Navigating your future: the true value of arts, humanities and social sciences degrees

Students of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) are often keenly aware of the positive characteristics of their degrees. 

Graduates of these disciplines are curious, creative, investigative and impactful, and AHSS degrees help us to understand ourselves, our society and our place in the world.

But what about their value in a career context? This is where unhelpful narratives about them being less ‘valuable’, come into play, such as that they lead to inferior job prospects. But there is so much evidence to challenge this. 

Here are five myths that research by The British Academy has helped to dispel: 

  1. You’re far more likely to be employed with a Sciences, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) degree than AHSS. A survey of graduate employment showed 88% of AHSS were employed, compared to 89% of STEM. Only 1% difference. Surprised?  
  1. AHSS degrees are only useful in a small number of sectors. More graduates from AHSS disciplines were employed than other disciplines in 8 out of 10 of the UK’s fastest-growing sectors.  
  1. You’re more likely to have a fulfilling career with a STEM degree. This point is more subjective based on what you want in a career, but if variety and flexibility are appealing, it’s worth knowing that AHSS graduates were found to be more likely to move roles and sectors than STEM graduates.  
  1. You’re less likely to experience career progression with an AHSS degree. Think again! Whilst AHSS students make up 46% of the total number of UK university students, these reports indicate that they make up 55% of global leaders and 58% of FTSE Executives.   
  1. AHSS degrees are not relevant and don’t add value to the world of work. This one is SO wrong! Not only do the reports highlight that the skills developed by AHSS students mirror those needed to thrive in 21st century work, but also that the intrinsic nature of AHSS disciplines helps us to “understand and learn from the past and analyse the present, in order to innovate and build for the future”.  

Now that we’ve dispelled some myths, let’s try to understand why some of these unhelpful narratives exist:

A prominent theory is that career options with an AHSS degree can often feel overwhelming. Potential career paths are not as clear-cut as, say, a degree in engineering or medicine, and this lack of clarity can often lead to misplaced conceptions on their worth.

However, it is this versatility, and breadth of opportunity available upon graduation that contributes to the value of an AHSS degree. You just need to be able to navigate the broad range of options available to you upon graduation, and that’s where the Careers Service can help! 

So, my key message for all students of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences: It’s perfectly okay if you don’t have your future all mapped out! What you should do, however, is utilise your Careers Service to ensure you feel prepared.

Here are five ways we can help you: 

  1. Explore your career options 

Understand what you can do with your course and how you can research job roles and career sectors available to you. 

  1. Embrace extra-curricular opportunities 

The Bristol PLUS Award rewards you for extracurricular activities you have completed at any point during your degree. It also helps you uncover a range of experiences and activities available to you during your studies.  

  1. Reflect on your skills 

Use my skills to keep track of and reflect on the skills you are developing through your studies, extracurricular activities, part-time work, volunteering and other opportunities. 

  1. Find some work experience 

Undertaking work experience is an invaluable way to test drive a career, develop employability skills and boost your future job applications by gaining real-world work experience. 

  1. Apply for graduate roles 
    Search mycareer for graduate-level roles, or find opportunities with specific employers, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).


The British Academy (2017) The Right Skills: Celebrating Skills in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences 

The British Academy (2018) Understanding the career paths of AHSS graduates in the UK and their contribution to the economy 

The British Academy (2020) Qualified for the future: quantifying demand for arts, humanities and social sciences skills 

The British Academy (2022) SHAPE Skills at Work 

World Economic Forum (2023) Future of jobs 2023: These are the most in-demand skills now – and beyond