Careers in Humanities and Arts – Career Paths & Earning Potential

Find Your Dream Career or Job in Humanities

Humanities and liberal arts degrees cover a broad area of opportunities and disciplines, which is very rewarding when earned at any degree level. Thus, the curricula for these programs are typically among the most flexible available that offer a convenient way to obtain valuable skills relevant to many careers or higher-level degree programs.

Some of the subjects involved with studying humanities are history, speech, philosophy, sociology, dance, music, theater, art, political science, religious studies, ethics, literature, language, and more. Liberal arts degrees always include some study in the humanities, but when you’re earning a humanities degree specifically, it can allow you to bypass the majority of the hard science courses you might otherwise need to complete.

Humanities & Art Career Paths


What Can You Do with a Humanities or Arts Degree?


Arts and humanities graduates gain a broad range of skill sets that can open doors to many different occupations and lead to long-term, successful employment. General employers tend to favor the skills gained through these academic disciplines, since not only do students learn about human culture and society, but they also learn how to solve abstract problems, think clearly, communicate effectively, analyze strategically, and more. Students also learn to research, socialize, persuade, and interpret.

Associate Degree

An associate degree in the humanities is versatile and can help students either find entry-level work or serve as a foundation for them to pursue a bachelor's degree. These programs usually take two years to complete and provide a well-rounded education emphasizing courses like literature, history, social science, communication, and performing arts.

Some of the courses you may take when earning this degree are:

  • Communication or Public Speaking
  • Humanities and Fine Arts, 101-105
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor of arts in humanities degree introduces students to creative and critical thinking, human behavior, and values with a selection of topics pertaining to arts and humanities. Writing, communication, cultural awareness, critical thinking, and problem-solving are all important skills in this program. Earning a BA in humanities can be a stepping stone to studying medicine, law, business, education, etc.

Some of the courses you may take when earning this degree are:

  • Mathematics for Liberal Arts
  • Religions of the West
  • Research and Writing

Master’s Degree

Earning a master’s degree in humanities can take learning about history and humans to a new level. This program will focus on motivations and ideas that affect human behavior and also how people interact with what’s around them. Studies will also involve some of the major world events and concepts that took place in the past and changed the course of our thoughts and direction.

Some of the courses you may take when earning this degree are

  • Sociology
  • Romance Languages
  • Public Policy Studies

Skills Gained and Learned


Arts and humanities degree holders gain some important skills, qualities, and characteristics before they even begin working. Being able to communicate effectively and clearly in a professional manner is expected from someone who has a role in the arts and humanities. Therefore, communication skills are by far the most imperative skill, closely followed by critical thinking. Those in this field are relied on by their employers to come up with plans to combat anything that comes there way. That makes critical thinking one of their most important skills when dealing with day-to-day issues.

The following are just some of the important skills you will learn when studying for a humanities or liberal arts degree

  • Communication Skills
    Communication skills are needed in literally every workplace. In a world where social media is dominating the internet, the ability to communicate your thoughts by writing effectively and concisely is necessary to communicate with the masses and with those in upper management. Humanities and liberal arts degree programs teach students these important communication skills. Throughout communication and public speaking courses, students learn how to break down their arguments and insights into easily digestible chunks that can be effectively shared at any level.

  • Critical Thinking and Analytic Skills
    When studying for a degree in humanities, students learn vital critical thinking and analytic skills. These skills are an essential part of understanding anything thrown your way, problem solving, and they are even important for communication. By learning how to analyze and think critically about any problem, you will make it infinitely easier on yourself when you have to parse an incoherent complaint, quickly grasp a new concept at work, or figure out why a new employee has trouble with a certain task. Not only will you understand the issue, but you’ll know how to solve it as well.

  • Research skills
    Any major within liberal arts can help you develop research skills. It’s one of the most important part of the humanities degree and nearly every major requires one or two courses focused on research. These capabilities are what most employers want, particularly since they are so hard to teach. People can spend hours on research if they don’t know how to find what they are looking for. However, those studying in the arts and humanities are taught how to use primary sources to devise relevant research questions and quickly locate the information they seek.

