determine English and math proficiency.

Associate's programs in humanities are designed for those who have interests in languages, philosophy, literature, culture and similar disciplines. Academic advisers in this field generally help students pick from a variety of specialty programs offered in the arts and humanities. Coursework provides a broad knowledge base that prepares them for bachelor's degree programs. Because a 2-year humanities degree provides an excellent foundation for a variety of majors, many students focus on specific disciplines in their bachelor's degree programs, such as education, English, political science or philosophy.

The following classes are common in a 2-year humanities program:

  • African-American studies
  • English
  • Art history
  • Public speaking
  • Linguistics

Bachelor of Arts in Humanities

The bachelor's degree in humanities program focuses more on research, analysis and communication skills as students explore diverse social, humanistic and political perspectives within history and the modern world. This program prepares students for graduate studies in law, library science, sociology, communications, and a variety of other fields. Prospective students must submit a high school diploma or GED, application, ACT or SAT scores, and any transcripts from high school or previous college attendance. Individual classes may have some prerequisite requirements. Coursework highlights artistic and literary works from various perspectives, as well as theories of practical communication and interpretations. Typical classes include:

  • Classical literature
  • Comparative religion
  • Communications
  • Philosophy
  • Anthropology

Master of Arts in Humanities

Students in master's level humanities programs select a specialization, such as classical languages, film and media studies, philosophy or religion. Some programs do not require a master's thesis, but students may be required to submit substantial writing projects or comprehensive examinations. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and may have to apply to the graduate school and the specific program separately. Other requirements include a personal essay, writing sample, letters of recommendation and GRE scores. Some humanities programs require graduate students to have foreign language proficiency.

A wide range of classes fit into a humanities curriculum. The required coursework depends on a student's chosen specialty, but can include:

  • Archaeology
  • Greek and Roman history
  • Folklore studies
  • Latin
  • Advanced linguistics
  • Women's studies

Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities

Ph.D. students in the humanities focus on the theoretical, cultural and historical approaches to influential texts. This knowledge is applied to specific areas of concentration, such as art history, aesthetic and creative studies, Romance languages and literature, comparative literature and cultural studies. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree in a humanities field (some programs require a master's) and submit a completed application, personal essay, recommendation letters, GRE test scores, a writing sample and official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate work. Foreign language proficiency and undergraduate grade point averages are generally considered. Doctoral students must successfully complete and defend a dissertation for graduation from the program. A comprehensive exam is also required in some programs.

Doctoral level classes are taught by faculty from various humanities disciplines. The coursework differs according to the students' areas of concentration, but common classes include:

  • Humanistic studies
  • Contemporary language and cultural theory
  • Postmodernism
  • Classical history and literature
  • Arts and humanities: interdisciplinary theories and approaches

Popular Career Options

Humanities degree programs provide critical skills that are required for a variety of jobs. Some of the diverse career fields available for associate's degree graduates include:

  • Advertising
  • Foreign services
  • Banking
  • Journalism
  • Public administration
  • Publishing

The interdisciplinary education provided by a bachelor's degree program in humanities provides a useful knowledge base for many professions. Careers related to humanities disciplines include:

  • Teacher
  • Estate and art appraiser
  • Arts organization consultant
  • Writer
  • Communications manager

An M.A. in Humanities opens many doors in a variety of diverse fields or serves as a springboard for doctoral studies in the humanities. Career options for graduates of a master's program include:

  • Researcher
  • Historian
  • News and film editor
  • Community college instructor
  • Archivist

Career Outlook and Salary Info

Ph.D. in Humanities graduates generally pursue careers in academia as advanced researchers or instructors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13% increase in job opportunities for postsecondary teachers between 2014 and 2024. Part-time and non-tenure-track teaching positions will be more widely available than tenure-track positions. The median annual salary for postsecondary teachers was $72,470 as of May 2015, although earnings will vary widely depending upon the type of academic institution, job level, field and geographic location.

Humanities degree programs are offered at all degree levels, covering a variety of topics related to linguistics, literature, communication, and the arts with the aim of studying world cultures. These programs can prepare students to enter a wide variety of fields, though teaching and/or research is a common career pursuit for graduates.

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