10 majors you might not have considered for your arts degree

Posted August 18, 2015, by Vivien Luu

Arts is a degree that is guaranteed to sharpen your critical thinking skills, inspire your inner-creative and diversify your career options. And The University of Queensland (UQ) has the arts graduates to prove it. From Lachlan Snow, Musica Viva’s QLD State Manager to Ann Sherry, the CEO of Carnival Australia – it’s pretty clear that arts is a degree that will take you places. 

So from criminology and sport studies to mathematics and music, we take a look at 10 majors from The University of Queensland you might not have considered for your arts degree. 

1. International Relations 

Knowing how to navigate the political waters of international relations has become particularly important as our world becomes more integrated, connected and globalised than ever before. 

From diplomacy and foreign policy development to peacekeeping and human rights advocacy, this international relations major could be the gateway to your career in this dynamic discipline. 

Studying international relations will teach you to scrutinise and dissect the complex ways in which countries interact, encouraging you to consider the social, political, economic and cultural ramifications of international affairs. 

Such skills could lead to the following career paths:

  • International policy adviser
  • Trade adviser
  • Diplomat
  • Foreign policy consultant
  • Humanitarian affairs adviser
  • Consulate attaché 

2. Music

As one of the most universally appreciated and evocative forms of art, it’s no surprise that majoring in music is a fascinating and exciting academic foray. 

You’ll learn how to appreciate music on a critical and analytical level, explore different genres and their cultural importance and historical roots, as well as develop your music literacy and composition skills. 

This major has two streams, one for musicology and music historians and the other for professional music educators. Depending on which stream you choose it will open up a variety of career opportunities for you, which include working as a: 

  • Music journalist and reviewer
  • Composer
  • Festival administrator
  • Music teacher
  • Musicologist

Lachlan Snow, Musica Viva’s QLD State Manager

‘A BA means you can study your multitude of passions in a meaningful way. You don’t find that flexibility in other degrees. It doesn’t pigeonhole you into a certain graduate outcome. Instead I finished with a set of graduate outcomes that I wrote.’

3. Economics 

Economics might be an unlikely major to consider in an arts degree, but an understanding of how economic factors underpin an individual’s, company’s or even government’s decision-making processes is a powerful thing to have up your sleeve. 

In short, economics determines much of the global, social and political landscape of today, making this major almost indispensible if you’re considering working in government, finance or foreign affairs. 

It covers topics such as financial markets and institutions, managerial economics, macroeconomics and microeconomics.

Seriously consider economics as your major if you’re interested in working in the following sectors:

  • Banking, finance and insurance
  • Government (treasury, transport, health)
  • International development or foreign affairs
  • Management
  • Private consulting 

Ann Sherry AO, Chief Executive Officer of Carnival Australia

‘I valued the ability I got from my BA to think laterally about complex issues and the ability to write an argument and a proposition. The BA was the springboard to my professional life and career. It opened up possibilities I did not expect: being a CEO of a bank and a cruise company!’

4. Sports Studies 

If you’re a sports fanatic that has a keen appreciation for the social, economic and health benefits of competitive sports, majoring in sport studies could be the perfect stepping stone for you. 

From national competitions like the NRL and A-League to world-stage events like the Tour de France and Olympic Games, studying sports as your major could unlock a number of exciting career opportunities that’ll have you managing, planning, covering and promoting the sports you’re passionate about. 

Subjects in this major address the sociology of sport and the development of the sports and leisure industries, and will encourage you to critically analyse the historical, economic and physiological dimensions of the professional sports industry. 

Pick this major if you’re interested in working as a:

  • Sports journalist or broadcaster
  • Sports commentator
  • PR professional, specialising in the sports industry
  • Marketing professional, specialising in the sports industry
  • Sports educator 

5. Mathematics

The seemingly unorthodox choice of including a major in mathematics is certain to give you an edge over other arts students. 

Currently, demand is at an all-time high for skilled mathematicians; and as statistics and big data continue to play a crucial role across a range of sectors, this demand is only going to grow. So if you’re looking to position yourself in an area that screams growth, mathematics is a safe bet.

The major will initially take you through foundational topics such as calculus, linear algebra and differential equations, and in your senior years you’ll move onto more advanced applications such as coding and cryptology. 

By picking mathematics as your major, you will be able to work in: 

  • Banking
  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Risk management

6. Chinese 

China’s astronomical growth over the past decade, combined with Australia’s geographical proximity to this rising super power, makes Chinese arguably the most versatile and career-savvy major available to arts students. 

