Debunking common misconceptions about liberal arts degrees
Ignore the haters - here’s why you should consider a liberal arts degree. Source: Shuttertsock

Are you strongly considering pursuing a liberal arts degree but have reservations over its value?

We know that programmes such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines are all the rage, but realistically, not everyone wants to carve a career in those areas, which makes it a less-than-ideal area of study for some.

Conversely, a liberal arts degree covers a broad range of disciplines that appeal to some students; if you’re daunted by the prospect of choosing an area of study that was too specific, a liberal arts education can be useful, giving you time to make up your mind about what you’d like to do, or if you’d like to further your studies in a specific field.

However, some widely held misconceptions may deter you from choosing such a programme and could negatively impact your future.

We get it – university is expensive, which means you’ll want to pick a programme that will give you a decent return on investment (ROI) and land you a job. So, should you follow your head or heart? To help you decide, we’re debunking some common misconceptions about pursuing a liberal arts degree…

Myth 1: Liberal arts students graduate without practical skills

What makes a degree ‘useless’? One that doesn’t equip you with skills or knowledge that are applicable in the working world.

However, depending on your major, a liberal arts degree can prepare you with a range of soft and practical skills such as writing, critical thinking, research and creativity, which are all useful across a range of careers. For example, critical thinking is essential as a writer, journalist and editor – does a report that was submitted by a journalist make sense? Are there any loopholes in the story? If you were referencing one copy that says one thing, while another says something else, what can you do to verify the information?

So, to anyone who belittles skills such as critical thinking, think again. So much in life depends on our ability to objectively analyse things and see the logical connection between ideas to form a rational judgement, both in our personal and professional capacities.

Myth 2: Liberal arts graduates have difficulties finding a job

Liberal arts graduates go on to a wide range of careers as their skills can be applied across a range of industries. Source: Shutterstock

A study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that “93 percent of employers agree that candidates’ demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major”.

These skills are some of the hallmarks of a liberal arts degree and should offer some comfort to prospective liberal arts students.

Meanwhile, liberal arts graduates go on to a wide range of careers as their skills can be applied across a range of industries. In a similar vein, research by The Hamilton Project (THP) noted that individuals with the same college major often “transition into a surprising variety of occupations”, in addition to earning “very different incomes”.

They highlight one example: “…the 1.2 percent of philosophy majors who enter the corporate sector and become management analysts earn a median salary of [US]$72,000, while the 8 percent of their counterparts who become postsecondary teachers (e.g. professors and lecturers) earn [US]$51,000.”

But does a liberal arts graduate have a place in the future of jobs where technology takes centrestage? Well, even key figures at Microsoft believe the liberal arts will be essential in unlocking the full potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the future.

Myth 3: It’s a degree for those who aren’t smart

There are different types of intelligence – be it mathematical, musical or linguistic intelligence, or something else entirely. Unfortunately, society may sometimes have a narrow view about what intelligence means, favouring one type of intelligence over another.

But contrary to what some may think, just because you aren’t a wizard number cruncher or aren’t great at developing large-scale complex systems for businesses doesn’t mean you aren’t intelligent.

Take a look at the world around you – how many badly written ads or emails have you encountered? How many people have you come across who struggle to articulate their thoughts or speak about current issues going on in the world? How many great ideas are spoken about but never take off due to a lack of ability to communicate and market the idea?

All of this reflects the different types of intelligence that liberal arts graduates possess, depending on their major, which some non-liberal arts majors might well struggle with.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

Possible career paths for liberal arts graduates

Enhancing employability and diversity through liberal arts education