Thinking About A Degree in Liberal Arts?

Monday, June 22, 2020

A liberal arts degree can unlock careers in many different fields. Read to find out more.

Emily Griffen, the director of the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning at Amherst College in Massachusetts shares, “A liberal arts degree is the most pragmatic degree one can pursue in a world with increasing uncertainty and volatility. It is designed to equip you with the adaptability that will be critical to navigating many decades of professional life in rapidly evolving landscapes. It is more worth it than ever.”

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, shares, “I think there’s a prevailing national rhetoric that’s calling into question the value of higher education in general but liberal education in particular, because they see humanities and arts taking place within the ivory tower as a willful disconnect from the practical matters of everyday life, and the sole purpose of higher education today is viewed as employability.”

It is true that overall public confidence in U.S. higher education and college degrees has significantly decreased since 2015 according to many polls. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed that higher education seems to be going in the wrong direction, even if they do not agree about why.

Despite this, a recent study out of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that despite questions about long-term value, the liberal arts degree can end up paying off.

The study examined what the return on investment was at 4,500 U.S. colleges and universities. It found that the median return on investment of liberal arts colleges after 40 years is nearly $200,000 higher than the median for all colleges.

Career earnings of liberal arts college graduates were slightly higher than those of counterparts who went to engineering and technology-focused schools, as well as those who earned degrees from business and management schools.

Typical liberal arts degrees include history, philosophy, music, religious studies and social sciences. Students, however, can also earn liberal arts degrees in biology and chemistry and liberal arts college institutions.

“Liberal arts simply means the study of a wide variety of subjects, designed to encourage flexible thinking. The term ‘liberal’ refers to freedom, or liberation, of thought, not the current term often associated with political orientation. The term ‘arts’ is actually derived from the Latin for art or skill. It is actually a word for ‘skill’ and not solely in ‘art’ in the way we typically associate the word ‘art’ with painting or music.”

Bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts can lead to many jobs, and the pathway is not always clear.

Disciplines give students a particular framework for creativity, problem solving, communication and other skills that can be applied to an endless range of career fields and jobs.

Check out the list of potential jobs for liberal arts graduates:

  • Advertising representative
  • Archivist
  • Artist
  • Events director
  • Financial analyst
  • Graphic designer
  • Human resources specialist
  • Journalist
  • Marketing specialist
  • Public relations specialist
  • Project manager
  • Research analyst
  • Social worker
  • Statistician
  • Teacher
  • Technical writer
  • Web developer

in liberal arts tend to earn less money upon graduation than their counterparts, but those salaries tend to accelerate later, as these students assume leadership positions.

Griffen says, “Liberal arts majors pull ahead because they have that preparation to tackle the complex, multi-faceted challenges of leadership, managing across many functional areas, or surviving dramatic shifts in job market needs. They are also under less threat of their job prospects declining due to automation, as the skills they bring to the workplace are not the skills that can be replaced by robots.”

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