What does “liberal arts” mean?
The liberal arts typically encompasses general areas of study like philosophy, literature, communication, art, history, language, and other related fields. These studies provide a well-rounded education and skills including critical thinking, effective communication, a capacity for lifelong learning, and more.
So what is problematic about the liberal arts, then?
“Your major seems easy,” “Your degree is impractical,” “There’s no money or employment opportunity in that field,” “What do you plan on doing after college anyway?” These phrases are examples of the stigma surrounding the liberal arts. The stigma is the problem. Unfortunately, liberal arts students may feel ashamed, misunderstood, or the need to defend their majors because of this.
Liberal arts myths debunked:
Richard Detweiler, the President of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and founder of the Global Liberal Arts Alliance, collected data that debunked some myths regarding the stigma surrounding the liberal arts. He found that the salary disadvantage for liberal arts graduates only lasts for the first few years after graduation. Over time, liberal arts majors have much larger salary increases. His studies also suggested that people from a liberal arts background tended to be more successful and fulfilled over the long term. Liberal arts graduates are more likely than their counterparts to be leaders, contributors, and more civically engaged.
With that being said, there are many employment opportunities after college for liberal arts majors. Many employers prefer to hire people with strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills which opens the door for a variety of professional opportunities. It’s because of this that many liberal arts majors find themselves in a diverse range of fields including management, marketing and communications, public service, medicine, and law. Additionally, the competencies graduates in this field developed in college are useful, and the liberal arts can be a path to lifetime success.
CEOs and the liberal arts?
What do the CEOs of YouTube, Chipotle, and Starbucks have in common? They all come from a liberal arts background. Therefore, a degree in this field isn’t as irrelevant as some people wrongly assume. Although the push for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) focused education and the defunding of state liberal arts programs may make it seem that way.
According to Donald Asher, the author of How to Get a Job With Any Major, skills gained from the liberal arts are among the most useful. However, a survey found that 44% of US executives believe Americans are lacking these skills including collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. Fortunately, liberal arts majors aren’t. If you’re a liberal arts major or interested in pursuing the field, don’t let this stigma get you down!