Technology. Climate change. Demographic shifts. Globalisation. With these forces transforming the world of work, it’s natural to assume STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) will be the most in-demand qualifications among employers. But this decisive transition calls for more than just scientific know-how. Many industries, even those that are largely tech-driven, will need experts in the social sciences.
As more machines and algorithms take over work tasks as the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds, businesses are reforming their workforce strategy to meet the challenges of this new era of acceleration change and innovation.
The oft-repeated news is automation will take over jobs. But what’s more likely to occur is the creation of new roles in enterprises. The outlook for jobs is net positive, according to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs 2018 report.
By 2022, growth in emerging professions, across all industries, is projected to reach 11 percent of the total employee base of company respondents.
“Proficiency in new technologies is only one part of the 2022 skills equation, however, as ‘human’ skills such as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation will likewise retain or increase their value, as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving,” said the report.
“Emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence as well as service orientation also see an outsized increase in demand relative to their current prominence,” it adds.
Essentially, the typical skills earned from humanities and social sciences degrees will be the key employment in the future.
The World Economic Forum’s report isn’t the only publication stating this. Research backs up this projection too. According to researchers at the British Academy, the skills in demand from employers were the same as those developed by studying arts, humanities and social science (AHSS); namely, communication and collaboration, research and analysis, and independence and adaptability.
An earlier study by Oxford University in 2013, which looked into the destinations of English, History, Philosophy, Classics and Modern Languages graduates, found around one-fifth were employed in key economic growth sectors of finance, media, legal services and management by the end of the period. Surveying the employment history of 11,000 graduates, it found the number of graduates employed in these sectors rose substantially over the period.
Far from obsolete, the social sciences and what it brings to our careers are more relevant than ever. To advance your knowledge in this field, here’s our pick of the institutions North America has to offer:
Northeastern University’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities (CSSH) is globally recognised for combining experiential education with the study of society, culture, politics and ethics.
With campuses in the thriving cities of Boston, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington, CSSH is a leader in graduate studies within the Experiential Liberal Arts – a unique framework that encourages students to apply knowledge and skills across contexts, use an interdisciplinary lens to address policy issues, and engage deeply with local and global communities.
Among the twelve graduate social science programmes offered are the Master of Science in Economics, Security and Resilience Studies, Urban Informatics, and Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as the Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. The college also offers Master of Arts degrees in English, History, International Affairs and Political Science.
Experiential learning opportunities, including community-engaged capstones and Northeastern’s signature cooperative education (co-op) programme, are available to every graduate student. Co-op provides six-month work experiences in businesses, non-profits and government agencies in Boston, across the US, and around the world. A sample of previous graduate co-ops include Vertex Pharmaceuticals, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), and Indigo Architecture.
By integrating traditional liberal arts capacities with experiential learning, new technological skills and community engagement, CSSH prepares graduate students for careers of lasting public impact.
The “heart and soul” and the “intellectual hub” of the University of Oregon (UO), the College of Arts and Sciences offers a liberal arts foundation to most of UO’s undergraduates. More than 7,700 students major in the fields taught by the college, with Psychology, Human Physiology, Economics, Biology and General Social Science as its top five most popular courses.
The majority then proceed to pursuing any one of the 46 degree programmes in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences for those who wish to pursue a degree in a liberal arts or science discipline. It also grants nearly three-quarters of UO’s doctoral degrees.
“By fostering rigorous investigation and habits of mind associated with thousands of years of scholarship, a liberal arts education gives students the tools to ask the hardest questions. By challenging the frontiers of knowledge, a liberal arts and sciences education prepares students to assume jobs that do not yet exist,” explains Bruce Blonigen, Interim Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences.
As a Carnegie Research I institution and a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the research activity and reputation of the college’s faculty is well-known. The accolades won in the past five years alone include five faculty elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, two faculty named Guggenheim Fellows and four faculty elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
As the University of Oklahoma’s first and largest college, the cornerstone of the institution is comprised of four academic areas: Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Professional Programs.
Among the academic units offered for humanities and social sciences is the African and African American Studies Programme (AFAM). The aim is to provide a broad, interdisciplinary education, with a focus of Africa and the traditional areas of study of the African American Studies/Black Studies discipline. Students can choose to complete a BA degree in African & African American Studies or enrol with a minor in AFAM.
Meanwhile, the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies offers an interdisciplinary programme that seeks to enhance students’ knowledge of gender roles and relations across cultures and history. The only institution of higher learning in Oklahoma that offers such a degree, students get to investigate the intersection of gender and such diverse phenomena as politics, religion, society, economics, war, communication, music, art, family life and popular culture.
At the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics, students can take a variety of courses and degree programmes at the undergraduate and graduate levels in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Linguistics.
At this Canadian university, there are over 260 programme combinations. Students can not only choose from 12 departments or schools and get a college affiliated certificate. There are many opportunities to do an internship and explore the world through exchange opportunities too.
Three pathways are available. The Level I programme is a general first year to study and explore the different departments in the social sciences. The Economics I and Health & Society I are direct-entry programmes. Whichever path they choose, students can then do an Honours BA or a combined Honours BA, even getting a minor and/or affiliated certificate too. Whether it’s Anthropology or Geography & Environmental Studies or Political Science, you’ll be able to tailor your education to your needs.
Complement academic study with an internship, where students are paid to work in private, public and not-for-profit, either part-time or full-time during the academic year and summer. Lasting between four to 16 months, it’s a great way to apply classroom learning to practical work environments and be competitive in today’s job market. Best of all, these placements are supported by the faculty and recognised by the university as a notation on the official student transcript, adding great value to grad school and/or future employment applications.
*Some of the institutions profiled on this article are commercial partners of Study International