“And what are you going to do with that degree?” This question is something college students majoring in the arts and humanities likely just spent a Thanksgiving weekend answering, and if some new research in Frontiers in Psychology is right, many of them didn’t exactly know how to answer: Students who study the humanities do so because they love the subject, even if they’re not too concerned about the career their degree will lead to.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham interviewed 989 undergraduates and 896 prospective students about their choice of major, and found four main motivational factors driving that decision:
We identified that people choose university degrees for four reasons: Career concerns (Career), intrinsic interest in the subject (Interest), and opportunity to help others (Helping), and because they are looking for an easy option to get into higher education (Loafing).
They found that the students pursuing medical degrees were motivated by a desire to help others, plus high concerns about their future career paths. Those majoring in engineering were also concerned with their future careers, but these students also tended to be less interested in their subject of choice when compared to other students surveyed.
And then there’s the humanities students, who, the study authors write, “were driven by Interest and low concern about future Career, accompanied with high Loafing.” So humanities majors choose to pursue their interests, with maybe a vague notion of this being an easy route to academia. These are some pretty interesting insights into the decision-making processes of college students, and you can read the whole paper here if you’re so inclined.