What does a Classics degree entail? If I do not want to be a teacher, what jobs can I have after choosing a Classics degree?
Younger Classicists may not have met anyone who has had a successful career after a Classics BA, or perhaps they have, but they would never have guessed! This series is here to show them the different paths that life may take and inspire them to thread their own.
NB: I ask relevant questions about the degree and also its routes into employment. And I will be honest, transcribing the answers even when they are not necessarily what I want to hear, up to the very last question — would you do it again?This week, I have spoken with Hannah Watkins, who probably has one of the jobs I would love to do the most if I was not teaching: Classics trip specialist.
Further qualifications and specialisms can always be explored and completed later in working life, but it's very rare to have the time to really focus on one academic specialism - make it one that you have a genuine interest in and enjoyment of!
Hannah Watkins currently works as a Classics trip specialist for The Learning Adventure. She has fond memories of her time as an undergraduate and postgraduate Classics student at the University of Oxford.
"I enjoyed aspects of all of my degree and this was my primary aim of the degree… to enjoy the learning!"
1. What aspects of your degree did you enjoy the most?
The aspect I enjoyed the most was studying the archaeological evidence in tandem with the ancient history. It really helped to bring the history to life and allowed me to consider the lived reality of people in the ancient world.
2. Looking back, was your degree what you expected?
There was less lecture time than I expected, especially in the later years. I feel there is an image of life at university being constantly moving between lectures and this was not my experience, I had a few focused lectures each week to support my studies, but most of my time was spent working independently.
3. If you could go back and speak to your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give her about choosing a degree?
I would say to read as much information as possible about what papers you will study as core, and which will be optional. It really helps to know what you will be studying and allows you to distinguish between the different universities.
4. What was your first job after finishing your degree?
After I had finished my Master’s degree, I trained to be a humanities teacher in London. I chose the Schools Direct route, which I found challenging but rewarding.
5. And what other jobs have you had in your life, related or not to your degree?
I have worked in retail jobs and for an educational charity both of which had positives to them, but ultimately I find a lot of job satisfaction when I can be mentally stimulated at work, and ideally link it to my own educational passions. I am now a Classics Trips Specialist with an educational tour provider. It’s brilliant way to help students visit and explore the ancient world and bring their studies to life.
6. In your professional career, what learnings from your Classics degree have been most useful?
In my current role, my understanding of ancient sites and artefacts in key museums is very useful; it allows me to confidently direct schools and students to the most important and interesting archaeological areas. The skills needed for presenting and public speaking have been incredibly useful, even though I am not the most confident speaker. The experiences during my degree have given me the skills to present all manner of information to colleagues and clients.
7. Do you consider that anything you learnt was useless?
There are certainly some papers that I didn’t find as interesting, or that I don’t refer to as much – but I enjoyed aspects of all of my degree and this was my primary aim of the degree… to enjoy the learning!
8. How does classics inform your work as a Classics Trip Specialist?
Awareness of Classics curricula and content helps me to plan and organise meaningful tours for school groups – it also means I can come up with new locations for groups to visit that will still be of educational value.
9. Would you do it again?
Absolutely! I thoroughly enjoyed my degree and still go to public lectures or read books on the subject in my free time. It’s such a brilliantly diverse subject that was stimulating and engaging for the entire three years.
I asked Hannah Watkins for a 10th interview question. This is what she added:
10. What advice would you give to people currently searching for university courses?
My answer would be to first and foremost think about the subject areas or themes that you know you enjoy studying already and try to find a university course that would develop those. University study is challenging and will ultimately account for three years (or more!) of your life, it will be most rewarding if you spend that time learning about something you enjoy. Further qualifications and specialisms can always be explored and completed later in working life, but it's very rare to have the time to really focus on one academic specialism - make it one that you have a genuine interest in and enjoyment of!