Humanities is an area of academic study concerned with it means to be human. Humanities courses include archaeology, anthropology, law, religion, politics, art, literature, language, history, philosophy, and other liberal arts subjects. These subjects will give you a well-rounded understanding of humanity in terms of our mental processes, emotions, art, spirituality, and history.
If you are interested in discovering the literature, language, history, and philosophy of the global community, there are many types of humanities courses you can choose from. Read on as we illuminate what it means to study humanities and the best courses available.
What Is Humanities?
Humanities is the academic study of human cultures. Think of it as different ways of telling global stories through writing, verbal communication, and even art. For example, books, poems, art, the recorded histories of previous generations, and philosophical ideas are all forms of humanities.
Below is some background on the four main areas of the humanities.
Discover great writers from William Shakespeare to Charlotte Bronte and beyond. Reading the works of writers and poets helps us understand the emotions, messages, and worlds created by the writer. Much like learning history, literature often provides an image of the times that came before our own, making it a fascinating way to learn.
Language is the key to understanding cultures that are different from ours. The world is a vast place with rich and interesting languages and cultures to explore. Studying a language can help you to understand others, plus it always looks good on a CV.
History is the exploration of the past: the archaeological discoveries, the wars waged, the peacemakers, and much more. History has many subcategories such as art history, which teaches students everything there is to know about the life and work of artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso, and other greats.
“Cogito, ergo sum,” or in English, “I think, therefore I am,” is a famous saying from the French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician, René Descartes. Philosophy is the exploration of questions like this that deal with the meaning of humanity. In this captivating subject, students will learn to question everything and learn from both ancient and modern philosophers.
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The Best Humanities Courses
Allow us to shine a light on the best humanities courses.
If the humanities awaken a keen passion in you, there are several ways you can choose to study different humanities courses. You can go to a college or university and gain a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in humanities. Or, there are also great online courses you can take to enhance your understanding of humanities.
If you are ready to begin your educational journey, below are our recommended humanities courses. They include on-campus degrees and online courses, as well as a mixture of subjects so there is something for everyone.
African and African American Studies
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Art and Art History
East Asian Languages and Cultures
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Level: Undergraduate to Graduate
Stanford is one of the leading universities in the United States and offers a wealth of degree programs in the humanities. In Stanford’s humanities programs, you can earn a bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, bachelor of applied science, master of arts, master of fine arts, master of public policy, master of science, doctor of musical arts, or doctor of philosophy depending on your area of focus. Prospective students should consult the relevant department for more information.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ancient and Medieval Studies
Women’s and Gender Studies
Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies
Latin American and Latino/a Studies
Russian and Eurasian Studies
Level: Bachelor of Science in Humanities
At MIT, students can earn a BS in Humanities, Humanities and Engineering, or Humanities and Science. These undergraduate courses cover literature, music, writing, global languages, and more.
African American Studies and the Philosophy of Race
Introduction to Ancient Philosophy
Rhetoric: Classical Theory, Modern Practice
The Classical Roots of Western Literature
Creative Writing (Poetry)
Creative Writing (Fiction)
European Cultural Studies
French and Italian
A History of the World
Philosophy and the Modern Mind
Level: Undergraduate to Graduate
Princeton is another top university that provides fascinating courses in humanities. Its programs are aimed at students looking to gain a bachelor’s or master’s degree on campus.
Modern Art & Modernity
Stranger than Fiction
Global Art: Comparative Approaches in Art History & Ethnography
American Racial Ground
Buddhist Visualization: Dunhuang Caves
Level: Undergraduate to Graduate
On-Campus and Online Programs
In many ways, Harvard is the arts and humanities hub, with a considerable variety of degrees available. But these on-campus humanities majors are just a drop in the ocean compared with the offerings of Harvard University Online. Check out Harvard Online for more or keep reading to see other courses offered by Harvard on the EdX website.
Buddhism Through its Scriptures (Harvard University)
Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures (Harvard University)
AP® English Literature & Composition – Part 3: Plays (Berkeley)
Pyramids of Giza: Ancient Egyptian Art and Archaeology (Harvard University)
Introduction to Digital Humanities (Harvard University)
Shakespeare’s Life and Work (Harvard University)
Storytelling for Social Change (University of Michigan)
Level: Beginner Certifications
These popular humanities courses on EdX are hosted by prestigious institutions including Harvard, The University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Michigan. There is a huge range of courses on Edx covering everything from religion and literature to archaeology and more. These courses are generally shorter than a degree, cost less money, and could be a great way to see if you genuinely love a topic enough to invest in a degree.
Roman Architecture (Yale)
Modern Art & Ideas (MoMA)
Film, Images & Historical Interpretation in the 20th Century (Royal Holloway)
Level: Beginner – Intermediate Certifications
Coursera also has some great classes for those who want to test out a humanities subject or add some extra certificates to their CV. Similar to EdX, Coursera has a range of online topics you can study at your own pace at home.
Should I Take a Humanities Course?
Take some time to ponder whether a humanities course is right for you.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a historian earns a median salary of $63,680 per year and a writer earns an average of $63,200. Depending on your desired career path, studying the humanities could be a worthwhile investment.
Consider whether you are interested in learning about the intricacies of human emotion, intellect, history, language, and literature. If you are, a humanities course will help you gain a deeper appreciation of cross-cultural human connections and apply it to your career.