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Why You Don’t Have to Choose Between STEM and Humanities

Topics: Career Advice

This year is the year I choose my major — and frankly, I still have little to no idea what to specialize in.

choose a major
Image Credit: Inbal Marilli/Unsplash

I can’t help but think that by choosing to major in English, computer science, or the arts exclusively, I would be missing something. On the other hand, I can see how choosing a specific major would be beneficial, in that it would give me the opportunity to really focus my studies.

I enjoy all these fields equally and the expectation that I will only get to learn one for the rest of my time in higher education feels limiting (though I have to qualify this with the fact I go to a liberal arts college, so I guess it’s not that limiting).

Interdisciplinary Programs Lead to Interdisciplinary Careers

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Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way: the growing trend of allowing students to design interdisciplinary study, in programs such as those offered at University of California, Berkeley, and Wellesley College, demonstrates that the limitations felt with singular study are common.

Jacks of all trades seem to be doing well in the workforce, as well. Whether these folks are tech CEOs exploring animation or curators utilizing 3D scanning technology to expand the museum-going experience, the overlap of humanities and technology has brought about novel and exciting experiences. In fact, there are fields exclusively dedicated to this intersection of study, like “Design Fiction” at MIT, led by Professor Hiromi “Sputniko” Ozaki.

I’d argue that STEM and humanities depend on one another. To put these fields in conversation is to promote innovation and better work.

STEM and Humanities Depend on Each Other

No STEM field needs only quantitative skills. In fact, even in specific science research fields, writing skills are imperative to get grant funding, as the abundance of grant writing guides like this one demonstrates. Outside of grant funding, scientific papers obviously require strong communicative skills. In fact, Dr. Angel Borja’s 11 Steps to Structuring a Science Paper Editors Will Take Seriously has a whole section dedicated to writing a compelling introduction to a paper to contextualize research.

On the flip side, those in humanities have to understand and utilize data to structure their work. For example, in the age of technology, journalists have found themselves relying more heavily on data. According to Mirko Lorenz of Deutsche Welle, “Little points of information that are often not relevant in a single instance [can be] massively important when viewed from the right angle.” Logically, to be able to use data effectively, journalists need some quantitative reasoning skills to pick out and frame appropriate numbers. In the realm of user experience design where strong visual skills are central to the work, the ability to understand quantitative user data is necessary.

As I revisit the question of what major to study, I’m starting to think I don’t need to choose necessarily. It’s not that I’m undecided; it’s that I want explore both art and science together.

Tell Us What You Think

How did you choose your major? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

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