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Explore the humanities with online courses and programs

Build your critical thinking skills, engage in self-reflection, and explore your creativity with coursework in art, language, philosophy, and religion. Enroll in humanities courses delivered through edX.

What are the humanities?

The humanities are a group of educational disciplines that examine human society, culture, and beliefs. The study of humanities aims to answer questions such as: How have humans from thousands of years ago influenced the way people think and behave today? How do stories passed down through generations help people make meaning of their lives?

The humanities explore human creation, communication, community, and understanding. The core topics typically encompassed under the umbrella of humanities include:

  • History: past events studied and recorded from the human perspective.

  • Literature: written works, including prose, fiction, and poetry.

  • Art: human creativity in a variety of forms, such as painting, sculpture, or architecture.

  • Philosophy: examination and analysis of the world through systematic questioning.

  • Religion: systems of beliefs and practices, often associated with faith in a higher power.

By exploring these topics, learners can consider central questions of life and develop new insights about what it means to be a human. The intersections among the humanities can reveal patterns in human behavior and provide a larger picture of historical events. They can prompt introspection and help develop a range of skills that foster critical thinking and innovation.

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Online humanities course curriculum

Learning about the humanities can enhance your current knowledge base and lead to new professional opportunities. edX offers a variety of humanities classes for learners at every level. 

Learners can study both ancient and modern literature from around the world or take a course that explores the influence of music on the cultures of different regions. Aspiring philosophers can study classic philosophical works, learn about the role that different religions play in philosophy, and examine the connection between human rights theory and philosophy. Learners can also expand their communication skills with a range of courses in languages such as French and Mandarin.

Jobs for humanities majors

Because the humanities includes a broad range of topics, a humanities degree can provide skills applicable to different occupations. Careers for humanities majors can include:

  • Artists use their creative ability to develop visual, audio, and experiential works. These professionals can work on a team or independently within an organization, or they can freelance for a variety of clients. From the fine arts to digital design, artists can be found in nearly every industry.

  • Historians bring their knowledge of historic periods to their everyday work. They study documents, artworks, policies, and other sources to analyze and interpret the past. Their work doesn’t just provide insights as to where society has been, it also helps to direct our future.

  • Diplomats represent their home country and its government while traveling abroad. Wherever they go, they should know about the country’s customs, language, traditions, and politics. They use what they know to foster positive relationships and promote their country’s interests.

  • Linguists study the formation of words, sentences, and their meanings. They have a strong grasp on language, its patterns, and its interpretations. Linguists can become speech therapists, educators, or advisors to governmental organizations.

  • Copywriters research, conceptualize, and develop written messaging and effective copy. They may work to develop marketing and communication materials, speeches, or more creative works.  

  • Public relations managers act as liaisons between a client and the public, providing relevant information in the form of press releases or media kits. They use their knowledge of a business as well as local and national opportunities to develop unique promotions and activations that drive profits.

Careers in the humanities: where to begin?

Whether learning comparative literature or studying political science, these academic disciplines can build a lifelong love of learning. Humanities courses encourage learners to ask "why" as they navigate their human journey. And the knowledge gained from studying the humanities can be directly applied to  professional careers. What can you do with humanities training? Study of the fine arts builds a critical eye, and learning modern languages helps individuals understand different cultures and form professional relationships. 

Explore the many different educational opportunities available to learners of every level. Work toward a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in a specific discipline or enroll in a specialized course to ignite your creativity or quench your thirst for knowledge.

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