Is Liberal Arts the New Practical College Major?

Dawn Papandrea | January 22, 2014

shutterstock_42336553We write a lot on this blog about which degrees are most likely to garner the best earnings; which industries have strong employment projections; and why it’s important to consider your educational pursuits carefully so that you’re getting the best educational value. When it comes to liberal arts (full disclosure: I was an English major), most people assume that there is no direct correlation between the degree and the career path. How many time do English, arts, and psychology majors, for instance, hear: “What are you going to do with that degree? Wait tables?”

That’s why a recent report, How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment, published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the National Center for Higher Education Management System (NCHEMS), was a breath of fresh air to those considering a “less practical” liberal arts degree. For starters, the report found that workers with liberal arts bachelor’s degrees earn more at their career peak than those with professional or pre-professional undergraduate degrees.

Perhaps more noteworthy, given today’s economic climate, is that unemployment rates for both recent liberal arts graduates and mature workers with liberal arts degrees is well below the national average. If for no other reason, liberal arts majors develop the all-important critical thinking, communications, research, and problem solving skills needed to succeed in any occupation. Many employers state that these “soft skills” factor high in their hiring decisions. Plus, liberal arts minded workers have the tools to think “outside the box” and adapt to workplace changes, perhaps more so than those who are more focused on specific technical or professional-based skills.

Read more about the report here.

What do you think of the study? Do you think there’s still value in liberal arts degrees?

 

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