Humanities Vs Business has more to do with marketing than reality





As has been the case since before I got my BA in English and Theatre, people remain concerned about the crisis in the humanities and the shift to business instead.

John Warner has a great post about this over at his blog.

I wanted to look at something I find interesting with the data though, from a career development standpoint.

My English degree has been incredibly helpful in all of my roles, and something I’ve, especially when I lived in Calgary, is the number of management people I met who have humanities degrees. It’s really common. So common that it sometimes makes me question why so many universities have a BBAs in Management. Accounting, economics, finance, and supply chain all make sense to me, but Management before the graduate level has always been strange to me.

Business degrees are often chosen because there is a straight line from degree title to job title and that makes things less worrisome. It’s what I call the “well worn path” method of choosing a post-secondary education program.

Some quick definitions about what is normally called an Arts or Humanities program in Canada using ISCED info to help align things (PDF here).

Generally under Arts:

  • 2 Humanities and arts
    • 21 Arts
      • Fine arts: drawing, painting, sculpture;
      • Performing arts: music, drama, dance, circus;
      • Graphic and audio-visual arts: photography, cinematography, music production, radio and television production, printing and publishing;
      • Design; craft skills.
    • 22 Humanities
      • Religion and theology;
      • Foreign languages and cultures: living or ‘dead’ languages and their literature, area studies;
      • Native languages: current or vernacular language and its literature;
      • Other humanities: interpretation and translation, linguistics, comparative literature, history, archaeology, philosophy, ethics.
  • 3 Social sciences, business and law
    • 31 Social and behavioural science
      • Sociology, demography, anthropology (except physical anthropology), ethnology, futurology,
      • Psychology
      • Geography (except physical geography), peace and conflict studies, human rights.
    • 32 Journalism and information
      • Journalism;
      • Library technician and science;
      • Technicians in museums and similar repositories;
      • Documentation techniques;
      • Archival sciences.

Generally under Business:

  • 3 Social sciences, business and law
    • 31 Social and behavioural science
      • Economics, economic history, political science;
    • 34 Business and administration
      • Retailing, marketing, sales, public relations, real estate;
      • Finance, banking, insurance, investment analysis;
      • Accounting, auditing, bookkeeping;
      • Management, public administration, institutional administration, personnel administration;
      • Secretarial and office work.

So Arts covers everything from fine arts to sociology while business is more focused. And oddly enough, social sciences, the section that in Canada is considered Arts but internationally is together with business seems to be the one group in Arts that’s bucking the downward trend. There’s a lot of cross over in the social sciences between arts and business, especially as economics tends to show up in both areas. Similarly the blurred line between communications and public relations has caused many a faculty argument in the past. Side note, the ISCED considers Supply Chain Management or Logistics to be part of Management and instead of Human Resources uses the term Personnel Administration. They also put political science and economics together. Instead of separating that I’m just putting both in the Business category.

To simplify things I’m going to break it down into some common majors in the two fields, and this is a massive oversimplification.

  • Arts
    • Fine & Performing Arts
    • Graphic Arts and Design
    • History and Archaeology
    • Human Geography and related studies
    • Journalism, Publishing, and Media Production
    • Languages, Literature, and Linguistics
    • Library, Museum, and Archival studies
    • Philosophy & Ethics
    • Psychology
    • Sociology, Anthropology, and related studies
    • Theology
  • Business
    • Accounting
    • Business Administration
    • Economics
    • Finance
    • Human Rescources Management
    • Management
    • Marketing
    • Political Science
    • Public Administration
    • Public Relations
    • Retailing and Sales
    • Supply Chain Management

But with those definitions out of the way lets move on to the NOC and compare the jobs there under business with the various majors. I’m only looking at TEER 1 jobs (generally requires a 4 year degree) as the TEER 0 (management) and TEER 2/3 (1-3 year degree) aren’t usually the ones BA/BBA students are looking at right after graduation.

With that though suddenly the number of careers in the NOC drops rapidly. For the Arts/Business crowd you’re left with Professional Occupations in Business and Finance (11) and Professional occupations in art and culture (51). It excludes the entirety of Sales and Service occupations (6). In general the included roles under Art and Culture require an arts degree, but there are substantially fewer of them than the roles under Business and Finance. So let’s drill down into the jobs in Business and Finance.

  • Financial auditors and accountants
    • Licensing or certification post business degree in Accounting or Finance
  • Financial and investment analysts
    • Business degree in any major, Economics or Finance preferred
  • Financial advisors
    • Business degree in any major
  • Securities agents, investment dealers and brokers
    • Business degree or any other degree and experience
  • Other financial officers
    • Business degree with additional designations after
  • Human resources professionals
    • Business or social sciences degree
  • Professional occupations in business management consulting
    • Arts, Business, or Social Sciences degree
  • Professional occupations in advertising, marketing and public relations
    • Arts, Business, or Social Sciences degree

So the TL:DR there is that it is a “well worn path” to have your major be the same thing you’re looking to do in a job, but outside of regulated professions like Accounting and Finance it’s not actually needed.

Why is this important? I want students who want to work in marketing and communications to stop worrying about whether they should be in a marketing program or a communications program or a journalism program. Similarly I want students interested in HR and Organizational Management to stop worrying about if they should be in an HR program or a Psychology program or a Sociology program. They all work. What matters is who you are, what skills you develop, and how you want to use them.

It is always easier for students to pick the “well worn path” program. That’s a communications problem that post-secondary hasn’t solved yet, but maybe someday we will.

Final Note: I didn’t go into the management ones today because, well that has a lot more to do with the organization itself than with the degree. I’ve met a lot of IT managers with a Bachelors degree in English and a two year programing diploma. Because their job is a lot more about writing to non-technical people than it is programming.


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