liberal arts degree
A liberal arts degree prepares you for a wide range of jobs. Source: Shutterstock

In the not-so-distant past, a Liberal Arts degree was frowned upon. Even ex-US President Obama, who majored in Art History, made a controversial statement in 2014 where he criticised these types of degrees (although he later retracted this and apologised). 

Compared to the skilled trades or STEM degrees, there continues to be widespread skepticism that a  degree in the Liberal Arts can land one a proper job or pay enough.

However, this is far from the truth. First of all, the Liberal Arts is a group of subjects that can be broken down into four categories: Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Most people don’t realise that Science and Mathematics fall under the Liberal Arts – focusing only on the subjects under the first two categories, such as Philosophy, Art, History, Religion, Communication, Gender Studies, Literature, Human Geography, Law and Politics.

Despite the STEM push by governments worldwide, these Liberal Art subjects are actually incredibly effective at teaching students how to develop transferable soft skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and more, that are highly valued by employers today. These can open doors to a wide range of jobs – even in technology-related fields.

Though dismissed as frivolous, many of the top tech entrepreneurs today, from Alibaba CEO Jack Ma to LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, are proof that success can come from liberal arts degrees.

These skills are also useful as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution where human interaction, communication and the ability to think creatively will grow more important as technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) take over jobs previously done by humans.

The sheer importance of these skills has led to the updating of STEM degrees so that students in these fields will receive opportunities where they too can become more creative, adaptable and think critically.

According to a report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), “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.”

The report also found that liberal arts majors’ earnings are comparable to other majors in the long run.

A Liberal Arts degree can get you hired

If you want to study the Liberal Arts, but hearing the same ol’ spiel about not earning enough money with a career in this domain, you can make your case with the findings from the “The State of the Humanities 2018: Graduates in the Workforce & Beyond” report. 

According to the report, “Median annual earnings for workers with just a terminal bachelor’s degree in the humanities stood at $52,000 in 2015, which was somewhat lower than the median for all college graduates ($60,000) and substantially lower than the median for those in engineering ($82,000).

“Nevertheless, the median for the humanities was equal to the earnings for graduates from the life sciences and higher than those with a baccalaureate degree in the arts ($48,000) and education ($44,000).”

Plus, a large number of those who hold Bachelor’s degrees in the Humanities work in executive-level jobs or higher.

The report stated, “Approximately five million people employed in management and professional jobs in 2015 had bachelor’s degrees in the humanities.

“More than a million humanities graduates were employed as managers, and 1.3 million graduates from the field were employed in education positions (at the secondary and postsecondary level). The next largest areas of employment for holders of humanities bachelor’s degrees were office and administrative support positions (with 754,000 employees) and sales (with 696,000).

“Humanities graduates are similar to the entire population of bachelor’s degree holders with respect to the likelihood that they engage in key work activities. The share of humanities majors who reported spending more than 10 percent of their time on managerial and supervisory activities was identical to the share among all fields (58 percent).”

While it’s true that certain degrees in the hard Sciences such as Medicine, Engineering and Computer Science pay off with higher salaries, it doesn’t mean that a degree in Liberal Arts is not a valid choice.

If you’re truly passionate about a particular field under Liberal Arts, don’t let the naysayers get you down and pursue your Liberal Arts degree wholeheartedly. You’ll soon find that you’ll become well-qualified for several jobs thanks to the skills developed – plus, you’ll be doing what you love.

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