  • Creativity skills
    Those studying humanities will learn how to see things from another point of view and interpret them differently. For instance, some people may look at a painting and think “It’s just a painting”, but those who study humanities will learn how to appreciate every aspect of the painting and understand what the artist was trying to convey through its creation.

Careers in Entertainment


Working in the entertainment industry is probably one of the most coveted positions in the US. Most people would love to get into this business and be able to meet famous celebrities, travel the world, and generally live the high life. If this is something you’re interested in, there are numerous positions waiting to be filled, which you can qualify for with a liberal arts degree. The following are just some careers that can be pursued in entertainment.

Movie Producer or Director

Movie producers and directors bring unique and interesting stories to the big screen. Those aspiring to these positions typically need some experience and a degree in film, communication, or something related.

Directors that work on movies make creative decisions to help tell the story and entertain audiences. This requires that they work closely with a cast and crew from pre-production to post-production, ensuring the project stays true to its intent and meaning. Film directors earn a median average salary of $61,100 annually.

Movie producers hire starring actors, actresses, and important crew members, secure financing for projects, oversee idea development, select scripts, and choose directors. Prospective movie producers need drive, creativity, knowledge of films and the film industry, and a sharp business sense. The work hours can sometimes be quite long, travel may be required, and stress-related deadlines are common in this profession. This job can come with a very lucrative salary for some; however, the average salary is around $66,800 annually.

Cinematographer

A cinematographer deals with all of the visual elements of a film. They are also sometimes referred to as the director of photography, because they tend to make some stylistic decisions on sets, lighting, lens usage, composition, etc., working under the general rules of the director and producer. This profession is the eye behind the camera.

A successful cinematographer must be knowledgeable and trained in all aspects of photography including filmography, special effects, modern equipment, and more. Cinematographers require a bachelor's degree and they sometimes attend technical schools or fine arts programs that offer theory and cinematography techniques. They will also need to have good vision, an artistic sensibility, strong hand-eye coordination, and a thorough understanding of digital camera technology.

For those who are movie fans interested in capturing shots to create films, pursuing a career as a cinematographer might be just the right job for you. Cinematographers may also specialize in certain areas such as cartoons, special effects, or managing multi-camera rigs required in filming an entire motion picture. A post-secondary degree is usually required for this profession. The average salary for cinematographers is around $53,700 annually.

Writer

There are many different types of writing careers, from self-employed freelancers to screenwriters who got their big break in Hollywood; writing is a diverse and extensive professional field. Although there are numerous ways to break into the entertainment industry with writing, three consistent factors will almost ensure your success as a writer in general: talent, training, and experience. Writer’s research, conceptualize, edit, polish manuscripts, and, of course, write content for many different things. In their role, writers may work across many genres, from fiction to satire and non-fiction to poetry. However, many writers in the entertainment industry end up with some specialization, which comes through experience. The best way to prove you’re a writer, after all, is to write something people care about.

Writing professionals can find employment in various positions within the entertainment industry. This includes screenplay writing, TV show writing, and even commercial writing (somebody has to do it). It’s a unique profession and the majority of writers - approximately two-thirds - are self-employed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Along with excellent writing skills, this occupation requires superior research, creativity, and time management skills, as almost everything you write will likely come with a deadline.

The average salary for a writer is approximately $49,300 annually.

Actor-Actress

A successful career in acting requires talent, practice, and good memory with a lot of luck, since there are likely to be many people competing for the same part. When we think of actors, we think of them being famous because the ones we see are everywhere; on TV, in theaters, online, in videos, podcasts, and some may even do voice overs for cartoons, animations, or audiobooks. Some actors are in movies or on TV, while others stick to the stage, acting in plays and Broadway shows. However, most actors are looking for that big break to get them up on the big screen and some make it. Until then, they may make up a cast of extras that are needed in most productions, and only some will achieve levels of fame. The majority of actors have small parts that don’t give them that break into the limelight.

