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A Technology-Fueled Career Path For Humanities Grads

Posted on Monday, Dec 9th 2019

The Economist recently had a cover story titled The 650bn Binge. It opens:

America has seen some spectacular investment booms: think of the railways in the 1860s, Detroit’s car industry in the 1940s or the fracking frenzy in this century. Today the latest bonanza is in full swing, but instead of steel and sand it involves scripts, sounds, screens and celebrities. This week Disney launched a streaming service which offers “Star Wars” and other hits from its vast catalogue for $6.99 a month, less than the cost of a dvd. As the business model pioneered by Netflix is copied by dozens of rivals, over 700m subscribers are now streaming video across the planet. Roughly as much cash—over $100bn this year—is being invested in content as it is in America’s oil industry. In total the entertainment business has spent at least $650bn on acquisitions and programming in the past five years.

For a while, Humanities educators around the world are facing existential questions. What is the point of an English LIterature degree?

Even applied disciplines like Journalism have undergone incredible creative destruction. 

But a solution may be in sight.

Today, America’s Media and Entertainment industry employs over 2.5 million people. This number will, likely, multiply in the next five years, as the content wars rage among Netflix, Disney, HBO, etc.

Humanities graduates from all sorts of disciplines should find a place in this bonanza.

If Literature is your passion, writing binge-worthy TV scripts is where you need to develop vocational skills.

If Journalism is your passion, documentary film-making a la Ken Burns could be an exciting path forward.

Many ancillary trades from editing to camera skills to set design to music composition are going to be in high demand.

As you design your career path, do keep in mind that most likely, your Humanities education would need to be monetized through the Media and Entertainment industry. You need a related vocational skill to do so.

And for educators, my suggestion is to make this “packaging” an integral part of your curriculum. Offer, for example, Screenwriting as a compulsory course for Literature majors. Offer, Set and Costume Design to Art majors. Offer Music Composition for Film to Music majors. So on.

Overall, my conclusion is that if your primary affinity is towards the Humanities, you cannot go wrong by jumping into filmmaking with both feet.

Related Reading: Who will win the media wars? [The Economist]

Photo credit: Phil King/

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