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What can you do with a degree in Classics?

I repeat my confession: I went straight from undergraduate school to graduate school. So when asked what one can do with a BA in classics, I have to admit that I'm not the best guy to ask (this is Dr. J talking, as usual). I didn't do anything with my BA myself, and I'm not a job counselor.

But lack of knowledge or experience won't prevent me from saying a few things.

Majoring in classics almost certainly won't land you a high-paying job teaching Latin or Greek. But consider these points:

Impress them

Classics is an impressive major--you aren't the only one who thinks Latin and Greek sound frightening. As a classics major, then, you will stand out a bit from graduates with more common majors. Many graduate programs (particularly law schools and business schools, one hears) are impressed with classics majors: they know students of classics are serious students who have developed superior verbal and analytical skills.

Many employers will also be impressed by your background in classics: if you were willing to work hard at a difficult major as a student they'll know you'll be willing to work hard for them.

Be flexible

Most people these days change careers any number of times. A pre-professional major may help land your first job, true enough, but most technical skills you pick up as an undergraduate will soon be out of date in today's world. Everyone knows that most training for most jobs is done on the job. The skills you pick up as a classics major will never be obsolete. Latin and Greek are already dead--so no need to worry there . . .

Study of the classics is essential for some graduate programs. If you do philosophy, medieval studies, comparative literature, divinity school, or many other graduate programs in the humanities, classics should be on your list of things to do. Here too a classics major or double major will help you to stand out.

Pursue the classics

There are even some jobs in classics. In many parts of the country there are shortages of Latin teachers. And, yes, it is still possible to get a job teaching classics at the college level. If you are thinking of graduate study in Classics, see my somewhat dated but potentially helpful Thinking about Graduate School in classics?

The short and long of it: Classics is not as immediately practical as some majors are. You already knew that. But it will provide you with a sound intellectual training invaluable for any career, and the many people who recognize this may well be willing to give you a job, or a spot in graduate school, in part because they recognize the value of a classical education.