Why employers love a humanities degree

young woman in library

We speak to three humanities graduates to find out where their courses took them

At a time when STEM subjects are making headlines and vocational courses offer an orderly route into work, a humanities degree can feel like the least straightforward option.

But then, maybe that’s part of the appeal.

Humanities degrees are often talked about in the same sentence as so-called ‘soft skills’ – the hard-to-quantify attributes that will make you a broad thinker and versatile employee

Studying subjects such as classics, English literature or politics can mean you encounter niche topics that feel far removed from a job in accountancy, for example. But the learning process, the depths of the research involved, and your subsequent understanding of the world are highly sought after.

Just look at how Oxford’s famed PPE degree – which combines humanities and social studies – has produced leading British and international political figures. Or consider the ranks of history and classics graduates within the upper echelons of global finance and management companies.

Then there are those creative roles for which humanities graduates are so well suited, or the business start-ups created with the skills and knowledge developed during their studies.

So where could a humanities degree take you? We spoke to three high-flying graduates from Swansea University’s College of Arts and Humanities to find out.

Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi – executive director of a non-governmental organisation (NGO)

Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi – executive director of a non-governmental organisation (NGO)

Oluwaseun heads up an NGO in Nigeria called ‘Stand to End Rape Initiative’. Her organisation offers support to women, men and young people who have experienced any form of gender-based abuse in Nigeria. Her work has reached more than 200,000 people and she now has a team of 200 volunteers based in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.

She describes her Master’s in international relations from Swansea University as the “bedrock” of her career, and used her time there to cherry pick modules related to her specific areas of interest.

“My focus on gender studies, especially during my dissertation, gave me an in-depth knowledge of the gender disparity, gender-based violence and the need to focus international security on the human element,” says Oluwaseun.

Following graduation, Oluwaseun left Swansea for New York, where she interned at the United Nations. Based at their global headquarters, she worked as a communications and administration intern in their Capital Master Plan department. “That was awesome for me, the best experience,” she says.

Oluwaseun is 2019 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year. “Being named the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2019 inspires me to do more and be curious to make more difference, she says. “This award recognises the endless possibilities young people can have when they decide to take action in the face of injustice.”

Jonny Owen

Jonny Owen – actor, writer and producer

After graduating from Swansea with a history degree, Jonny Owen embarked upon a career in acting. Beginning with Welsh drama ‘Nuts and Bolts’, before working at ITV Wales both in front of and behind the camera, Jonny has since produced, written and directed his own work and made documentary films. 

His acting credits include Shameless, Murphy’s Law and My Family. In 2007 Jonny was awarded the prestigious Welsh BAFTA for his co-production of the documentary The Aberfan Disaster. Jonny is also the writer and creator of the 2013 movie Svengali in which he starred alongside his partner Vicky McLure, Matt Berry and Martin Freeman. 

“Studying history at Swansea massively influenced my career," he says. "It’s great to have a research-based degree, because when I got the job behind the camera, it was because I had a degree in history. It’s helped me with the writing side of things too, creating characters and giving them a sense of history.” 

Modules on Welsh industrial history, the Irish famine, American history and the ancient Romans equipped Jonny with a deep understanding of people and context – one of the essential attributes for any creative.

“What I learnt at Swansea, more than anything, is that everything has many different sides to the story which I think has given me an open mindedness.”

Hannah Lamden – founder of Finery Media

Hannah Lamden – founder of Finery Media

Hannah can boast a truly glamorous career. Not long after graduating from Swansea University she landed the job as Simon Cowell’s PA, travelling the world, going to parties and mixing with music industry stars. She even lived in LA for six months.

Thanks to great networking skills and sheer hard graft, Hannah worked her way up to become media director of SYCO, Cowell’s music company, before leaving to set up her own business – Finery Media.

Her company manages celebrities including Little Mix, Love Island star Kem Cetinay and former I’m a Celebrity winner Georgia Toffolo.

“I’m currently at a photoshoot with Perrie from Little Mix," Hannah says. "I have lots of clients with different needs so you need to be a bit of a chameleon and adapt to the situations around you. I could be meeting new clients, working on photoshoots, filming, managing interviews, troubleshooting or working as part of other teams that look after different aspects of a client’s career.”

Hannah learned her craft at Swansea University where, alongside her degree in American studies, she worked in the student union events team. “The university is a huge business with lots of employees. There is so much you can learn there from talking to people.”

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