Contrary to popular belief, acting is a job like any other and is not all luxury and limelight. Actors work just as hard as other employees, and there are times when they work long, drawn out hours, such as when they are shooting a movie on-set, rushing to shoot a whole TV show during the off-season, etc. Even after they have performed their part, their job may not be done as there may be tours, photoshoots, interviews, and more.

Actors may focus on a certain genre like comedy or adventure, but a good actor can play any part. They typically have to audition to get a part in a movie or show. At an audition, they are given a script to read from and, if selected, they are expected to bring the character they are portraying, to life. The average salary for an actor/actress is $50,100 annually.

Musician

They say that anyone can be a musician, but unless you want to play dive bars and hope to make it big, you might need a little more than that. If you want to be a professional musician, you will likely need an education and a lot of practice - some talent would also help.

Professional musicians often begin their careers at an early age; others start playing, singing, or conducting in high school. There are many opportunities for musicians nowadays; you can play with a band, an orchestra, or even perform solo. And, it’s never too late to start taking lessons.

There are many doors open to professional musicians, from paying yourself to record in a studio tor performing on stage. If you are looking to pursue a career as a musician, you should consider studying at a conservatory where you will receive specialized training. The most important thing for aspiring musicians is to practice every chance you get. Remember, practice makes perfect. If you would like to become a composer or music director, it will be necessary to get a bachelor’s degree in music performance or music theory.

The average salary for a musician is $44,000 annually, though, of course, that doesn’t include the outliers like rock and country stars.

Radio Broadcaster

If you’ve ever listened to a morning radio talk show, a DJ on a contemporary music station, or even a sports radio announcer; then you’ve heard a radio broadcaster in action. While they all purportedly do the same thing, the fact is that there is a wide variety within this single career option. You might love a specific type of music, or music in general, and decide that you want to be a DJ. This might even give you the chance to go to festivals and do your show live or interview famous singers and bands. Or, you might be more interested in a journalistic or sports career. Even if you don’t think you could make it in front of a TV camera, you could always join radio broadcasting and announce your favorite sport or the important news of your hometown city.

If you want to get into a career in radio broadcasting, you’ll likely need a bachelor’s in communication or a related degree. You’ll also need strong public speaking skills and deal well with people, being willing and able to moderate if things get heated in an interview or with a caller. If you end up working at a smaller station, you may even need technical skills to understand how to use broadcast automation systems, control mixer boards, and more.

The average salary for radio announcers is $34,900 annually, while DJ’s make closer to $38,300.

Event Planner

Do you enjoy setting up parties and events? If so, you might want to pursue a career as an event planner. People hire event planners for weddings, social corporate events, large scale conferences, birthday parties, holiday office parties, and more. This is an exciting and rewarding career where you will get to meet new people and show off your party planning skills. However, it can also be hectic at times since you are responsible for basically everything. Therefore, if the band doesn’t show up on time, the cake falls, the caterers are short one plate, the decorations are the wrong color, you’re the one who will end up running back and forth to fix it. In fact, in 2017, event coordinator was considered the 5th most stressful job, not including jobs which are dangerous.

Event planners require extensive organizational skills, communication skills, time management, and the ability to remain calm in any given situation. With a good education and some experience, you can get started and will be on your way to a very rewarding career.

You will need to have many resources lined up in order to have the perfect layout for your clients. Most clients will choose the theme they want to use, or you can help them decide by making suggestions and recommendations. You will need to have caterers on standby, musicians or DJ's to provide entertainment, decorations/decorators, and more. The average salary for this profession is around $41,100 annually.

Professional Organizations

Americana Music Association (AMA)
The AMA is a not-for-profit, professional trade organization with a mission to advocate for the authentic voices of American Roots Music worldwide.

American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)
This is a performing rights organization that represents more than 420,000 songwriters, music publishers, and composers.

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)
BMI is a performing rights organization that collects fees on behalf of songwriters, music publishers, and composers and distributes them to members as royalties.

Careers in Creative and Design


If you enjoy being creative and have an artistic eye for color or an impeccable sense of style, you will be a perfect fit for a career in creative/design. You will be able to express your creativity while making things visually appealing, and get paid too, with any of the careers in this industry. The need for positions in this field is in demand and growing.

