We asked some of our recent graduates to reflect on how their major in Classical Studies or Ancient History helped them in their career path, and this is what they said.
From a double-major in Classical Civilizations and Philosophy who went on to teach fourth grade while pursuing an MA in Intermediary Education:
The organizational skills I learned are definitely key. As far as the content of the classics curriculum, it simply gives me a much broader base of information to draw from when I'm talking to my students. … I really believe that the classics major (or minor) could be extremely beneficial no matter what your aspirations. It gives you a deeper understanding of and appreciation for almost everything, from literature, art, politics, architecture, math, philosophy, etc.
From a double-major in Ancient History and Religious Studies who spent her first year working at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center in the Museum:
My college learning has already been extremely helpful with this job. We do a wide variety of projects, but having a background in ANCH and RELS has been helpful with almost every one, not just in terms of having some background knowledge in various areas, but also with research techniques. For example, we are creating a database of archaeological and cultural sites in Syria for some people from the State Dept. I'm researching which of nearly 1300 sites have been damaged in the civil war. Right now I have to identify all of these sites, such as what era they're from and what type of site they are. I know that without what I learned as an undergrad this would be almost impossible.
From a major in Classical Languages and Literature spending his first year after graduation working at a newspaper in Athens:
I had always planned to go to grad school while at Penn, but I never mustered the energy to apply my senior year. ... If anything, a few years outside academia can only make you a more qualified candidate for graduate school. The chance to travel and do a fair amount of writing has definitely proved to be the more interesting life-choice in my case. I also find that time spent outside of school gives you the chance to refine your intellectual narrrative. That's never a bad thing. I try to pitch CLST/ANCH as a degree that will teach you to read critically and form persuasive arguments. As I see it, antiquity just happens to be the medium with which you make those arguments. Classics is unique, however, in the range of knowledge it demands of its students. Theoretically, you could graduate with a Classics degree and be as qualified to enter an art history program as a philosophy program. That differentiates it from most other majors in the humanities.
From a double-major in Finance and Classical Languages and Literature who went on to work in consulting and software:
In the second half of my undergrad years, I shifted my focus toward pursuing a job/career in business/consulting. My current job is a variation of consulting and software. I think that during my search for job/career opportunities, I framed an education in Classics (especially in the language track) as an equal to my finance concentration in analytical rigor.
From a double-major in Classical Civiizations and Biology who spent some time after graduation working in a Penn cancer-research lab before applying to medical school:
For me, I never really intended to make a career of classics, but I simply knew I loved the material and they were always my favorite classes. Now, having graduated, I have found that classics is simply a great base for life. …
From a major in Classical Languages and Literature and minor in English who went on to work for a public-radio show before applying to MFA programs in creative writing:
I now work at a publication [which] has a program on public radio and they've hired me as an audio producer. It's good to be able to channel my various experiences into one set of skills that I need for my job, and my Classics stuff is really coming in handy, in a mental-process-line-of-thought way. Sometime soon I'm hoping to produce stories that are more directly Classical.
From a major in Classical Languages and Literature who entered a Ph.D. program in Classics at another ivy-league university:
[Even if I wasn’t admitted to graduate school,] I consoled myself by considering the other skills I had learned during my time at Penn: writing effectively, organizing my thoughts, digging up information from various sources and presenting it in a way to support my argument, speaking to an audience, sharing ideas with people who might not agree with me, etc. These aren't just Classics skills. These are skills necessary for jobs that require communicating with other human beings, which is pretty much every job.
From a double-major in Mediterranean Archaeology and English who went on to work as a respite worker with children with special needs, before applying to graduate school:
I encourage anyone who, despite being very much interested in grad school, has some reservations or just feels they need a breather to give themselves a little bit of time to mull things over and enjoy whatever things school might have required them to put on the back burner. It's been incredibly rewarding for me—particularly strengthening my relationship with my family, whom I hadn't seen too much of in the past four years—and now I can't imagine having made a better decision for myself.
From a major in Classical Languages and Literature who was admitted to a Ph.D. program in Classics:
The Classical Studies major was definitely great preparation for this; I'll have to get back to you in a few years to see its effects in the wider world. However, something that never ceases to surprise me is how flexible and dynamic Classics is. I especially notice it in graduate school. Everyone's interests are so variable and roll over into so many other disciplines and areas. So I guess my words of wisdom are that if you can take advantage if this flexibility, you could really do whatever you want.
