The Forum | Liberal Arts

Study the Liberal Arts: You Can Get a Job!

September 16, 2015

A liberal education frees the mind—it nourishes the soul and ennobles the heart. The humanities sharpen the wit. Oftentimes, policymakers dismiss these benefits for the harder currency of STEM. And yet a foundation in the liberal arts ensures not only lifelong spirit, bravery, and poise but also a promise for critical thinking and communication and the excellent preparation needed to navigate the current job market.

Generally applicable skills are vital to success in the workforce. Americans are no longer working thirty years for a company—the average term of employment now lasts 4.6 years. Strikingly, workers between 25 and 34 work for only three years with an employer. And when they move, they don’t just get slightly better-paying jobs doing the same thing—60% of employed job seekers are looking to change fields, so specialization of a previous job does not carry over. Furthermore, 47% of college graduates find their first job in a field unrelated to their degree, and 32% never end up working in their field of study. Preparation to work in a specific field, as most professional degrees do, equips students for just one path. The job market is an uncertain place, and the flexibility of the liberal arts is more useful than professional training.

Hiring managers do not seek entry-level job candidates with institutional knowledge. In fact, 93% of employers agree that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major,” according to a survey by the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Furthermore, over 90% of employers agree that “it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continued new learning.” These traits are developed by a liberal arts education. Moreover, it should come as no surprise that more Fortune 500 CEOs have liberal arts degrees than professional degrees.

STEM training is no more an outlined career than the liberal arts in the present market. The liberal arts, however, empower graduates with critical thinking and communication skills necessary to outstrip others in the workforce.

Every summer, ACTA is privileged to have several interns conduct research for the What Will They Learn?™ project. This is the second in a series of guest blogs written by our interns, who chose topics relevant to higher education. Ivan is a senior at Ashland University. He is a double major in political science and history and a minor in mathematics. He plans to attend law school after graduation.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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