Possible Career Paths with an African Studies Degree
Have you ever heard that an African Studies degree is useless? Well, it's simply not true. Although studying towards an arts degree in African studies does not necessarily lead to a specific career, it does open the door to a wide variety of jobs and career choices.
The skills gained while studying towards this degree can be applied to many different careers, and many employers are looking to hire graduates with these skills.
Employable Skills of African Studies Graduates
As a graduate of an African studies program, you will gain a certain knowledge base, and a set of hard and soft skills. The soft skills you gain will be applicable to a wide variety of careers, whereas the hard skills will help you when pursuing employment that is closely related to your degree, such as if you become a cultural advisor.
• Research skills
• Communication skills
• Critical thinking and analysis
• Problem solving abilities
• The ability to meet deadlines
• The ability to work independently and as part of a team
• An understanding of Africa’s historical significance
• May be able to speak an African language
• An understanding of the social, economic, political, and cultural developments within Africa
• Awareness of and ability to research contemporary issues in Africa
Career Guides Directly Relevant to a Major in African Studies
Salary Level of African Studies Graduates
The below salaries are an average starting salary for general humanities (which includes African Studies) students based on skills and experiences gained at the bachelor level. It is important to remember that salary levels typically increase in conjunction with an increase in experience and education.
African Studies Graduate Salary United States: According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for graduates with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in the general humanities in the United States is $31,904 USD per year.
African Studies Graduate Salary Canada: According to MacLeans, the average salary earned by Humanities graduates 2 years after graduating from Ontario universities is $38,407 CAD (2008 figures).
African Studies JobsTake a look at our "Job Board for African Studies Students & Grads" below. It lists job openings in Canada and the United States that are relevant to a degree in this field, and degrees in other fields related to African Studies.
Job Board for African Studies Students & Grads
Scholarships for African Studies Students
Are you an African Studies major looking for help paying for school? Have a look at our African Studies Scholarships page to see scholarships that are relevant to you!
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any and all scholarships for which you qualify, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships in Canada and the United States that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants.
Gaining African Studies Career Experience as a Student
Gaining career related experience through an internship or co-op opportunity while you’re still a student is a great way to add experience to your resume before you’ve even graduated. These opportunities are also a great way to earn school credit while gaining career experience.
In addition, such an internship or co-op opportunity will give you a great idea of what an entry-level job will be like when commencing a career related to your degree. After receiving your first entry-level position, you may find that you are performing many of the same tasks and hold a similar level of responsibility that you did as an intern.
Make the most of your internship!
These opportunities will also expose you to the more mundane tasks that are associated with most professions. Don’t let this discourage you though, as all careers have them…not every police officer gets to break down doors and arrest bad guys for their entire shift; many hours are spent filling out forms and performing other such exciting duties.
You may find that you quite enjoy your African studies internship; it may be a very positive experience for you. The pride of working in your field for the first time, the satisfaction of being able to apply knowledge you’ve been accumulating for years, and meeting individuals who are successful in their field may serve to reinforce or enhance your motivation.
It’s important to ask as many questions as you can, as an internship is a great way to learn about the job, and the people who perform that job, while simultaneously earning a school credit.
Also, if you ask a lot of questions, and you show a lot of interest, you will be in a good position when it comes time for the employer to evaluate whether or not they will ask you if you would like a full time position with them upon graduation. You may choose not to accept a position with the organization for one reason or another, but having employment options is a good thing, especially as a new graduate.
Beware of unpaid internships...
There may be organizations out there that advertise unpaid internships and do not offer school credits in return. You will want to approach these opportunities with extreme caution, as the lines of whether or not unpaid internships are exploitative and illegal are blurry at best; after all, there are minimum wage laws.
Some unpaid internships however may be a great means of getting your foot in the door with an organization that you desperately want to be a part of. These positions may not be advertised, and you may be able to find them only by contacting the company directly, and insisting that you will work for free.
Whether excited or hesitant to pursue a career related to your African studies degree, an internship is the best way to find out firsthand what it may be like during the first few months or years of your new career. If you have the opportunity to work an internship for credit towards your African Studies degree, it is a good idea to pursue it.
Success Tip: Introduce yourself to a counselor in your school’s career resource office. They will be able to help connect you to employers that are offering internships and co-op opportunities.
What Will an African Studies Degree Teach You?
Coursework in an undergraduate African studies program is primarily designed to give students background information and critical approaches to more advanced coursework.
The coursework emphasizes critical thinking, and seeks to foster an awareness of the conceptual difficulties involved in any attempt to understand the complexities of African studies. As an African studies student, you will learn:
• All Aspects of culture and life in various African nations
• The history, politics, and economics of Africa, as well as how they vary from region to region
• How African diaspora came to live in other countries
• Historical conflicts, such as European colonialism
• Current intra-African conflicts
• Read and study original literature and folklore, as well as view and critique African films
• May learn one African language, such as Swahili, Hausa, Arabic, Bambara, or Twi
• Study how different African countries relate to countries in North America and Europe
Professional Organizations in African Studies
Professional associations are collections of practitioners, organizations and agencies committed to the support, development and enhancement of the professions within the field of African Studies. The field of African Studies has a number of professional associations that support ethics in the profession, report current research findings, gather resources and foster partnerships among its members.
If you are interested in a career in African studies, you should consult these websites for more information: