Masters degrees in Humanities
All you need to know about masters degrees in archaeology, classics & ancient history, development studies, geography, history, philosophy, politics and other humanities subjects.
Don't listen to that hackneyed old joke: What do you say to a humanities graduate? "Big Mac and fries, please!". The very breadth of the subjects included in this discipline will mean that a fulfilling career will surely suggest itself to you. Humanities covers a lot of ground, including Theology and Religious Studies, Philosophy, History of many sorts (regular, European History and Culture or Classics and Ancient History), Archaeology and Development Studies. If you can't think of a career you could carve from one of these subjects, you have no imagination (and should therefore try looking at a science-based discipline).
Considered a branch of social science by some, History is more like the investigative journalism of the past, finding out what happened and why to the civilisations and peoples of years gone by. You can specialise here in the history of Europe (still a pretty big topic) or of Ancient Greece and Rome. The latter ties in neatly with archaeology, where clues to the past come not from documents but from the things that are buried beneath our feet. Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies are also similar in that they try to engage with the big questions in life, like 'what is morality?' and 'where do all the lost socks go?', but from different perspectives. Development Studies considers the poorer half of the world, what its problems and perspectives are and how it can be supported. Humanities postgraduates are rich in transferrable skills and have been trained to take an analytical questioning approach. This is perhaps why they prosper in the civil service, journalism, media and academia, among many other professions. Perhaps most importantly, they are exactly the sort of person you want to be seated next to at a dinner party, as they will be able to engage in wide-ranging philosophical conversations.
Calling all Indiana Jones wannabes - this is the section for you. A huge number of courses cover taught and research masters in Archaeology and its numerous variants, e.g. Marine, Classical and Landscape Archaeology to name but three. Or you can concentrate on more specialist areas such as Egyptology, Manx Studies or the Archaeology of Death (MA, University of Central Lancashire). Whether it is a general qualification in Archaeology you are after, or specific training in say Ceramic and Lithic Analysis, or Archaeological Computing, there is an MA, MSc or MPhil here for you.
A science-based first degree will be required for MSc courses such as Human Osteoarchaeology or Bioarchaeology, otherwise a first degree in Classics, Ancient History or Archaeology should do the trick. Future career paths might include helping the police identify human remains as a forensic archaeologist, working as a researcher or conservator for a museum or heritage site, or – if you’ve done Bristol University’s MA in Archaeology for Screen Media – being one of those incredibly over-enthusiastic beardy men on Time Team
This subject area explores the language, literature, art, philosophy and history of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Some classics courses now also cover other ancient civilisations such as Egypt. Both Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche had classics degrees but don’t let that put you off. Masters available today include, the interdisciplinary Classical Civilisations, the wonderfully named MA in Ancient Epic, an MA in Byzantine Studies and an MPhil in Egyptology, as well as MAs and MPhils in straight Classics or Ancient History.
Those embarking on a research or taught masters in classics or ancient history will need to have a working knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin, and a degree in Classics, Classical Civilisations, Ancient History or a closely related subject such as archaeology . As far as careers go, current holders of classics degrees include the mayor of London, Britain’s best-selling children’s author and several TV presenters and journalists, so really the world’s your oyster.
Development Studies is concerned with the problems facing developing countries in what used to be called the Third World and is now more commonly known as the global South. The multidisciplinary courses focus on how issues like climate change, sustainable development, international finance, conflict, migration, health promotion, tourism, population growth and natural disasters impact on development. Also on offer are courses in Humanitarian Action, Disaster Management and other sorts of intervention.
Both taught and research masters are offered, along with postgraduate diplomas and certificates. Some courses require work experience in an appropriate field as well as an undergraduate degree. Development Studies comes under the umbrella of social science but relevant first degrees could be in a variety of subjects across the academic spectrum. Career paths from here could include working for the United Nations or International Monetary Fund or for NGOs like Medecins Sans Frontieres, Oxfam or Voluntary Service Overseas.
Spanning many arts and social science disciplines, these courses examine the history, culture, politics, languages, ethnicities, art, literature and philosophy within the changing boundaries of Europe from its time as part of the Roman Empire to today. Some of these courses single out specific time periods (MLitt Medieval Studies), ethnic groups (MLitt Jewish Studies) or places (MA London Studies; MLitt German; MSc Welsh Government and Politics). Others analyse themes within a European setting (MAs in Modern European Philosophy; European Urban Cultures; Screening/Staging Europe) or the history and development of the continent and its cultures from its days as part of the Roman Empire to the present day (European Studies; European Culture; European Society).
There are several research masters on offer, leading to MLitt or MPhil qualifications as well as taught masters and postgraduate certificates and diplomas. Courses focusing on non-Anglophone countries may require foreign language skills. Career paths from here might include being a policy advisor to the European Parliament or Council of Europe; a translator or interpreter; an MEP or a researcher for one of many Britain’s many Europe-focused think-tanks.
This subject draws on social science, history and critical theory to examine the meaning of masculinity, femininity and sexuality in contemporary culture, society and politics as well as in history. Although there are only a limited number of courses on offer, many of them offer fascinating subject matter, for example Gender and Identity in the Middle East, Queer Studies in Arts and culture and Gender Studies and International relations. Not for the faint of heart is the postgraduate certificate in Child Abuse which investigates the theory, policy and prevention of violence against women and children.
