As you finish high school, complete a GED, or return to academia as a non-traditional student, you might be wondering whether a liberal arts degree is the best path forward for you compared to other options, such as science degrees, trade school diplomas, or other more specialized programs of instruction.
To appreciate the worth of a liberal arts degree, it is essential to define the term liberal arts in context. As you learn more about the defining features of liberal arts programs, imagine what you could do with a liberal arts degree.
Defining Liberal Arts
Historically, “liberal arts” referred not to the political distinction between liberal and conservative but between free citizens and servants in medieval Europe. Liberal arts, such as speaking, grammar, and logic, were essential for citizens to engage freely in politics. They contrast with the mechanical arts, which were trades such as agriculture and construction.
In today’s educational system, liberal arts typically refers to subjects such as art, economics, history, and cultural studies. Many liberal arts degree programs require students to study science, mathematics, and a foreign language, although the specific requirements vary from school to school.
The modern world places a greater emphasis on the liberal arts than any previous time in history. People from all walks of life share their views on blogs, video channels, and social media. The ability to frame an argument, persuade others, and think critically about information from various sources is vital to the preservation of a free society.
Even if you are not personally politically active or interested in art, a liberal arts degree confers many skills that employers look for, including:
- Computer literacy
- Cogent writing
- Logical thinking
- Attention to detail
- Study skills
- Cultural competence
- Time management
If you have not yet decided on a specific career path or want an education that leaves open the possibility of career shifts later in life, a liberal arts degree offers you the flexibility to pursue a breadth of interests. Students can choose a major in interdisciplinary studies or major in a specific field.
Keys for Success with a Liberal Arts Degree
As you evaluate liberal arts degree programs and prepare to start progress toward a liberal arts degree, you can use the following strategies to tailor your liberal arts degree to your personal and professional goals. Maximize your potential and get the greatest return on investment from your degree.
Learning Transferable Skills
When you read about the courses that a particular liberal arts degree program offers and register for classes, ask yourself, “How will I be able to use these skills in the workplace or in my personal life?” Your liberal arts coursework offers a chance to learn skills in a safe, constructive environment so you do not have to scramble to pick them up while starting a new job. Liberal arts degrees allow you to take a variety of elective coursework rather than focusing narrowly on a specific field or area of study.
Do you want to get to know your ancestors’ culture or the history of your local area? Look for history courses on the topic. Do many people in your community speak a language you do not speak? Overcome that language barrier and fulfill your language requirement at the same time.
You can learn how to use computer software to organize information and create engaging multimedia presentations. Or, if money management has been a challenge for you, take a class in economics, personal finance, or accounting.
By the time you have your liberal arts degree in hand, you will have skills that relate to your career interests and your personal life, making it more likely that you will qualify for a meaningful job that interests you.
Developing Critical Thinking Abilities
Many of your courses will require you to write papers or presentations, often backing up your conclusions or point of view on a topic. Liberal arts students learn to articulate their ethics and values clearly while understanding other perspectives.
The ability to gather evidence, check facts, and present evidence for and against logical conclusions is central to a liberal arts degree. They are equally important for being an informed citizen who can distinguish unsubstantiated claims and hype from reasoned conclusions.
Problem-Solving Strategies for the Real World
For many undergraduates, college life is their first experience balancing a budget, planning projects, setting career goals, and recovering from life setbacks. The knowledge and global awareness gained from a liberal arts degree prepares new graduates for entrepreneurship and leadership positions.
If you have not worked independently before starting college (such as an internship or summer job), a liberal arts degree program gives you a chance to collaborate with others on tasks, meet deadlines, and develop plans in a classroom environment that encourages innovation. Even if you have years of work experience and are a self-starter, liberal arts courses can give you the opportunity to hone your creativity, adaptability, study skills, and problem-solving strategies.
Honing Essential Communication and Collaboration Skills
One of the most essential skills in business and in most employment contexts is the ability to communicate effectively with others in person, in writing, and through video conferencing. An interviewer might be willing to hire a less-experienced candidate with better communication skills because they can learn from their supervisors and colleagues more easily.
The growing trend toward remote working and hybrid working environments places a premium on employees who can collaborate smoothly and constructively with managers and colleagues. A liberal arts degree develops the traditional skills of rhetoric and business communication together with modern media technologies.
Attain Career Readiness with a Liberal Arts Degree
LiberalArtsEDU.org is a leading source for information and guidance for prospective students considering liberal arts degree programs. Use our site to search degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, education, and scientific fields.
To learn more about the liberal arts programs you might be eligible for, search our site and read our list of frequently asked questions. If you have questions or concerns about our site or the colleges that we profile, send us a message using our online form.