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Study abroad : Subject Guides

The top humanities degrees for international students

Humanities degrees remain a hugely popular choice for international students. Understanding what options are available is a great way to decide your study path. We explore the top humanities subjects for students aiming to study abroad.

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Deciding what you’re going to study is a process of inquiry, research and deliberation. There are a number of factors to weigh up including your interests, abilities and current qualifications. In some cases, you may feel daunted by the vast number of options available, especially under broad categories like the humanities.  However, if you’re looking for a qualification that will help you critically assess information, write competently, craft arguments, develop reasoning skills and work collaboratively a degree in the humanities may suit you well.


What you’re probably wondering is, what exactly the most popular humanities qualifications amongst international students are and what careers you could end up undertaking. In addition, you’d like to know what type of jobs graduates from these different specialisations take up. Well, you’re in the right place as we explore the humanities degrees that attract the most attention.


1. Languages


One of the more popular choices amongst international students is degrees in languages. Studying a language is a popular choice for a number of reasons including promoting critical thinking, adaptability, memory, problem-solving, effective communication and advanced decision making. You’d likely agree that being fluent in a number of languages is advantageous in a variety of settings, including the workplace.


Language degrees are also not limited to the exploration of the architecture of the language itself, like vocabulary and grammar, but also the cultural dimension of the language from literature to politics. International students often combine a language programme with a secondary major subject to enhance their skill set.


Many students who study in the area report positive employment prospects. This includes working in multinational companies, humanitarian organisations, government departments and even the financial sector. Some of the roles language graduates find themselves in include:


  • Marketing manager
  • Communication manager
  • Consultant
  • Analyst
  • Account manager
  • Project leader


2. Cultural studies


International students are drawn to the field of cultural studies due to its wide scope of enquiry and focus on the everyday human experience. You’ll learn about everything from broadcast media to literature.  The field is inherently interdisciplinary in nature and draws on theories and work from economics, anthropology, psychology, sociology and communications to name a few.


With a cultural studies curriculum, you’ll pick up key competencies like the clear presentation of ideas, effective argumentation and excellent writing skills. Having undertaken a degree in cultural studies you could find yourself working in a wide variety of settings and industries including media, technology, advertising, NGOs, teaching and business. Some of the roles you might find yourself doing include:


  • Public relations
  • Website management
  • Copywriting
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Human resources
  • Communications
  • Design
  • Marketing


3. History


History remains a popular option for students, in spite of the sometimes-pejorative way in which the subject is portrayed. In fact, history equips you with essential skills such as working with vast amounts of information and analysing and synthesising it. You’ll sharpen your analytical and research abilities considerably as well. Another plus is that your communication skills will improve greatly, both when speaking and writing. This is all while learning about the human experience and developments that have shaped the world.


Studying history not only lays a good foundation for further or higher study but can also lead to remarkably diverse employment prospects. You’ll be equipped to work in areas like journalism, public relations, marketing and academia, to name a few.




Don’t forget to have a look at our guide on the post-study landscape for international students.


4. Politics


When you think about politics it may conjure up images of world leaders delivering impassioned speeches, but there is much more to the subject than just that. You learn about the operation of political and legal systems, diplomacy, policy, international relations, trade and the distribution of power.


With a degree in politics, you’ll hone your public speaking skills, reasoning abilities and aptitude for debating. There are also some interesting career options available to politics graduates including in fields like local governance, research, human resources and professional consultancy.


5. Philosophy


Another frequently bookmarked humanities course on the list of international students is philosophy.  If you enrol for a degree in the subject you’ll be grappling with some key questions about the human condition and exploring many facets of human knowledge. You’re encouraged to ask questions and even interrogate the nature of reality. Many students report finding the degree intellectually stimulating and challenging.


There is also a demand for the types of competencies you’ll develop from studying philosophy, including the application of logic to argumentation, analysis and information. You’ll develop creative and flexible ways of thinking that will set you apart. If you graduate with a philosophy degree you’ll likely be able to find work in a variety of fields, for example:


  • Human resources
  • Law
  • Media
  • Journalism
  • Politics


6. Journalism


With good employment prospects and the development of highly transferable skills, degrees in journalism proved to be a hit with international students. Learning to work collaboratively, developing advanced research proficiencies and highly tuned communication abilities are all part and parcel of a journalism degree.


You could be learning everything from documentary filmmaking to media law during your degree. There are also excellent opportunities for internships in the field. Once you’ve graduated you may find yourself working in broadcast journalism, content management, writing, photography, public relations and communications.



7. Geography


With a focus on the interaction between people and the environment, geography is roughly divided into two disciplines, namely physical and human geography. Physical geography focuses primarily on the natural elements of the earth’s landscape, while human geography looks at how human beings live and work in the environment.


With a geography degree, you’ll develop the knowledge to address some of the key challenges facing people and the environment, including water scarcity, health provision, natural disaster planning and response, and city planning.


Geography relies on good data analytics and interpretation skills as well as teamwork. The career paths you may be able to follow with a degree in the subject are varied and may include:


  • Environmental management
  • Land surveying
  • Climatologist
  • Meteorologist
  • Town planning
  • Hydrologist
  • Geomorphologist


8. English Literature


Studying English literature will expose you to a variety of different types of works from poetry to novels. The course guides you through the analysis, interpretation and examination of the works. You’ll need to be able to develop your own unique ideas and argue their validity. There are also many options and specialisations you can pursue within the degree, for example, literary styles and works from different countries.


While you’ll probably agree that a degree in English literature sounds academically interesting, you’re probably wondering what graduates in the area end up doing. The course lays a great foundation for further study, both in the same field and others such as law, politics and other social sciences. You could also end up working in marketing, teaching, public relations, communications and advertising.


9. Creative and performing arts


Many international students find fulfilment in undertaking a creative or performing arts qualification, sometimes it may be a combination of the two. Remember that the creative and performing arts cover a wide number of subjects including:



The majority of these subjects have a strong practical and professional focus, which aims to get you career-ready. You’ll find that creative arts degrees will encourage you to explore ideas, express your imagination and work collaboratively with others. Career prospects can be positive with work available in sectors like:


  • Education
  • Arts and entertainment
  • Advertising
  • Media
  • Design


10. International Development


International development has proven to be a popular course choice with its global focus and aim to equip students to address some of the challenges facing disadvantaged people and communities around the world. You’ll be tasked with studying human rights, sustainability, politics and governance. Often, you’ll also be able to specialise in international development at a postgraduate level, while during an undergraduate course you can combine your major with other complementary subjects like geography, economics and politics.


There are some good options career-wise when graduating with a degree in the subject including working in the charity sector, for an NGO, as an advisor for business or for the local or national government. You could also turn your hand to project management, public affairs, social research or fundraising.



It’s never too soon to start doing some more research on your potential study abroad move, especially now that you have an idea of what’s out there in the humanities field. You can use our course matcher tool to find the ideal course and you may also be interested in reading about what it costs to study in different study destinations and which institutions top the rankings.



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