Most students gain skills for a liberal arts degree during their college careers. Even career-focused degree programs in business, nursing, engineering, and technology require students to complete coursework in fields like literature and philosophy as part of a well-rounded educational experience. However, many students opt to earn their degrees in a liberal arts field, despite some experts questioning whether such a program adequately prepares students for careers or has any value to employers.
The short answer to concerns about the value of a liberal arts degree is that graduates are more than prepared for success in the workforce and may actually have an advantage over other job seekers. Because these degrees do not prepare students for a specific job but rather equip them with an invaluable set of transferable skills, liberal arts majors are well-positioned for success in any industry. From education and healthcare to business and social sciences, a degree in the liberal arts prepares you with a wealth of useful and in-demand skills.
What Is a Liberal Arts Degree?
The liberal arts in a college or university setting include three primary academic domains.
- Humanities, which include literature, philosophy, religion, writing, fine arts, world languages, history, performing arts, and communication.
- Sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics, and math.
- Social sciences, which include sociology, psychology, gender studies, economics, and political science.
Nearly all college programs require students to complete a set of “core” requirements in the liberal arts in addition to the coursework for their major. These core courses are typically introductory or survey-level classes designed to give students a broad understanding of the subject and introduce basic concepts and skills. Liberal arts majors move beyond these low-level courses to take more in-depth or specialized classes with a broad thematic connection; for example, an English major may specialize in American or British literature or opt for a concentration in writing.
How a Liberal Arts Degree Prepares You for a Career
The focus of liberal arts degree is not preparation for a specific job or a career in a defined industry but rather to prepare students with the skills they need to thrive in almost any field. Some experts argue that college should prepare graduates with the hard skills they need to take on an entry-level position without in-depth on-the-job training, which may be the case in some fields. Nurses, for example, must demonstrate specific knowledge before providing patient care.
For students not entering a specific knowledge-driven field, though, the practical abilities they gain with a liberal arts degree apply to any role in any industry and prepare them for a successful and satisfying career.
The Most Useful Skills for Liberal Arts Degree Holders
Liberal arts students gain a long list of abilities in their studies that employers value. In fact, research shows that nearly all employers want to see evidence of the following competencies, which represent only some of the outcomes of a liberal arts education, on applicant resumes.
Critical Thinking Skills
Liberal arts students learn to analyze and evaluate information and use it to make informed judgments. They ask questions, gather insights, and apply newfound information to their existing knowledge base to make decisions and guide their actions and can articulate and justify their choices and opinions.
Analysis is a significant element of most liberal arts courses. From analyzing texts and works of art to comparing various theories, you’ll spend a lot of time digging deeper to gain a better understanding and reach new conclusions. Analytical skills are in demand in today’s ever-changing business environments, especially in fields that rely on data-driven decision-making.
A degree in liberal arts provides students with problem-solving skills thanks largely to their broad knowledge base. Liberal arts courses often require examining the same issue from multiple perspectives and working in groups to solve problems and reach conclusions through discussion and debate. These skills translate into workplaces, where solving problems often means incorporating different stakeholder perspectives and addressing multiple challenges.
Written and oral communication are the foundation of most liberal arts courses. Students must present their opinions and analysis and support their conclusions clearly and articulately, a vital skill in any workplace. The emphasis on discussion and debate also develops your skills in professionalism, empathy, listening, and asking meaningful questions, which also help you excel in your career.
Creative Thinking Skills
Liberal arts courses encourage students to develop their creativity. Creativity has applications far beyond the arts. Your ability to approach issues from a variety of perspectives, try different approaches, and assess new ideas can make you more attractive to employers who are leaders and innovators in their industries.
The ability to conduct research is one of the most critical skills for liberal arts degree seekers. Throughout your college career, you’ll spend time researching information to further your understanding of different concepts, and your skills in finding and synthesizing information will help you succeed in your career. Knowing how to find and evaluate information, organize it, and present it, will help you complete work assignments and impress your employer.
Project Management Skills
Time management, organization, communication, and the ability to complete projects are all critical skills in any work environment. Liberal arts graduates develop them throughout their education, as they typically juggle multiple priorities and projects over the course of their studies.
Emotional Intelligence Skills
An emphasis on debate, discussion, and analysis through many lenses gives liberal arts students a high degree of emotional intelligence. Not only do they have the ability to work in teams and cooperate with others, but they also build empathy and tolerance for different perspectives.
An undergraduate degree in any field is a good investment, as it increases your earning potential considerably compared to a high school diploma. Despite some claims to the contrary, liberal arts graduates have a wide range of career opportunities, thanks to the many transferable skills they develop during their academic careers. If you want to learn more about these programs and the in-demand skills for liberal arts degree holders, check out LiberalArtsEDU.org.