Tue | Jun 22, 2021

How the Humanities changed my life

Published:Sunday | June 9, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica’s traditional job market is currently seeing massive disruption. The once highly demanded degree options are no longer required because corporations employ more efficient and low-cost options: technology.

“So what now?” you may ask. “What degree can give me an advantage over technology? Which degree is a safe bet?” My answer would be a degree that creates individuals that can identify opportunities in our society rather than rely on existing methods and one that develops creative thinkers.

For those of you yet to select a degree option and those who feel lost in your current programme of study, I invite you to consider a humanities degree. The humanities degree, based on its strengths of self-development, entrepreneurship, and limitless job opportunity is surely worth considering. Let’s start with my experience.

In the beginning, I decided to pursue a career in another discipline. Although a safe choice in today’s technology era, I found that it did not contribute to something more important: my self-development. The course material required that I only memorise and recall. It never urged much thinking outside of the discipline.

I never saw my skills having any application in my daily interactions with others or my environment. I had a need for purpose, a need to know that what I was pursuing was for me and not just my future employer. After a while, I found that this need was being fulfilled in my graphic design hobby as I assisted those around me with starting their own businesses.

Eventually, this hobby led to a thirst for something more, and so I changed majors to digital media production – a humanities degree. Since making this change, I have been introduced to subjects that require me to do more than recall but to think and apply. Such topics included psychology, marketing, sociology, history, and philosophy.

The beauty I found in pursuing a humanities degree is that all courses impacted each other (something I can’t say about my previous programme). I noticed this best when my culture classes impacted my design classes; my research classes impacted my culture classes; and my writing skills impacted everything.

Beyond school

These humanities skills even went beyond school. A few months ago, I applied my marketing skills to acquire a lead design role on the marketing team of TEDxUWI Mona and then applied my public-speaking skills to speak impromptu when audience members were offered a five-minute TEDx talk opportunity. The lessons learned in each course are applicable to daily life. They’re not left in the PowerPoint slides of last semester; they become part of you.

This is the age of self-employment. People are no longer satisfied with the options of goods and services that have been historically offered by corporations. Consumers are demanding better and are even meeting this need themselves. This is entrepreneurship: meeting the needs of another and in turn, being rewarded for it. The humanities is ideal for aspiring entrepreneurs. To start a science-based business, you must first have capital to acquire the tools or ingredients needed. In contrast, a humanities-based business only requires the individual.

Traditionally, the humanities practitioner was limited by gatekeepers such as a book publisher or the media companies, but today, those rules have changed. The publisher is now Amazon Self-Publishing, and the stage is now a free world-stage called YouTube. Humanities skills are perfect in the digital age.

The only determinant of your success is your effort, not equipment. If you require further convincing, here are a few popular humanities graduates from across the world – Oprah Winfrey (communications), J.K. Rowling (French and classics), Donald Glover (dramatic ­writing), J. Cole (communications), Lupita Nyong’o (film and theatre studies.)

In demand

It is often believed that humanities degrees are not in demand, however, I would beg to differ. Now, you may be thinking that the only career choices available with a humanities degree are teacher, journalist, or translator. A fair assumption to make when STEM (Science, Technology, engineering and mathematics) is highly endorsed.

However, this is not the case. Some of your choices include author, film actor, film director, film producer, photographer, news reporter, musician, fashion designer, event coordinator, interior decorator, librarian … the list goes on.

Often people view the Humanities degrees in the same light as other degrees: their career title is limited to their degree title. The humanities do not obey this expectation. All humanities graduates are well versed in skills beyond their degree title, in particular the skills that are desired by all businesses and which also stand the test of time: critical reading, critical writing, critical thinking, and public speaking.

Some of these skills may sound familiar as they are what the newly implemented PEP focuses on. These are the skills that produce creative thinkers who design creative solutions for a country’s economic issues. If you are not able to think of new ideas, you will have to rely on the ideas of those who can. Become more than your degree title! As Nicole Plummer, one of my lecturers, said “The humanities force us to probe ourselves and our society a little more deeply.”


Chris-Anthony Pinnock is a second year, undergraduate, digital media production major in the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC), Faculty of Humanities and Education, at the Western Jamaica Campus of The University of the West Indies, Mona. He is the winner of the FHE poster Competition, 2018-2019. This article is one in a series that seeks to promote and highlight the impact of the arts and humanities on the individual’s personal development and career path. Please send feedback to fhe@uwimona.edu.jm.