Majoring in Classics

What can you do with a major in Classics? Anything! The Classics major, like other majors at Columbia and Barnard, is not designed to provide pre-professional training, and while some of our students go on to become professional Classicists, most use the education they receive to help them succeed in a diverse range of fields unconnected with their major. Like students who major in other subjects, Classics majors become doctors, farmers, lawyers, writers, executives, chefs, teachers, social workers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and anything else they choose. Since all major programs at Barnard and Columbia have been designed to provide similar benefits, we believe that students should choose their fields of study based on their interests. For many people, the undergraduate years offer the only chance they ever have to explore the subjects that really fascinate them, and we hope that every student at Columbia and Barnard will take full advantage of that opportunity.

Having said that, we believe that the particular training offered by the Classics program will be more useful than most others when it comes to success later in life. Classics is a difficult subject, and students who have mastered Latin and Greek will find other intellectual challenges much less daunting. Classics graduates know how to absorb large quantities of information quickly, retain it, and use it rapidly. They know how to analyze and interpret, to pay attention to details without losing track of the big picture, and to relate a work or event to its context. They have the kind of thorough understanding of grammar that only a training in Latin and Greek can give, and that understanding is reflected in the high quality of their English writing. Having been taught for four years in small classes by professors who know them as individuals and want them to succeed, they have received an education tailored to their own needs and goals. As a result, Classics degrees are highly respected by law schools, medical schools, and employers.

The Classics major is designed for students who enter with no background in Latin or Greek, and it is possible for such students to complete the major in four years even if they do not begin the languages until the sophomore year. Nevertheless, the program is much easier for those who begin the study of one language in their first year. For those who have not taken language courses in their first year, a number of options are available, including the intensive elementary courses and summer language programs at this and other institutions.

Given the importance of language training for this program, students who have some prior knowledge of either language are in an excellent position; depending on their background, they may be able to do substantial amounts of advanced work before graduation. Such students are urged to speak to the Director of Undergraduate Studies early in their college careers in order to make sure that they get the most out of what the departments have to offer them.

The options for constructing a major are several, depending on the school with which you are affiliated, your particular interests, and—if you know them—your plans after college.

We also care deeply about our students’ career prospects and are proud of their success on the job market while at and after Columbia. We have partnered with the Center for Career Education (CCE) to provide tailored advising for both jobs and internships:

Career Exploration and Preparation

Employer Connections/Jobs and Internships

Alumni Connections

  • Alumni Connections – including alumni dinner and discussion series, Columbia Career Connections on LinkedIn and networking events