Glad to hear you’re thinking about classics. I hope WSWCH’s readers chime in with their thoughts on this, but here’s my take. I never went to college planning on doing classics. I thought I wanted to be a doctor and took classics classes in my free time because, shit, if you’re going to do something productive in real life you can do whatever the hell you want with your electives. I realized pretty quickly that of all the ways you can help people, I was least suited for medicine, so I majored in classics because it was the one academic field that combined my disparate interests, and I figured I’d find something more practical to double major in later.
A classics degree is kind of the archetypical liberal arts degree. There isn’t much that it prepares you for specifically, but it’s good training in the patterns of thinking that will be useful in any field you go into. That said, most of those fields will require further schooling, training or experience. So if you major in classics, there aren’t many opportunities for you to use your degree right out of school as an undergrad. The only thing I can think of is teaching Latin or Western Civilization at a private school that doesn’t require teacher certification (you can find this kind of opportunity through the Southern Teachers Association in the USA.) Anything else, pretty much, will require an advanced degree. If you want to go into pure classics, you can pretty much choose between teaching at the high school level or the undergraduate level, or archeology.
If you just want to study classics at the undergrad level and don’t want to go into academia, a classics degree is fine preparation for law school, pre med, or public policy. I’m considering divinity school after I graduate, so Greek is great for that. But if you want to do something else, you’ll have to make sure you’re supplementing with the right classes, internships, etc to prepare for that career.
What do the rest of you think about a classics major and what you can do with it?
History Major, Classics and Theatre Minor here, now I’m a lawyer.
As WSWCH said, a Classics degree, like most humanities degrees, gives you a strong foundation of research, writing, and analytical skills that can be applied to any number of disciplines. That said, we (unfortunately, IMHO) live in a STEM culture where every boss and HR department wants to know what hard skills and experience you have that can help their bottom line right now. A classics degree, or any humanities degree, isn’t going to sell itself; you’ll have to sell your skills to potential employers and explain to them why you have the skills they need to grow and improve their business.
You also probably won’t walk right into a lucrative job from the get-go. That said, I’ve seen studies showing that humanities majors tend to outperform their STEM counterparts in the long run.
In any event, I like to think that serious humanities majors are the lucky ones who “see the light” and realize that the point of higher education is to become a more enlightened human being, capable of understanding and dealing with the world in a more meaningful way.
Anyway, I’d like to think that anything that isn’t a STEM job and that requires good thinking, writing, or interpersonal skills should be open to any humanities major who has the energy to sell their self and their skills.
Plus, the way I see it, the more people we have in the workforce that know what the Chigi vase is or have memorized the Catalogue of Ships, the better off we all are.