Liberal Arts Degrees and Arts & Humanities Careers: How to Work in Arts & Humanities

Liberal arts degrees can help lead students to careers in the arts and humanities. Learn more about degrees and careers in history, music, writing and more.

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Individuals in the arts and humanities field are the creative spark that influences business across America, powering everything from giant computer and technology corporations to small design studios and clothing boutiques. A college degree in the arts and humanities offers students key skills that can be applied to just about any career or industry, such as problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and communication. This guide provides details about career pathways in the arts and humanities, along with employment projections, and potential earnings to help graduates find the right career.

Liberal Arts Degrees and Arts & Humanities Career Paths



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Nine two percent of today's undergraduate degree programs require students to undertake coursework that falls under the arts and humanities to give students a well-rounded education. As an isolated degree program, students can select from a diverse range of professional studies, with each major offering its own set of requirements and career paths. Below are examples of potential paths to pursue within the arts and humanities:


Graduates of journalism degree programs take their places among the 57,000 reporters, correspondents, and news analysts working in print, digital or broadcast organizations throughout the country. The wide career field prepares students to take on everything from reporting local news on television to working the foreign desk for a weekly news magazine. The growth in online journalism has fueled the careers of bloggers, photographers, arts and music critics, and freelance writers who make their own hours.

Education requirements
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most employers prefer job applicants holding at least a bachelor's degree in journalism or digital communications. However, many journalists can enter the field with a related degree in political science or English along with a portfolio demonstrating their abilities.


Communication professions work across a wide range of specializations in corporate communications, advertising and promotions, news media, and journalistic organizations. Graduates or four-year degree programs are armed with a fundamental understanding of the communications field and relevant skills along with niche training. They take jobs as announcers, print and digital editors, technical writers, photographers, reporters, bloggers, public relations managers or marketing writers.

Education requirements
The common entry level requirement in communications is the bachelor's degree. In some instances, job applicants are required to present a portfolio (print, audio, video, multimedia reel) demonstrating their experience and skills. For those going into management, earning a master's degree is advisable.


The “world is your oyster” when you earn a degree in history, according to the American Historical Association. History graduates are well-suited to traditional careers as historical research scholars or history teachers, however many pursue professions as legal analysts, foreign-service officers, foundation staffers, consultants, lobbyists, or information managers. History grads also find employment with think tanks, law firms, non-profit organizations, historic sites, secondary and post-secondary schools, and museum.

Education requirements
Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in history can gain entrance to the field with jobs in historical organizations and museums, according to the BLS, however the four-year degree can help them land jobs in legal, educational, and business organizations. To work as research or college historians, applicants are typically required to hold at least a master's degree or doctorate.


The undergraduate study of film is a broad professional area that includes training for roles in writing, production, animation, multimedia, mass communications, cinematography, broadcast and gaming. Film and video editors work in the entertainment, broadcast, news, education and corporate communications fields. Directors work across film and digital media used in entertainment, marketing, advertising and broadcast productions. Writers work in pre-production, creating scripts used for entertainment, broadcasting, marketing, film and stage projects. Producers are the financial managers of the creative and technological support teams in pre- and post-production. Film schools also offer training in lighting, sound, electrical, set production, sound and music specialties.

Education requirements
A bachelor's degree is the common general requirement for entry level into many specialties within the film occupations. Production personnel may have specialties or degrees in finance. Animators and editors have technology-related specializations, while technical support staff (grips, lighting technicians, etc.) may earn certifications or training at career schools.


There's a career for every type of musician and music lover. Graduates of undergraduate and graduate music degree programs work as film scorers, advertising jingle and game theme writers, classical or jazz composers, rock and rollers, music recorders and managers, music educators, performers, songwriters, and music therapists. The career outlook for college music teachers deserves special attention: job openings will increase by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022 (BLS), with the largest amount of openings at the two-year college level. Common job titles include copyist, transcriber, private instructor, sound designer, personal manager, vocalist, music publisher, film conductor or session musician.

Education requirements
Many performing musicians and composers are self-taught, but those working as classical performers, directors and vocalists are typically required to hold at least a bachelor's degree with a music-history and performance concentration. Those who pursue teaching careers will need at least an undergraduate degree in music and a teaching credential, while college-level music educators will need to complete a master's degree or doctorate.

Fashion Design

Fashion designers work in the fields of apparel, shoes and accessories, creating new products for major retailers, fashion boutiques, and direct-to-customer companies. They use a combination of professional skills to design the product and select the necessary fabrics and components for production. The BLS reports that America's 22,300 designers are self-employed professionals or work for clothing companies, wholesalers, garment manufacturers, fashion design firms, online retailers and catalog companies.

