Studying Russian or German does a lot more than give you the ability to understand and communicate in another language, which is of course a valuable skill in itself. Our majors gain a deep understanding of cultures that are different from their own and the ability to think critically and to understand things from a different cultural perspective. Learning to express yourself effectively in a foreign language can also help you to communicate your ideas more clearly, logically, and precisely in your native language.
Although majoring in a foreign language doesn’t train you for any one particular career path, it provides you with a versatile set of skills that you can apply to a wide range of careers. This is one of the main advantages of a degree in the humanities, which is even more important in today’s job market than in the past.
- According to a study by the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person in the cohort they examined held about twelve different jobs between the ages of 18 and 48. While not all of these represent true career changes (which are difficult to define in the first place), it’s commonly said that most people can expect to change careers five to seven times before retirement.
- In a recent national survey of employers, business and non-profit leaders alike emphasized the importance of broad learning and easily transferrable skills as the key to long-term career success:
- Nearly all employers (91 percent) agree that for career success, “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.”
- Nearly all employers (96 percent) agree that “all college students should have experiences that teach them how to solve problems with people whose views are different from their own.”
- More than three-quarters (78 percent) agree that “all college students should gain intercultural skills and an understanding of societies and countries outside the United States.”
It’s true that expertise in STEM disciplines, business, or other fields is also important, but you can easily combine a major in German or Russian with studies in another discipline, as almost all of our students do. We offer a special, innovative dual-degree program in German and Engineering, but all sorts of combinations are possible. Tech companies are acutely aware that humanities majors bring unique perspectives and skill-sets that they need, and many of the biggest ones are currently hiring more new employees in areas that require good communication and people skills (creative, sales, marketing, and customer-relations positions) than in software engineering or technology development.
Despite the widespread myth of the unemployed liberal arts major, humanities degrees actually provide a great return on your investment. The bottom line is that you should focus on your own interests and abilities when choosing a major, since these are the key to achieving long-term satisfaction and success after you complete your education.
It’s often been said that one of the primary benefits of a broad liberal arts education is personal enrichment, and it’s certainly true that a knowledge of languages, literature, art, music, history, and philosophy and the ability to think about culture from a critical perspective bring their own rewards, but hopefully this brief discussion has shown you that a major in German or Russian can be valuable for your career as well! (For more info, see: http://shc.stanford.edu/why-do-humanities-matter)
Follow the link here for profiles of some of our alumni, to see what other people have done after graduating with a major in Russian or German.