Architect

When you think of an architect you might think about someone who designs things by drawing pictures, but that’s only a part of the job. A typical day of a practicing architect may consist of construction drawings, attending meetings, invoicing clients, checking staff’s work, reviewing and approving contractor work, handling issues with clients or employees, and anything else related to business and ongoing projects.

When studying to become an architect, you will learn problem-solving skills while focusing on construction, materials, design, and history. For architects, school is mainly about examining information that you will use to solve new problems creatively.

Every working architect is challenged with problems and the need to find an architectural solution that fits within budgets, building codes, schedules, and client expectations. Talented architects spend their entire careers balancing time and money to fit with their vision for architectural design.

The industry is constantly growing, especially with the increasing use of computers and new ways of accessing information. The average salary for this profession is around $65,800 for the average architect and $93,800 for senior project architects.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers create visual digital displays which are then seen across the globe. These designers develop media for advertising, entertainment, and news in all forms such as print publications (newspapers, magazines, brochures, etc.) and digital broadcast media, including television, game machines, social platforms, web browsers, and portable devices.

Professional graphic designers may work for design firms, while others work independently and usually are self-employed. They may work by themselves or as part of a team. Digital and print designers use complex graphics tools to manipulate images, animations, text, and color. Most graphic designers will work full-time or even overtime to meet deadlines. Self-employed graphic designers are often able to work flexible hours that may include evenings and weekend hours. As with so many industries, the key to success in this occupation is client satisfaction.

Training may include learning how to use certain software and programs, learning how to bid on contracts, developing a client base, and marketing services. As technology continues to develop, so does the demand for graphic designers. The average salary for this profession is around $44,400 annually.

Interior Designer

Interior designers are a less-often seen part of the design industry. Their specialty is interiors but, rather than just decorating an already created building or room, interior designers often work with architects to design what the interior of a room should look like before it is ever built. They tend to work very closely with architectural firms, some even being employed by firms to add their expertise to every project and they sometimes work with prebuilt spaces in order to create a new feel by adding architectural changes. The industry is projected to grow by 4% between 2018 and 2028.

When studying for a degree, students will learn all about color-matching, design, drafting, space planning, 3D imaging, and more while also achieving practical skills such as marketing, project management, business development, sales, etc. Those who graduate with a four-year degree can apply for an entry-level position at design firms. The average salary for this profession is around $48,600 annually.

Fashion Designer

Fashion design can be an exciting career for those interested in setting new trends in fashion. This is a highly competitive occupation; therefore, to get your foot in the door of this industry, fashion designers will have to hone their skills and earn a degree. Students interested in pursuing a career in this field can obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree. Courses in fashion design may include the history of fashion, computer-aided fashion design, textiles, pattern making, figure drawing, or other.

Fashion designers also have the option of completing degree programs in fashion merchandising to be eligible for a job in the field, where the curriculum covers retail sales promotions, merchandise planning, retail management, consumer behavior, and product development. However, something all aspiring fashion designers should look for is an internship opportunity. Working with one of the big names in the fashion industry won’t just give you some great experience, it will also give you the opportunity to network with some of the best-known designers out there.

The average annual salary fashion designers is $65,000. However, the average income for entry-level fashion designers is around $45,800 and the average income for those who are still in the industry later in their career is around $91,700.

Photographer

A career as a photographer can be the perfect job for someone who has a great eye for composition and wants to be able to get out there and get great shots and be acknowledged for them. If you’re considering working in photography, you probably have a specific form of photography in mind, whether that’s landscapes or model shoots. You’ll definitely have the chance to work with a lot of diverse people as a photographer, but you should understand that this isn’t your everyday camera. Photography is highly technical and can be very demanding, requiring that you get up at 4AM to reach the place your shooting and set up, just so you can catch the earliest rays of sunlight. If you plan to become a photographer, there will be a lot of learning involved.

There are many different types of photography including aerial photography, scientific, and various types of settings that range from newspaper publishing companies to photographic studios. Moreover, some photographers may work in the field full-time, part-time, or whenever they choose to.

