From the Colleges: The benefits of a liberal arts education

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By Jennifer Hollis
Admissions Counselor
Rutgers University–New Brunswick

Never has it been more difficult to predict what life will be like in 20 years, or what careers will be in demand in the future. Careers we haven’t even thought of yet will emerge, and old careers will be transformed.

You do not need a very specific education for a particular job that may or may not exist or be in demand in 10 or 20 years. You need instead an education that empowers you for success and allows you to design your own future in our rapidly changing society and economy.

Liberal arts education is typically broad-based and exposes students to science, mathematics, social sciences, and humanities. This broad knowledge of the wider world will prepare you to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. A liberal arts education will also help you develop a strong sense of social responsibility as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills, such as communication, analytical, and problem-solving abilities, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) did an online survey of employers and found that 93 percent of them agree that candidates’ demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major. Four out of five employers also agreed that all students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences. There are a lot of jobs that don’t require a specific college degree and allow for a broad range of degrees or simply require any college degree.

If you major in the humanities, you are not doomed to be unemployed for the rest of your life. The same report by the AAC&U shows that liberal arts majors are on average making more money by their mid-50s than those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and they are employed at similar rates. