Majoring in Classics

Overview

Classics majors are able to take many small classes taught by senior faculty, an aspect that makes Classics especially attractive to serious students. We are a friendly department and look after our students. All majors receive personalized academic advising from the staff and faculty undergraduate advisors. Because of the small size of our language classes and advanced seminars, faculty get to know students and are able to support them effectively as they pursue graduate study or embark on their chosen career. Classics majors go on to be highly successful in law, medicine, finance, education, politics, publishing, entertainment, and many other fields. They distinguish themselves in the eyes of prospective employers as sharp thinkers who write and speak well.

Double-Majoring in Classics

A Classics major complements STEM fields like Math or Biology, as well as English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Religious Studies, Theater and Dance, and more. Pre-law students boost their LSAT scores and develop skills in critical analysis, argumentation, and writing. (Learn more about the benefits of a Classics degree from a current law student here.) We recognize the unique challenges that double-majors encounter, and we work with students closely to plan out their degrees.

Transfer Students

Transfer students excel in Classics, and prior knowledge of Latin or Greek is not required for enrollment in the major. The Greek & Roman Culture emphasis is designed to be completed in two years, start to finish. This emphasis offers in-depth study of the Classical world through upper-division courses and seminars taught in translation. Classics majors who select this emphasis gain a solid grasp of the languages by completing one year of introductory Latin or Greek.

Careers for Classicists

From the Princeton Review (c. 2003) :

“We can’t overestimate the value of a Classics major. Check this out: according to Association of American Medical Colleges, students who major or double-major in Classics have a better success rate getting into medical school than do students who concentrate solely in biology, microbiology, and other branches of science. Crazy, huh? Furthermore, according to Harvard Magazine, Classics majors (and math majors) have the highest success rates of any majors in law school. Believe it or not: political science, economics, and pre-law majors lag fairly far behind. Furthermore, Classics majors consistently have some of the highest scores on GREs of all undergraduates.

“Shocked? Don’t be. One reason Classics majors are so successful is that they completely master grammar. Medical terminology, legal terminology, and all those ridiculously worthless vocabulary words on the GRE (and the SAT) have their roots in Greek and Latin. Ultimately, though, Classics majors get on well in life because they develop intellectual rigor, communications skills, analytical skills, the ability to handle complex information, and, above all, a breadth of view which few other disciplines can provide.”

From the website of the University of Puget Sound:

Princeton’s Survey of its Classics Graduates

“What can you do with a Classics Major?
Many students considering Classics as a major ask that question. Princeton University decided that best way to answer this question was to find out what their alumni had been doing. A survey was sent out asking the majors who had graduated since 1970 about their careers. 103 responses were received, and the results are presented below.

Current Professions

Job Type Number
Law 17
Medicine 15
Business: Finance and Banking 8
Business: Marketing and Management 6
Business: College/University Professor 17
Business: High School Teacher 11

Other occupations, including newspaper editor, computer programmers, literary agent, TV producer, speechwriter for Clinton/Gore campaign, cultural affairs advisor to the governor of New Jersey 29

56% of all respondents went on to get post graduate degrees:

Post Graduate Degrees

Degree Type Number
JD (Law school) 18
MD (Medical school) 14
PhD (Various Fields) 21
MBA (Business School) 5

Some notable Classics majors

Quite apart from many great names of the past such as Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, T. E. Lawrence(“Lawrence of Arabia”), and Willa Cather, contemporary Classics majors include:

• J. K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter series
• Lynn Sherr, ABC News Correspondent
• Toni Morrison (well, OK, Classics minor), author of Beloved, Nobel Prize Literature, 1993.
• Charles Geschke, software executive, founder of Adobe Systems
• David Packard, co-founder of first CEO of Hewlett Packard
• Ted Turner, founder, TBS and CNN, former Vice-Chairman Arial Warner
• Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense, President Texas A&M, Director of CIA, 1991-93
• Jerry Brown, former Governor of California and Attorney-General.
• James Baker, Secretary of State under Pres. Bush Senior
• William S. Cohen, former Senator and secretary of Defense under Pres. Clinton
• Hunter S. Rawlings, III, President of Cornell University
• Robert Greene, hip-hop guru and author of The 48 Laws of Power
• Nathanial Fick, Afghanistan war veteran and author of One bullet Away
• Dr. Mary Ann Hopkins, Professor of Surgery NYU Medical Center & volunteer for Doctors Without Borders
• Joseph Spellman, master sommelier for Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Some websites for further exploration:

1 | 2 | 3 | Psycology Today Series
http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/06/benefits-classical-education.html Benefits of Classics Education
“Why in Heaven’s Name Are You Majoring in Greek?” -Lynn’s Sherr’s 2003 Rouman Lecture at UNH