Many photographers get into the industry working as an assistant photographer and, while you really don’t have to have a degree to become a photographer, it is highly recommended. A degree or certificate will help you learn a lot of valuable skills and many employers prefer formal training over amateurs. You can also go a step further and become certified in photography, which will give you a more competitive edge. The average salary for this profession is around $45,700 annually.

Art Director

There are different types of art directors working for various kinds of organizations. However, this job typically involves managing a team of designers who are working on a creative project together, but the responsibility can vary. Art directors are leaders who guide and inspire the design team’s visions. You should be able to recognize talent and learn how to bring out the best in artists in order to hold this position.

Many creative fields include an art director. It's a job title that exists within advertising, graphic design, publishing, marketing, TV and film, video games, and web design. There are a number of character traits and so-called soft skills that are necessary to obtain this role, especially skills in dealing with people, understanding aesthetics and how they change, and even being efficient and dedicated in order to meet deadlines.

To earn a position as an art director you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in art or a related field and many years of experience. In addition, a good portfolio should be assembled for potential employers viewing so always make sure to update yours. The average salary for this profession is around $66,000 annually.

Professional Organizations

Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA)
This organization consists of designers who produce womenswear, menswear, jewelry, and accessories.

Professional Photographers of America (PPA)
The PPA is great for portrait and studio photographers looking to expand their knowledge while taking advantage of the organizations many resources.

American Institute of Architects (AIA)
The AIA is one of the oldest architectural organizations. It has been supporting architects since 1857 and currently contains over 90,000 members.

Additional Careers in Arts & Humanities


Up to 92% of undergraduate degree programs require that students complete arts and humanities coursework to ensure they maintain a well-rounded education. With these courses included in their degree program, students can choose from a diverse wide range of professional studies, where each major offers its own career paths and requirements.

Historian

Becoming a historian requires a difficult academic foundation. Archivists who work at libraries and professors at universities all studied history in a complex academic capacity and now are dedicated to understanding things of the past better, as well as improving preservation and how we understand and relate to the past.

Beyond positions directly and actively related to an academic discipline, a degree in history provides a dynamic range of career opportunities. Research, reading, and writing skills are honed, making those who graduate with a degree in history particularly suited for a range of careers. The skills obtained by historians span industries beyond the archivist or educator roles. Individuals that hold this degree are in demand within fields such as law, politics, and libraries. With these essential skills working together, the career possibilities are many.

A bachelor’s in history is the most common history degree earned; it opens the door to becoming an educator while also preparing you to work in historical museums and archives. The average salary for this profession is around $48,200 annually.

Journalist

Journalism informs the public of various news and information. Journalists may work for magazines, large or small newspapers, broadcast networks, or write for publications on the internet. Their work can come from information gathered from direct or indirect sources or they may gather their information on location, spending time where the events are taking place to make sure they have their facts straight. This means that you could do the job from your own quiet office or you may actually put yourself in harm’s way by working out in the field, near a dangerous storm, shooter, or even in a war zone. However, before you’ll be able to enter the field, journalists require formal education.

Journalists are often responsible for every step of a story. They either choose a lead based on information they’ve heard or are given one by an editor, then they investigate that lead until it turns up something interesting. After they do their due diligence and make sure their sources are legitimate, they share the story they’ve put together with the world; that’s the part we see in newspapers and on TV. Doing this job may require you to ask questions, check official documents, conduct interviews, make sure everything you’re doing follows strict ethical guidelines, and then pass your findings on to your editor and the public.

Journalists usually work with other journalists, writers, and/or editors to fill in missing details, verify facts, and put together all the information to turn it into a story. While studying for this position, students will learn how to do all of this and use headlines and photos to create a story that can easily be understood by the general public. The average salary for this profession is around $40,500 annually.

Minister

Becoming a minister is something you should think about long and hard before you make the decision. Most people who consider becoming a minister think of it as a calling. It can certainly be a rewarding career, but it can also be difficult and demanding. You may be able to celebrate many milestones with those you work with, but you will also be their rock in some of their hardest times. People often turn to their minister when they have no one else to turn to – when they suffer a loss, are diagnosed with an illness, or face other unimaginable hardships.

