5 reasons to add a minor in the humanities or social sciences

The library at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

It is that time of year when students – at my university and elsewhere – are beginning to register for spring semester courses. This also makes it a good time to reconsider one’s program of study and choice of major/minor. I’ve written before about the virtues of a social science and humanities majors (see also here). On the Facebook page, I’ve also provided links to studies that corroborate my argument. Still, if you are pursuing a professional major – from nursing through business to fashion design – you may want to consider adding a minor in the humanities or social sciences for several reasons.

    1. The humanities and social sciences teach you how to write. Employers are constantly complaining that the writing skills of applicants they receive for entry level positions is unimpressive, to say the least. One manager at a finance firm in downtown Indianapolis told me recently he had received 200 resumes for one position, only to throw out 190 of them for their abhorrent level of English. While your professional major may train you well in one area, upper-division electives in history, English, or political science will require a level of research and writing that is likely to elevate your written (and oral) expression skills.
    2. The humanities and social sciences teach you how to think creatively. While some employers want loyal soldiers who aren’t too independent and won’t “rock the boat,” many would prefer those who can come up with “out of the box” solutions to problems. There’s no better way to develop such skills than studying the very areas that have for centuries been the cradle of human creativity.
    3. The humanities and social sciences demonstrate that you have the curiosity to learn. Because most of those areas do not lead to a professional career outside of teaching (at least not without graduate training), they indicate to employers that you are generally interested in things beyond the immediate knowledge required to perform your job.
    4. The humanities and social sciences will make you stand out above the other candidates. You are majoring in business? Marketing? Public relations? Good for you. There are hundreds like you competing for each job. What makes you so special? Why would anyone want to pick your resume out of a huge pile? While there are many ways to stand out (internships, study abroad, etc.), adding a minor in an area not directly related to what you are studying can considerably improve your chances. Think of it from the perspective of the employer: If you could only interview one candidate, would you want to speak to the business major, or to the business major who also took 2 years of French and minored in history?
    5. The humanities and social sciences make you an interesting person to talk to. While you will likely be really good at your job, most places hiring realize they will be spending much time with you as a person, not just a professional. No one wants to hire boring, unidimensional people. Rather, many companies and businesses prefer to work with worldly individuals who can carry a conversation on a wide range of topics unrelated directly to their business. Having a minor (or another major!) in a humanities or social science area indicates you are potentially such a person. The knowledge you will gain studying those areas will also help you impress those you talk to when interviewing.


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