Recently, there’s been a great deal of debate about the value of a liberal arts degree. In 2018, the University of Wisconsin system made headlines with its bold plan to cut 13 major programs, including the liberal arts cornerstones of English, political science, and history in favor of focusing on programs that meet the needs of the modern workforce.
Ultimately, the university abandoned the plan in the face of public opposition, but the fact that it was even discussed had many asking whether liberal arts degrees are still relevant, and whether they prepare students for employment. With college costs rising, many students, and their parents, question the value of a liberal arts education in favor of one that focuses on the “hard skills” needed for a specific career.
Yet there is an increasing amount of evidence showing that liberal arts students thrive after graduation. Last year, a Georgetown University study revealed that a liberal arts degree equates to an average of $1 million in earnings over 40 years. And both students who have earned degrees in liberal arts from schools like The University of Arizona Global, and employers are typically pleased with the return on investment. This satisfaction comes down to a number of factors.
Reasons to Get a Liberal Arts Degree
Review job listings for nearly every employer, and you’ll find that most companies want to hire individuals who have an array of soft skills, including leadership, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and more. However, many employers also say that they prefer candidates who are well rounded, with a broad range of knowledge in both the specific field and across other disciplines. In fact, one survey revealed that more than half of employers equate this wide-ranging skill set with career success and the ability to progress in one’s career.
Bottom line? Despite some parents’ concerns that a liberal arts degree means a life serving coffee, the opposite is true.
Many students opt to study the liberal arts for the simple reason that they haven’t determined exactly what they want to do yet. They might have some vague ideas, but courses in the liberal arts allow them to explore new ideas and subjects that they may not have otherwise considered. Even if you think you know what you want to do, liberal arts might reveal a career path that you hadn’t already considered, or at the very least, spur an interest in a new hobby.
Skill Transfer Across Fields
Even if you opt to study a career-focused field, like business, engineering, or nursing, the skills you learn in liberal arts courses are still applicable. In fact, the transferability of the skills gained in liberal arts foundation courses, like writing, speaking, and critical thinking, can be used every day in other fields. For example, regardless of where you decide to work, you’re going to communicate with others, either via email or in person. Developing those skills in college through a variety of courses will help you stand out in your career.
Expands Your Worldview
For those who gravitate toward the STEM fields, liberal arts courses can sometimes be frustrating. While there are some facts that cannot be debated, often, there aren’t any “right” answers. Questions are discussed and debated, old ideas are challenged, and new ideas are formed. And while this can be challenging for those who prefer to deal in absolutes, taking liberal arts courses is a key aspect of expanding worldviews and understanding and developing new perspectives. These subjects expand the college experience beyond simply learning existing knowledge, and guides students toward developing new knowledge. It teaches people how to think, and evaluate the world, which is arguably the purpose of higher education in general.
They Can Be Enjoyable
Taking liberal arts classes can help students develop a love of learning simply for the sake of learning. Many of the courses offered in liberal arts programs are intriguing and simply fun. Even if a particular class doesn’t spark a lifelong interest or passion, taking something just because it seems interesting — for example, a studio art, music or film appreciation, or cultural studies course — can provide a change of pace and keep you engaged in your learning.
So while some pundits may continue to argue that liberal arts degrees are a waste of time, the truth is that they aren’t. The knowledge and skills gained from these programs are vital to career success and growth, and can open the doors to opportunities that you may never have even considered.