What can I do with an arts or humanities degree?

Career options for arts and humanities graduates: jobs you can do with a degree in arts and culture, languages, English, Irish, classics, philosophy, theology, performing arts etc.

If you are graduating with a degree in arts or humanities, it's likely that you chose your subject for its own sake rather than as a means to an end or with a view to going into a particular career.

Apart from teaching, there are very few career areas directly related to humanities graduates who wish to use their subject. That does not mean, though, that your career is not relevant to your job search.

Careers for arts and humanities graduates

With an arts and humanities degree, you can approach your job hunting in a variety of ways.

1. Careers where your degree is needed for entry

Examples include degrees in archaeology, economics, history of art, psychology, social policy and sociology. In these cases, you usually need to be well qualified academically. Teaching is another career that gives you the chance to use your subject directly, and is an option for graduates of many different disciplines.

2. Careers where your degree is an advantage

Examples would be a geography degree leading to a job as a regional and urban planner or an environmentalist, or a politics degree leading to journalism.

3. Careers where your degree is a broadly based foundation

Many jobs – for example, within the Civil Service, accountancy and finance, management consultancy or retailing – are open to graduates of all degree disciplines. In these cases, it is the intellectual development proved by your degree, rather than the subject, that the employer is looking for.

4. Careers where your degree is unrelated to your job

It’s been estimated that 40 per cent of graduate vacancies do not ask for specific degree subjects. And further study and conversion courses can help you get into many other sectors. It helps if you can demonstrate an interest or aptitude for this career, for example through work experience or from your extra-curricular activities at college.

You may need to think laterally when it comes to getting on the career ladder. For example, if you want to work in a competitive area such as the media or the arts, you may need relevant work experience (paid or unpaid) and further training or a postgraduate qualification. Many humanities graduates find entry-level jobs in administrative roles or use less obvious routes to their chosen careers.

Employability skills gained from an arts and humanities degree

It's been said that employers are interested in the person first and the degree second. And arts degrees, it can be argued, develop a whole range of personal skills that will always be in demand with employers.

These will vary depending on your course, but some of the skills developed from studying humanities subjects include the ability to:

  • Understand, assess and evaluate issues
  • Think and act creatively
  • Organise your workload and work to deadlines
  • Read pages of text and pick out the essential points
  • Retain and absorb large amounts of information
  • Write well in a variety of formats
  • Convey meaning precisely
  • Conduct research and evaluate sources
  • Lead and participate in discussions
  • Work alone and on own initiative
  • Develop opinions, propose ideas and theories
  • Be objective
  • Debate and persuade others of your point of view
  • Have self-confidence in your opinions
  • Be able to base conclusions on statistical research.

Depending on your studies, you may also have developed IT and foreign language skills, both of which are in demand with employers.