Study Humanities: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a humanities program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of associate and bachelor's degrees and potential careers.
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Humanities Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

The discipline of humanities is broad, and there isn't a specific career path associated with this field. At the associate level, a degree in humanities is most suitable for students who intend to continue on to a 4-year program.

A bachelor's degree in humanities can be good preparation for a variety of careers. However, be aware that you need experience through internships or cooperative work experiences in order to prepare for employment. Alternatively, you could go on to graduate study in literature, foreign languages, law or a number of other fields that demand rigorous research, critical thinking and writing.

Associate Bachelor's
Who Is This Degree For? Students who want a solid foundation of general education coursework before beginning a bachelor's degree program Students who intend to go into graduate study or into a field that values critical thinking, writing and research skills
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Journalist ($44,000)*
- Teaching assistant ($25,000)*
- Secondary school teacher additional teaching credentials are necessary ($57,000)*
- Writer ($68,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time, or 2 years full-time after an associate degree
Common Graduation Requirements None beyond required coursework A research paper or other independent project
Prerequisites A high school diploma or GED certificate, sometimes SAT or ACT scores A high school diploma or GED certificate, SAT or ACT scores
Online Availability Yes Yes, but options are limited

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate in Humanities

An associate degree program in humanities can give you a chance to explore yourself, your culture and cultures different from your own. You may take courses covering a range of liberal arts topics, including anthropology, performing arts, political science and economics. A degree in humanities can help you pin down what career or 4-year degree you want to pursue; it can also help you develop skills that are applicable in many settings.

That said, a humanities program only prepares you for a career if you're very deliberate about which classes you choose. You should also seek out work and internship opportunities to help you develop employable skills. If you don't intend to continue your education at the bachelor's level, you may want to consider other associate programs that prepare you for employment.

Pros and Cons


  • Can provide you with a broad base of knowledge applicable to many careers and future study
  • Acclimate to the college environment and complete general education courses before enrolling in a bachelor's program
  • Full-time students can complete associate programs in two years


  • These degrees aren't directly linked to any career, so you need to tailor your studies in order to prepare for employment
  • If you don't want to go into a 4-year program, there may be other degree programs that prepare you for the workforce
  • Some jobs may require you to obtain additional qualifications

Courses and Requirements

Students complete two years of coursework in literature, philosophy, communications, religion, math and social and physical sciences. Humanities coursework includes human thought, cultural studies and artistic expression. The degree is broad, but there may be opportunities to concentrate your classes in one or two specific areas, such as African-American studies or communication. Coursework could include:

  • Western literature
  • Critical thinking
  • Art appreciation
  • English composition
  • Algebra
  • Ethics
  • Foreign language

Online Degree Options

Degree options are available that allow you to complete required coursework online. Because there is no research or experience component in humanities associate programs, you can expect to get the same educational experience through an online program as you would through on-campus attendance. If you want to enroll in a bachelor's program after earning an associate degree, make sure that credits from an online program transfer to most 4-year universities.

Stand Out With This Degree

If you intend to pursue a bachelor's degree, look up common prerequisites so you can focus your associate-level coursework accordingly. You can also stand out by pursuing an internship or co-operative work experience while earning your associate degree. You can use these hands-on work opportunities to gain practical experience in a specific field of interest; this may help you focus on employment options after graduation.

Bachelor's in Humanities

Humanities study at the bachelor's level usually begins with a foundation curriculum that covers history and literature, foreign language and art. As you advance, your studies become increasingly interdisciplinary, and you could be expected to work with a faculty mentor to develop the path of your coursework. If you know what you want to study and find that traditional majors don't cover your areas of interest, a humanities bachelor's program may be a good fit. You do need to actively plan your curriculum, though; otherwise, you could end up taking courses in a wide range of topics without developing depth in any one specialty.

Humanities students are encouraged to complete independent research and develop writing skills. You can use these skills in many fields, including academia, law, journalism, education and government.

Pros and Cons


  • Encourages self-motivated independent study, which might be considered a plus by potential employers
  • Advanced coursework and independent research could help you get into graduate school in a variety of fields
  • Careers in academia reward those with highly specialized areas of expertise, and a B.A. in Humanities encourages you to craft your own specialty from an early stage


  • A program in humanities doesn't prepare you for a specific career
  • You may have to explain to employers what it is you studied, since the program is not as self-explanatory as other programs
  • You may have to pursue further education in order to attain the career you want

Courses and Requirements

In many cases, students can apply to humanities programs after completing some prior coursework and developing an education plan proposal. Concentration areas vary widely among students and programs but could include cultural life in specific regions, political philosophy, social practices or religion. Required coursework depends on your interests and what your academic mentor advises. One common requirement of many humanities programs is proficiency in a foreign language. Courses may cover:

  • Political thought
  • Research fundamentals
  • Historical figures
  • Ancient literature

Students can also engage in research. You may be able to serve as a research assistant or complete research papers during your first 2-3 years of study. During your last year, you may write a thesis that serves as a capstone to your studies.

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's programs in humanities aren't widely available. Some of these programs are designed for adults with associate degrees who have work or family commitments. You may also find evening programs that offer some humanities coursework online.

Stand Out With This Degree

A humanities degree gives you the opportunity to develop an array of skills. Here are some ways to make the most of that opportunity:

  • Volunteer for a professor's research project to get exposed to new fields and learn about the research process in humanities.
  • Read widely in your field, including academic journals, to continue to narrow down your interests.
  • Find out if there are opportunities to present your research at a professional conference. This may strengthen your public speaking skills and lead to employment contacts.
  • Take courses in a lesser-known foreign language. Fluency in Arabic, Hindi, Chinese or Russian can help you find employment in government and foreign service or make you a more attractive candidate for some graduate school programs.

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