Anyone that's ever watched a film, seen a concert, or gone to a museum has engaged with the arts. But what are “the humanities?” This broader category is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “literature, language, history, philosophy, and other subjects that are not a science.”
Despite the fact that these two topics span everything from the new Ariana Grande album to Plato's Republic, they are often grouped together as one realm of academic study. That's because all of these works of culture are fundamental expressions of human society. And, by studying the historical context of creative works, as well as their formal characteristics, experts in the arts and humanities can draw out important lessons about who we are, how we think, and why our world is the way that it is.
You don't have to be a movie star or a famous novelist to work in the arts and humanities. If you have a passion for culture, there are countless opportunities to find a career path in whatever area of this diverse field that you feel called to.
In the arts, you might be surprised to learn how many 'behind the scenes' roles are responsible for your favorite music and movies. For example, a studio album isn't just the result of the band turning on their amps, hitting record, and rocking out. It takes a whole team of sound engineers, producers, and mastering engineers to create the finished record, as well as public relations (or “PR”) professionals, booking agents, and tour managers to promote it once it is released.
Similarly, you don't need to be a model to get involved in the fashion industry. If you have a passion for style, you can train to become a fashion designer and put your visions into the world. Or, you could become a fashion photographer, prop stylist, or publicist and help these visions reach the audience they deserve.
Career paths are just as numerous in the humanities. If you love history or philosophy, you can become an expert author in these fields, or even pursue a PhD. However, you can also find satisfying careers working in important roles in the publishing industry, such as the editors, literary agents, and publicists who are responsible for connecting talents in these fields with the very specific audiences they need to reach.
While online learning is often associated with courses for programming or other computer science subjects, it is also a great opportunity to pursue an education in the arts and humanities. You can take classes from wherever you are in the world, and often for a much lower cost than on-campus students. The scheduling flexibility offered by online education options can be particularly important for writers or artists who want to build their professional skill-set while continuing to hone their craft.
As the world's leading online learning platform, Coursera offers a wide range of arts and humanities courses and Specializations from renowned institutions like the California Institute of the Arts, Wesleyan University, the University of Edinburgh, and even the Museum of Modern Art. Whether you're looking to develop technical skills in areas like photography and fashion design, or enhance your ability to see the big picture in the fields of religion, mindfulness, and literature, online courses can be a great fit for your career goals in the arts and humanities.
Learning about the arts and humanities may be right for you if you have a passion for exploring human culture along with the works of art, literature, laws, and languages that connect and define groups of people. Perhaps you enjoy creative hobbies like performing, playing instruments, or drawing. You may want to discover the stories behind your favorite works of art or music and develop a greater appreciation for them. You also may be drawn to world religions, literature, or languages and want to learn more about how they have shaped civilization and evolved over time.
Common career paths for someone in arts and humanities include visual arts, education, music, theater, and writing. Someone with a background in the arts and humanities may work in the arts as a teacher or performer. Others may use a foundation in arts and humanities to work in the legal profession, government agencies, or non-profit organizations where they may take roles as lawyers, researchers, team leaders, and community outreach members.
Other topics you can study that are related to arts and humanities include social sciences like history, sociology, and anthropology. Social sciences and humanities examine similar themes—politics, law, language, economics—through different lenses, namely science or critical analysis. You may also consider taking lessons in specific types of arts, such as painting, drawing, or playing an instrument. Alternatively, you may consider learning more about topics like grant writing, research methods, and communications.
Places that hire people with a background in arts and humanities include corporations, government agencies, schools, and non-profit organizations. Many of the skills you develop and practice using in your studies of arts and humanities transfer to daily work in an organization. They include problem-solving, communication, and critical analysis. Organizations that value employees with strong research skills and the ability to interpret information and influence others may also hire people with a background in arts and humanities.