Education requirements
Some 300 postsecondary schools and colleges offer degree programs in fashion design. Most working designers hold bachelor's degrees in either fashion design or fashion merchandising. Degree programs offer detailed studies in computer-aided design technology, fabrics, templates, materials, design history and trends. Formal postsecondary programs allow students to build a portfolio of work to showcase to prospective employers.

Components of a Successful Arts and Humanities Career: Skills, Tools, and Technology

In a 2013 study, the business consulting firm Accenture found that employers in a range of industries wanted applicants with strong skills in leadership, communication, people management, and project management. Additionally, Forbes Magazine reports that today's employers are looking for candidates who have “a broad knowledge base, who can collaborate to solve problems, debate, communicate and think critically.” As a result of these needs, recruiters and employers are increasingly interested in arts and humanities graduates.

Take a look at some of the skills required to be successful in this field.


As a whole, skills among arts and humanities graduates focuses on written/oral/visual communications, research acumen, adaptability, philosophic thought, and creativity. Within individual professions, skills become more specialized. Arts and humanities degree programs often teach skills that can be applied in various ways, such as design, economics, literature, foreign languages, philosophy, mathematics, and history. Here are some selected skills by professional orientation:

Tools and Technology

In today's digital, instant-communication culture, arts and humanities students must have a fundamental understanding of communications software and tools, including word processing applications, web browsers, email programs, instant messaging, and social media programs. In addition, students must also learn the specialized tools of their trades. Take a look at some examples:

CAD 2D and 3D software

  • Fashion designers
  • Visual artists

Filmmaking Software

  • Screenwriters
  • Storyboard artists
  • Directors
  • Producers

Animation and Rendering Software

  • Animators
  • Print and Digital Designers
  • Photographers

Arts and Humanities Salaries

Due to the varied nature of careers within the arts and humanities, salaries can be difficult to pinpoint. For instance, the difference between salaries for a top film director compared to the annual wages of a new graphic designer can be significant. Salary in this field depends heavily on the specific role, location, one's level of education, and previous experience. ranks 2015-2016 top-paying arts and humanities into separate categories, with managerial roles drawing the highest wages. Arts jobs are grouped by visual creative skills, while humanities careers require prowess in written communication.


According to PayScale's 2015-2016 Best Jobs For Arts Majors by Salary Potential, these are the highest earning jobs listed by median annual wage:


Vice President (VP), Creative Services


Design Director, Advertising


User Experience Manager


Executive Producer (production management)


Department Head, Film/Video Post-Production


According to PayScale's 2015-2016 Best Jobs For Humanities Majors by Salary Potential, these are the highest earning jobs listed by median annual wage:


Senior Marketing Director


Sr. Manager, Corporate Communications


Editorial Director


Associate Director of Development


Executive Editor (print/digital)

Arts and Humanities Job Growth, Prospects, and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the growth in jobs for arts and humanities graduates varies dramatically by profession, with those in design experiencing the largest projected employment growth between 2012 and 2022. Here are the growth rates for selected professions in the major:

Graphic Designers

Technical Writers

Art Directors

The National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2015 projected that the top in-demand occupations for applicants with bachelor's degrees in the arts and humanities field are in Communications, Advertising, English Language & Literature, and History.

Forbes Magazine has identified the top ten employers of Liberal Arts, Humanities, and Education graduates as:

  • The Walt Disney Company
  • The United Nations
  • U.S. Department of State
  • Google
  • Teach for America
  • The FBI
  • The Peace Corps
  • Apple
  • The National Security Agency
  • NBC Universal

Related Occupations & Salaries: What You Need to Know

Wages in the wide range of arts and humanities careers vary widely by an applicant's level of education, professional experience, and specialized skill sets. By mid-career, some arts and humanities professionals earn similar wages to those employed in STEM fields, although job demand is higher for the latter. The average 2014 starting salary for humanities and social science graduates was $38,049, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here's a glance at related career paths along with representative wages, job growth projections, and required educational credentials:

Art Directors




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree or Master's in Fine Arts.

Fashion Designers




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree in design/merchandising

Multimedia Artists/Game Designers




Education and Training:

Associate/bachelor's degree. Software certifications.

Industrial Designers




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree design, CAD skills.

Interior Designers




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree, CAD skills.

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers




Education and Training:

Master's degree in art, art history or related field.

Graphic Designers




Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree, optional certification.

Desktop Publishers




Education and Training:

Associate's degree, software training.





Education and Training:

Some post-secondary education required.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer

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