Both research and taught masters are available as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. Most courses accept candidates with a first degree in any discipline, but an open mind is certainly required. Having a nuanced understanding of gender and its meaning is a transferable skill that could enhance any number of careers, especially in fields like advertising and marketing. Other career paths from here might include working for anti-domestic abuse or discrimination charities like Refuge or Stonewall.
Geography is a multi-faceted subject covering both the physical world and the cultures and civilisations of the people that live in it. This is reflected in the breadth of courses on offer, which range from Migration and Social Cohesion, Risk Analysis and Geopolitics, Territory and Security, through Environmental Management, Glaciology and Climate Change to Urban History, Landscape and Culture or a research degree in Geographies of Gender. You can even do an MA in Activism and Social Change.
Both research and taught masters are available as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas and a few MBAs. Some courses will require a geography-related or physical sciences degree, for others a social science degree will be more appropriate. The range of careers you can move into is as broad as the subject area. How about working for an international development NGO, a climate change scientist, an urban planner or a policy advisor in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
‘Any fool can make history’, said Oscar Wilde ‘, but it takes a genius to write it.’ If you’re feeling up to the challenge, there are plenty of masters programmes that will give you the chance to display your genius. The subject of everything that’s ever happened in the whole world is a big one and you will only be able to investigate a small piece of it in your masters. The many options available include, Medieval History, Welsh History , the History of Ideas, Cultural History, Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, The Dutch Golden Age and hundreds of others.
Both taught and research masters are available, as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. You will need an undergraduate degree in history or a related arts or social science subject. Career paths from here include journalism, academia, the civil service, working in a museum or a job with one of the many heritage charities and organisations like the National Trust, English Heritage or the heritage Lottery Fund.
If someone asking ‘how do I know this is a table?’, makes you think ‘good question’, rather than, ‘because I can see it right there’, then you almost certainly have the right mindset to be a philosopher. You will probably have dealt with the above question on your undergraduate philosophy degree. These courses cover more important areas, such as ethics, the history of philosophy in different parts of the world and its applications to subjects from Christianity to Science. Courses covering the more practical applications of philosophy include Bioethics and Medical Law and Ethics, Politics and Public Policy (which all MPs ought to be forced to study). Or how about something more nebulous, such as an MA in the Philosophy of Health and Happiness, or Philosophy As a Way of Life?
This subject lends itself particularly well to study by research and this is reflected in the number of research masters (MLitt, MPhil, MRes) on offer. There are also taught masters, and postgraduate certificates and diplomas. First degrees in Philosophy are not always an entry requirement, but they will certainly help. Future careers might include advancing in academia and becoming a public intellectual like A. C. Grayling, being a panel member on the BMA’s Medical Ethics committee, or perhaps being head table identifier in a furniture store.
If you are looking to develop a career in national or even global politics, these courses offer a chance to look in depth at the most pressing political issues facing the world today. The hundreds of masters on offer cover a very wide range of specialisms, for example: Intelligence and Security Studies; International Business; Global Health Policy; War Studies; Peace Studies; and Human Rights – to name but a very few. Others have a more philosophical examination of the history and evolution of political thought, for example MAs in Social and Political Thought or Political Philosophy.
Both research and taught masters are available, as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. European and international career paths from here include international diplomacy, working for a supranational organisation like the United Nations, International Court of Justice, World Bank or World Health Organisation. If you want to stay in Britain you could work as a researcher for an MP, a lobbyist, civil servant or in the policy team of a development NGO like Oxfam. Or you could go for broke and aim for Prime Minister.
If you are fascinated by what makes people behave as they do, and how societies develop in such different ways, anthropology and sociology are the subjects for you. Anthropology is the study of human beings and how the human race has developed. Sociology is the study of human societies. Social Anthropology covers much of the same ground as sociology but uses different methodologies, and often focuses on in-depth studies of small groups rather than whole societies. Courses in this subject area cover a whole raft of fascinating topics, from Criminology to Community Development and Religion and Society to Biological Anthropology.
Both research and taught masters are available, as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. A postgraduate qualification in sociology or anthropology might set you on the career path to all sorts of things, as so many of the skills you will acquire are transferable. Or it could provide the gateway to an academic career researching something really fascinating.
Whether you are a believer or not, it is undeniable that religion, of all descriptions, is an increasingly central issue in global society and politics. The majority of these courses focus on Christianity, but there are also several on other religions, for example, a Diploma in Islam in Contemporary Britain or an MA in Jewish Education. Several courses are aimed at furthering the skills of those already engaging in Christian ministry, either lay or ordained, for example the MA in Leadership and Pastoral Care and the MTh in Chaplaincy Studies.Other noteworthy courses include MAs in Ecology and Religion, and Religion, Violence and the Media.
Both taught and research masters are available, as well as postgraduate certificates and diplomas. Reassuringly, there are no MBAs on offer. For some courses you will need to already be practicing in the Christian ministry, although not necessarily in an ordained role. Other courses require an undergraduate degree in Divinity, Religious Studies, or a related subject. Career paths from here include going into the Ministry, becoming an academic theologist, or working for faith-based charities such as The Children’s Society or Christian Aid.