Arts careers thrive in the age of automation

Student collaborating on a project.

If you’re interested in other cultures, art, literature, history, human relationships, society, politics, law… let’s face it, you’re probably really suited for an arts degree.

But what does that mean in a world where technology, computers, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are on the cusp of changing our society?

More than you can imagine. A degree in humanities, social sciences, languages, or creative arts opens up career pathways you may never have considered. More importantly, it gives you transferrable skills that will help you become an important leader in government, across industries, or in the arts.

Let’s take a look at what that means.


  • Industry trends: how do changes in our world impact what's happening in this field?
  • Future of work: what will careers in this industry look like in the future?
  • Programs to study: what programs does Waterloo offer related to this field?

Industry trends

A model of the human brain.

Beyond numbers

The world seems to run on numbers these days: the binary code of computers and programming, financial transactions, the mathematical models behind big data and AI. But there are other sides to the numbers game that take root in the realm of arts grads.

Statistical analysis might find patterns in the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated every day, but it can’t explain the “why” of human behaviour. For that, you need someone who understands how people think and how they relate to one another. Someone who can combine knowledge and intuition to solve problems, make products that people love, pass laws, or create social programs that will actually work.

Arts grads work as business development managers, client service specialists, intelligence analysts, and project managers to make sense of data and translate it into actionable plans and strategies that work for people.

A student wearing VR goggles.

Beyond robots

AI and machine learning will eliminate 75 million jobs in the next few years and this type of drastic change can have catastrophic impacts on the lives of millions. The upside is, AI will also create 130 million, new, unheard-of opportunities as humanity adjusts to the new normal.

As a society, our ethics will be tested, our policies rewritten, our laws challenged, and doing what’s right for our country and our citizens will require people with education that can inform, imagine, and make big decisions.

The new world needs to be shaped, changed, and created by people with broad-based, ethically-informed, and dynamic educations in fields such as philosophy, sociology, law, communications, and economics. In short, arts grads!

A design project on a laptop screen.

It’s about people

At the intersection of the digital world and humanity, arts grads find work in designing video games that solve problems, or in helping make applications more user friendly.

User-centric thinking isn’t just an afterthought of digital application and production, however.

Arts grads make up a larger percentage of the tech workforce than tech grads.

That’s because arts grads are uniquely qualified to identify and understand human skills and human needs, and help translate and coordinate with machines and multidisciplinary teams throughout product development.

Co-op student heading to work.

It’s about unique skills

In a study of Canada’s largest companies, employers value transferrable skills over technical knowledge. Why? It’s simple: an arts degrees teaches you how to think in a big picture way and better collaborate.

These skills are increasingly important in a workforce that is multi-disciplinary and requires good communication, insights about others, and empathetic leadership.

An arts degrees teaches you how to think in a big picture way and better collaborate.

Combining these skills with a basic understanding of technology helps meet an urgent, rising “market demand for agile and resilient thinkers who have a handle on digital literacies.”


93%of employers say a person's capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.Association of American Colleges and Universities
55%of the world’s professional leaders are social sciences and humanities gradsUniversities Canada

Arts grads are vital communicators

They shape and explore human experience and behaviour with careers that include journalist, writer, editor, digital media specialist, communication specialist, or more expressive fields like artist, actor, or performer. Arts grads in these careers engage us in understanding the world, current events, and each other with their storytelling.

And that makes grads adaptable

The world of work is going to change dramatically in the next 10 years. Jobs will be lost. New jobs created. It’s increasingly inevitable that workers will have many jobs over their careers.

Arts students are uniquely positioned to adapt and lead because of the transferrable skills acquired during their study. Things like critical thinking, analytical reasoning, constructing persuasive arguments, teamwork, and people skills.

Adaptability means more opportunity. Social sciences and humanities grads are working across a wider range of industries and occupations than graduates of any other field. They work all over the world. They work in public, private, and not-for-profit organizations. The breadth and scope of opportunities is only going to increase as technology and social forces change the world of work.

Imaginative leaders

“The jobs of the future… will require creative, compassionate, and empathetic leaders who create trust, build teams, inspire service, and communicate effectively. (Inc., 2019)

Arts grads make great leaders because of their adaptability, unique skills, insight, and their way with people. In fact, 55% of the world’s professional leaders, in over 30 countries, and across industries are social sciences and humanities grads. One study even noted that arts grads are better leaders than MBA holders.

There you have it! Arts grads are leaders. Culture shapers. Storytellers. Makers and doers. Agents of change. Policy makers. People protectors. If you were thinking about a degree in humanities, social sciences, or the creative arts, your career can be an evolving work of art – just like you!


Student flipping through a book.

Arts grads make great leaders because of their adaptability, unique skills, insight, and their way with people.

Meeting the challenge

Your education needs to change with technology, society, and the world of work. The Faculty of Arts at Waterloo works hard to make sure your education meets those needs, and prepares you for a successful career in your chosen field.

A symbol for co-op.

By combining robust co-op experience with a liberal arts education in a unique entrepreneurial ecosystem that values imaginative leadership.

A sybmol for learning.

By building your education around the concept of life-long learning so that you’re always ready to take on new challenges and adapt to changes in the world of work.

A symbol for industry.

By checking in with industry partners and co-op employers to ensure you’re gaining the most important skills that employers are looking for.


Bachelor of Arts majors

Fine and performing arts

Languages and cultures


Waterloo Arts employment rates 2 years after graduation are in the 91%-99% range, depending on subject of major interest.

Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities

Sample careers

  • Forensic anthropologist
  • Lawyer
  • Financial planner
  • Journalist
  • Animation artist
  • Translator
  • Editor
  • Music therapist
  • Interior designer
  • Intelligence officer
  • Treasury analyst
  • Communications advisor
  • Psychiatrist
  • Pastor
  • Law enforcement agent
  • Teacher
  • Operations manager

The average earnings of social sciences bachelor’s graduates start at around $40,000 immediately after graduation but within 13 years almost double to just under $80,000.

Universities Canada

What's next