From a double-major in Classical Civilizations and Political Science who went on to work in a non-profit focusing on domestic violence and sex-trafficking:
For me, it was my extracurricular work as much as my academic work that prepared me for this (I did a lot of anti-violence advocacy work on campus that set me on the path I'm on now). Additionally, my study abroad experience (in Athens!) is also one of the big reasons I want to pursue a graduate degree in international studies (or at least in a program that allows for/encourages study or summer internships abroad). One thing I can say studying Classics gave me was the ability to see and study both the details and the big picture of a given subject. In many disciplines I feel that you either can't see the forest for the trees or the other way around. At least in my course of studies, I was able to strike a nice compromise. Especially through the combination of my majors (Classics and Political Science, concentrating in Political Theory), I think I was able to trace grand themes and similarities while still having the analytical ability to identify the key differences.
From a double-major in Classical Languages and Literature and African Studies who went on to study for an M.Sc. in African Studies at a major university in the UK:
My course is very reading intensive, and I think some of the Ancient History classes I took whilst at Penn (Ancient Greece immediately springs to mind) will have helped prepare me for large volumes of reading. Also, as part of my course deals with theories and different approaches to viewing information, I think what I learnt in Professor X’s Mythology class will also prove to be really useful, as it was my first real interaction with various theoretical and methodological approaches to analyzing texts.
From a major in Mediterranean Archaeology who worked after graduation as an analyst at a major US bank:
The most successful people in this job are excellent at simplifying and explaining complex ideas. You can’t just understand how a complex derivative structure works, but you have to be able to explain it to a client in a clear way. Finally, it is mostly about loving correlations and always keeping an eye out for patterns.
From a major in Classical Civilizations who went on to work as a sports journalist:
As far as if my Classics major has helped me, it certainly has, especially as a writer and a researcher. I remember speaking at the senior colloquium on the subject—that my career choice is very atypical for a Classics major but how I think it still helped me get to where I am now.
From a major in Classical Civilizations who entered a graduate program in Urban Affairs:
For students thinking about using CLST/ANCH in preparation for the wider world, I would advise them that it is fantastic for everyone because it helps hone your critical reading, writing, and thinking skills which are necessary in the wider world. Furthermore, Classical Studies is a widely respected and rigorous discipline, and thus graduate schools and employers are often impressed to see Classical Studies on someone's resume. Finally, the Classical Studies and Ancient History programs at Penn are fantastic, and the professors really prepare students for the rigors of graduate school (in any subject) if they choose to continue their education after undergrad.
From a double-major in Classical Civilizations and Art History who went on to work in financial services:
Please do make your students aware of the tremendous diversity of opportunities available to those with Classics degrees; the beauty of Classical Studies is that it teaches one how to think, which is one of the most important skills in any career path. I feel that my college majors were tremendously helpful in terms of developing my own critical thinking and project management skills, so—despite being surrounded by business majors—I’m very happy that I chose to study what I did in school!
From a recent major in Classical Languages and Literature who went on to teach Latin and Greek in a private school:
I try to think about what I liked about my Classics teachers, and I've even dug up some of my old school materials to refer to when making assignments and tests. I do wish that I had gotten more involved in education at Penn—perhaps doing more tour guiding, or tutoring. … My grasp of the languages is quite good, and I owe a lot to Penn for that.
From a major in Classical Civilizations who first worked in non-profit and high schools as a program-organizer and college counselor and was planning to apply to law schools:
[Classics] has certainly pushed my interest in entering a political/policy realm in our government that I hope to pursue following law school. I believe this is mainly as a result of my Classical Studies training, which not only introduced me to a love of academic and theoretical exploration (inherent in topics of Classics, from interpreting a text to a major historical event), but solidified an interest in involving myself in the public sphere (Cicero would be proud!).
From a recent major in Classical Languages who interned in human rights organizations and at different types of law firm and then went on to law school:
Generally I do think that studying the Classics as a discipline has allowed me to notice and be more attentive to the precise use of language. A lot of what we do in reading cases, as in reading Latin literature, is take a few words and phrases and see how it's been used in other cases and what sort of meanings have been carried over from past uses to the present use. So that skill we learn as a Classics major is directly transferrable to being a law student and ultimately to being a lawyer. There's also the training we receive in analyzing history and seeing historical developments which is also a very relevant skill in law.