The Benefits of a Liberal Arts Degree

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463246905reTOne misconception about liberal arts degrees is that they don’t translate into jobs after college. On one hand, it’s true that a liberal arts degree means you won’t know the exact profession you’ll look for or accept after graduation. On the other hand, having a more broad skill set is a huge advantage in many cases. In today’s job market especially, a liberal arts background can translate into many opportunities that one may have overlooked otherwise.

Without a specialized occupational degree like accounting or engineering, graduates are able to look into top hiring industries rather than wait for a position in the industry that pertains to their degree. Job seekers who are willing to be open-minded and have patience while navigating the job market without a set plan will likely be rewarded with a variety of opportunities and the ability to craft a long-term career in any number of fields.

The annual Emory Career Center survey of liberal arts majors found that “85 percent [of the graduating class] had definite plans in place before graduation.” The same study reports that employers appreciate liberal arts backgrounds for a variety of reasons; “They can think critically…They have a well-rounded background…They’re analytical, well-spoken,” says Justin Leemis of Triage Consulting group.

Employability of a liberal arts grad

A liberal arts degree may not guarantee every liberal arts job seeker employment right out of college, but it will continue to bolster your career trajectory in the long-run, often making you a more desirable candidate for promotions or other opportunities, thanks to certain traits that are cultivated within a liberal arts education, including strong communication skills, reading comprehension, cultural understanding, and analytical abilities. These traits are undeniably valuable for any career path. The ability to process and synthesize complex information – one of the key skill sets of most liberal arts majors – is something that can be difficult to come by in today’s market.

Finally, there’s more long-term good news for liberal arts backgrounds: “liberal arts graduates with an advanced or undergraduate degree are, on average, outearning their peers by their mid-50s when compared with those who studied in professional and preprofessional fields,” according to a study conducted by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

Marketing your liberal arts degree

For those with liberal arts degrees, the priority should be “how do I sell myself?” or “how can I underscore my best strengths?” – developing a strong way to market yourself will make all the difference. Setting a strategy in place that will emphasize the benefits of your degree should be a consideration for any job seeker, regardless of their background, but can certainly bolster a liberal arts degree. For further references on how to market your liberal arts degree, many universities offer tips and guidelines, such as Howard University or Oregon State University.

Finally, supplementing your skill sets with programs, certificates, or personal study is always a viable option. Education Portal writes, “according to a study conducted by Burning Glass, students who graduate with a liberal arts degree can increase their employability by combining the degree with knowledge and skills in a specific career field.” Serious job seekers should look to supplement their education with internships or other methods of learning in the areas of sales, marketing, design, business, IT networking, or another area that they are interested in.

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About Claire Topalian

Claire Topalian is a writer, non-profit Communications professional, and advocate for diversity in business. She currently leads Communications and the Startup Women initiative at UP Global, an international non-profit that builds startup communities through educational programs and events. You can follow her on Twitter @clairetopalian.

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