Top 10 Future-Proof Liberal Arts Careers

giving your first impression at job interview
As much as you have been hearing about the rise of the all-powerful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degree in recent years, there may actually be more demand than ever for liberal arts degrees. Remember that fast-paced change we were talking about way back in that last paragraph? Good, you’re a careful reader—probably because of that crucial liberal arts education you’ve soaked up. But it’s never too late to adjust your career path to fit the fast pace of technological and sociological evolution.

A LinkedIn study found that tech companies have been hiring liberal arts graduates at an even faster pace than computer science and engineering graduates.

It’s not just your reading comprehension skills that are a big deal in this century. It turns out there are a lot of advantages that come with a liberal arts education in the modern era. Your brain has been tuned to handle change and turn on a dime to cope with the latest technologies and trends. Your knowledge of history gives you plenty of comparisons and alternatives for handling situations that those poor STEM grads think have simply never happened before.

That’s why you are poised to lead companies and cultures into the future. And you can do it in any one of these liberal arts careers and the liberal arts degrees that lead you to them.

1. Project Manager - Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts

All those tech bros don’t just get on the same page and crank out code for the latest FaceTokGram app. Someone with actual organizational skills, who actually relates to human beings, who understands market trends and can decipher a user experience survey is required to pull a team together and make that tech gold.

A bachelor of liberal arts degrees is the perfect preparation for making all the right connections and communicating with different teams. Intersectional, multidisciplinary studies offer you a little bit of knowledge in a lot of different areas. That gives you the kind of breadth of perspective needed to translate for all those highly-focused specialists who have never been out of their own basement, let along outside their areas of expertise.

2. Social Worker - Master’s in Social Work (MSW)

New OrleansHuman empathy and compassion never go out of style. But they are going to be more important in the future than ever. Technological process is making entirely industries obsolete and putting thousands of workers out of jobs. The deepening climate crisis is crushing homes, jobs, and sometimes entire cities (so long, New Orleans!)

So social workers are going to have their hands full helping the homeless, the jobless, and the dispossessed. And the only way to become a social worker is through a liberal studies degree in social work.

3. Artist - Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

The technology revolution will be illustrated. But it’s not going to be done by engineering graduates. Consumers want their apps to be pretty and color coordinated and that means jobs for artists will be common throughout the 21st Century. Everything from the rotating Google doodle to online game character and level assets flow from the kind of education that comes with an master of fine arts degree.

4. Designer - Bachelor’s or higher in Graphic Design

Jony Ive
Jony Ive turned Apple products into the icons they have become today. His degree was in industrial design. – Photo by Marcus Dawes, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

User experience is becoming a more prominent competitive consideration. Consistency, attention to detail, and clever interface and material design can make all the difference in modern products. Designers have a big role to play in everything from the website layout to how the curve of a mouse fits in your hand. Some designers, like the legendary Jony Ive at Apple who created the iconic iPhone, have already changed the shape of the century.

5. Librarian/Curator - Bachelor’s in Library/Information Science

You might have thought librarians went away when most of the knowledge and information in the world got digitized and served up through Google. But having the world’s knowledge at your fingertips turned out to mostly mean sifting through a lot of spam and copycat websites looking for the real answers. Curation requires well-trained liberal arts majors in the same fields that have been organizing libraries and helping find data on paper for hundreds of years. They’ll keep doing it for hundreds years more.

6. Schema Developer - Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics

Google and other knowledge companies are also hungry for graduates who can help them organize the information they have collected. Computers have a tough time parsing unstructured data. Natural language processing, database design, and big data storage all need skilled liberal arts graduates who understand how to collate, categorize, and train the algorithms that those processes rely on. The schemas that train Alexa and Siri to understand the difference between scheduling a golf tee time and ordering more oolong tea come from liberal arts grads with expertise in linguistics.

7. User Experience Researcher - PhD in Anthropology

When the only people using computers and the internet were hardcore technology geeks, then how they interacted with programs didn’t really matter much. Your average neckbeard doesn’t even blink at entering commands like “sudo find ~/ -name ‘old_homework*’ -exec rm {} \;” to get rid of a few old homework files. Point and click? Forget about it.

But for normal people, the metaphors used for interacting with apps and websites have to make sense, and they have to work as expected. Enter anthropology experts, who observe users attempting to perform tasks and then keep the coders up to speed on how they expect those apps to behave.

8. Principles and Ethics Associate - Bachelor’s or higher in Philosophy

Big tech companies and regulators aren’t blind to the possible abuses of technology. The more complex the system, the harder it is to evaluate the results. And as AI becomes more powerful and more prominent, it’s becoming harder than ever to assign any kind of responsibility. When a self-driving car runs over a pedestrian, who is responsible? The owner? The manufacturer? The quality assurance team who checked the performance or the coder who didn’t put in a line of code to prevent the accident?

These are thorny problems that technologists aren’t equipped to answer. Courts and the public will, and that’s why big companies are hiring ethics experts with philosophy degrees to help figure out the hard questions before they are asked.

9. Technical Writers - Bachelor’s in English

The most amazing piece of technology introduced in the 21st century will be a worthless brick of metal and wiring unless someone has taken the time to concisely and accurately describe how to use it. There are legions of new graduates with English degrees who are going to spend their entire careers through retirement inking product manuals, dialog box pop-ups, and website help files to make sure that regular people have the information they need to use all this expensive tech.

10. Sales - Bachelor’s in Marketing or Communication

No, all the important business still happens between individuals. So sales reps with all those liberal arts soft skills aren’t going out of style anytime soon. A degree in marketing works just as well for selling electric cars as putting together a new supplier deal for computer chips. The more new products there are, the more demand there will be for salespeople in the 21st century.