Depending on the denomination you lean toward you may need a degree, a specialized training program run by the church, or even to be sworn into a more structured life than most people live. You no doubt already have a denomination in mind, so you can check with the denomination that fits your personal beliefs to learn everything you’ll need to do before you can become a minister.

Beside formal learning, you should also work on your soft skills. You’ll need to be patient, kind, and willing to listen to others if you want to be a minister. You’ll likely need to work with a board when making decisions about the running of the church among other things and you’ll certainly be expected to live up to certain standards as set by your denomination. These are all things you should be prepared for, though your training will cover these topics as well. The most important thing to know is that being a minister is a position in which you serve others.

The average salary for a minister is about $50,300 annually, though this will vary based on denomination, region, if you’re somewhere urban or rural, and the size of the church, among other things.

Editor

An editor can find work in a variety of industries and formats. Most people make think of newspaper editors when they hear the title – the person who hands out assignments and makes sure stories are ready to run. While that’s definitely an option, editors can work in other formats as well. Writers need editors for articles, fiction and non-fiction books, subtitle transcripts, marketing copy, alternate text for the blind, and much more.

In each of these positions the editor reads what’s been written, ensure that it is grammatically correct and understandable to the target audience. They may also make sure it fits a style guide provided by their employer or a specific style manual, of which there are several. Lastly, they may request rewrites or rewrite some sections themselves to make sure it follows all guidelines and is the best it can be before it is published. Some editors also assist with manuscript selection, design or layout, and other aspects of publication.

Editors typically work with authors throughout the publishing process. While an editors' job can be quite rewarding in seeing their work reach final publication, there are still some stress points to be aware of such as long or odd hours when working with authors from around the world and publication deadlines. In addition, those who work as freelancers will have to continually seek more work and will have to adjust to new settings and environments regularly.

The pay for editors can vary drastically to where some jobs may pay just pennies per word and others may pay a flat rate per item. The average salary for this profession is around $51,500 annually.

Archivist, Curator, Museum Technician

These historical item specialists generally all work in museums. These museums may be run by a college or university, corporation, or the government, or they may be owned by foundations that care for a historical site. Archivists oversee collections of artwork or historic items. They may also prepare for display or restore museum items. Curators generally make decisions about which items or parts of a collection should be shown. They may make this decision based on a special item currently on loan to the museum or the best looking, best looking items out of a group; they may even choose items with the hopes of telling a specific story. Museum technicians may help restore or maintain museum items or help in the sorting and identification of fossils and other hard-to-classify pieces.

These occupations typically requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree and some experience. Experience can be gained by volunteering in museums or archives, interning, or working in a museum at an entry-level position such as a tour guide. Overall, employment within these positions is expected to grow by 9% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. An ongoing interest in storing and preserving art, fossils, and other historical items has created this increase in positions. However, that does not mean that there are many open positions in the field. In fact, the competition for these positions is very high and some cannot find entry-level employment without at least a master’s degree, much higher than the usual required degree for an entry-level position.

The average annual salary for archivists, curators, and museum technicians is $43,600.

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists are in charge of controlling how the public views their client, company, brand, or product. They can be called upon to develop a positive view from the ground up, either when a company starts or when they launch a new product, or they can be required to pull a flagging company reputation back up out of the muck. They may do this by creating media releases or shifting the discussion to a company’s positive affect on society at large. They may even do so by simply creating an amusing interactive social media interface, of which the public can have a positive view.

In order to maintain a public image public relations specialists may do the following:

  • Create and release media packets and press releases
  • Answer questions from the media and the public
  • Set up interviews or press conferences and help create speeches for top executives
  • Evaluate promotional and advertising programs

The average salary for this profession is around $47,900 annually.

Professional Organizations

American Press Institute
The American Press Institute provides in-depth information for studying journalists, covering everything from new laws governing the press to social media impact.

Global Investigative Journalism Network
This group provides up-to-date research, news articles, and more resources for investigative journalists.

American Historical Association
This organization for American historians is an excellent tool for those interested in pursuing any part of history academically.