With over a billion Mandarin speakers in the world today, learning how to speak fluently in Chinese languages and dialects is highly advantageous to professionals working across finance, media, business, diplomacy and international affairs. 

Study this major if you’re interested in working as a:

  • Foreign correspondent
  • Interpreter
  • International manager
  • Public relations manager
  • Logistical manager
  • Consultant official 

7. Criminology 

Fascinated by the social dimensions of crime? Major in criminology to explore everything from crime prevention and policing to criminal psychology and the socioeconomic drivers of crime. 

The major will sharpen your critical thinking skills and encourage you to examine the complex interplay between the criminal justice system, public policies, and criminal activities and trends. 

From petty theft and vandalism through to organised crime and drug trafficking, you’ll gain a thorough understanding of the complete cycle of crime. 

Pick this major if you’re interested in working as a: 

  • Probation, parole and prison officer
  • Youth worker
  • Child support officer
  • Policy adviser
  • Immigration officer
  • Criminologist 

8. Public Policy

If you’re passionate about reshaping Australia’s policies to make us a more progressive, economically stable and innovative nation, this major needs to be at the top of your list. 

Picking public policy will open your eyes to the complex interplay between the political, economic and social dimensions of public policy. The major addresses everything from environmental policy and Indigenous rights through to foreign affairs and the principles of social research. 

Studying this major may qualify you to work as a: 

  • Policy adviser
  • Policy maker
  • Lobbyist
  • Community development manager
  • Business liaison officer 

Hugh Jorgensen, Research Associate, Lowy Institute for International Policy G20 Studies Centre

‘The UQ BA can be a great way to enrich your university studies. I combined mine with an economics degree, and found the BA invaluable to locating the political and human dimensions to the challenges that face the global economy. These days I regularly produce policy reports that are read by global governance policy-makers throughout the G20 economies. I’d like to say it was all me, but I guess all of those essays for the UQ BA paid off in the end.’

9. Peace and Conflict Studies

With the renewed threat of insurgency and terrorism in the Middle East, humanitarian crises in central Africa, and the dangers of nuclear exchange in South Asia, it’s never been more important for government and international agencies to find meaningful ways of promoting peace and regional stability. 

The major covers conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building strategies for the 21st century, and will open up career opportunities with governments, NGOs and international organisations such as the United Nations. 

Make peace and conflict studies your major if you’re interested in pursuing a career as a:

  • Peace practitioner
  • Conflict resolution practitioner
  • Negotiator
  • Researcher
  • International development manager
  • Diplomat 

10. Journalism and Mass Communication

If you believe that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, then majoring in journalism could be a perfect fit. 

Ever since the birth of social media, and thanks to the ubiquity of broadband internet, the fourth estate has undergone a tremendous change that has seen the news become instantaneous, digitalised and globally delivered. 

Now more than ever, journalists need to be inquisitive, and critical thinkers – skills that can be honed with a BA majoring in journalism. 

In this major, you can study in the areas of global journalism, mass communication, digital media. It prepares graduates for jobs where critical understanding, flexibility, research, analytical and communication skills are required (including careers in journalism, digital media strategy, the media and entertainment industry, and mass communication).

A major in journalism can help you work as a:

  • News reporter
  • Investigative journalist
  • Photo journalist
  • Radio presenter
  • Documentary producer
  • Feature article writer 

Kristina Olsson, Award-winning writer and journalist

‘BA gave me intellectual freedom at university. It opened my eyes to the world in general. My advice for someone wanting to complete tertiary study is to go to UQ. Your humanities degree will give you what it gave me – a solid grounding in the craft of writing, to think critically and to look outside the square.’

It’s pretty clear that there’s much more to an arts degree than meets the eye. If you don’t want to pigeonhole your career options, and want a degree that offers the ultimate in versatility, freedom of choice and razor-sharp analytical skills, look no further than a Bachelor of Arts degree. And with over 40 majors on offer at The University of Queensland, it’s easier than ever to pursue your passions, get job-ready and do what you love! 

Interested in more art majors? Check out the 40+ art majors on offer at The University of Queensland.

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This article was written in partnership with The University of Queensland. 

Vivien Luu
Vivien Luu

Viv is a writer who enjoys researching and writing about creativity, how the human mind works, and neuro processes. She values creativity above all else and admires people who pursue their career dreams, no matter the sacrifice. In her spare time, she binges on HBO shows and epic fantasy novels.

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