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Studying the humanities requires a lot of self-discipline since German institutes of higher education don’t monitor and structure students’ courses nearly as much as they do in other countries. Good German is one of the major prerequisites, and it’s important that you set priorities and gain practical experience while you are still enrolled.
From African philology to contemporary history, there are more than 6,000 degree programmes on offer at German institutions of higher education. What they all have in common is that concentrate on human cultural achievement in the form of language, literature, philosophy or history. There are distinctions between general and applied linguistics and courses devoted to one language like English Studies. Other humanities disciplines include library science, ethnology, journalism, historiography, and language teaching such as ‘German as a foreign language’ (Deutsch als Fremdsprache, DaF).
The names of the courses frequently indicate a specific orientation, thrust or emphasis. Some course names that are very different can refer to similar disciplines.
When you decide on a course of study in the humanities in Germany, you can choose to concentrate on one subject and get a ‘mono bachelor’ or combine multiple subjects. A two-subject bachelor allows you, for example, to combine a main linguistic or cultural subject with a further one that meets your interests and gives your course something special. Your second subject could be another one from the humanities or something very different like . Which combinations are possible depends on what’s on offer at your institution of higher education.
Courses at German colleges and universities are not as closely monitored and tightly structured as in other countries. In other words, students are responsible for organising their studies in the humanities themselves. At the beginning of the semester, you will have to draw up your own course timetable from an extensive range of courses and ensure they meet the requirements put forth in your programme’s study and examination regulations. Beyond attending classes, you are also responsible for forming learning groups, preparing oral presentations and obtaining the required reading from various libraries.
You should definitely have a love of reading and a keen feel for languages. You should also be good at organising yourself, as a humanities degree course in Germany has a more open structure than in other countries. You have a lot of freedom to choose and combine learning content and courses in linguistics and cultural studies subjects. You’ll spend a lot of time working in the library or in study groups and on the independent preparation of seminar and research papers. This requires discipline and first-year students often take a while to get used to this.
Job announcements rarely mention humanities qualifications, and most humanities don’t point students clearly toward any particular career. For that reason, it’s important that you set priorities and gain practical experience while you’re still studying. Independent initiative and enthusiasm for what you do are also very important. It’s recommended that your resumé displays a clear sense of direction.
Almost all degree programmes contain integrated modules which provide students with key qualifications and practical skills. These include orientation modules, professionally related events, foreign language instruction and business management know-how. Many degree programmes also require students to complete a study semester abroad at a partner university, a field research project or a foreign internship.
With their trained abilities in the management of knowledge and their intercultural skills, humanities graduates are increasingly sought after in various economic sectors. With its broad spectrum of content and problem-solving orientation, a course in the humanities can offer you considerable job flexibility.
The classic sectors for humanities graduates include media and communications, education and publishing. But degree holders also frequently find work in atypical areas and fields like manufacturing, trade, legal and business consulting, banking, health care and IT.
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