What can I do with a degree in African American studies? [View Image]Some students go into their college majors knowing exactly what they want to do with their degrees, but for many people, college is a time for figuring out what interests them. It isn't always easy to imagine what the future might hold, or how the knowledge and skills you learn in the classroom might help you in your future career.
If you've ever questioned what careers you might be able to pursue with a degree in African American Studies, What Can I Do With a Black Studies Degree?: 700 Answers (5th ed., 2019) by Robert Fikes, Jr. may give you some ideas. Fikes, Librarian Emeritus at San Diego State University, has compiled a list of individuals who majored in Black Studies. We have reproduced the text here, with permission from the author.
The interdisciplinary field of Blacks Studies—alternatively called African American Studies, Afro-American Studies, Africana Studies, Pan African Studies, or Black World Studies, depending on the school where it is offered---is a relative newcomer on the academic scene and its proponents have had to defend its theoretical underpinnings and practicality, something which the traditional liberal arts fields are also challenged to do but not to the same extent. Since the establishment of the nation’s first Black Studies department in 1968 at San Francisco State University, and despite the wide acceptance and institutionalization of Black Studies in academia, there still remains the nagging question about its ability to produce outstanding citizens equal in quality to individuals who as undergraduates majored in, say, history or English or art. Black Studies has now been around long enough to notice its handiwork: men and women constructively contributing to society, employed in a wide variety of professions.
It is a difficult task to compile a list of noteworthy people who majored in Black Studies because there are so many who could easily qualify. This list merely scratches the surface. Black Studies attracts a broad spectrum of interested scholars. Not only persons of African descent, but also persons of European, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Native American descent are represented in the list. Some of those mentioned are virtually household names or have received considerable local or regional attention. It is interesting to note which schools have produced large numbers of high achievers on the list, and rather surprising to learn that many medical professionals first earned degrees in Black Studies. Professions range from A (Astronaut) to Z (Zoo administrator). In short, the answer to those asking what can a person do with a Black Studies major is simple: . . . . Anything!
Everyone on this list completed a degree in Black Studies. Most of the entries contain a one-line summary of the person’s occupation, the type of degree obtained in Black Studies (typically the bachelor’s degree) and the school at which it was obtained, and additional (usually graduate) degrees in other disciplines which the person was granted.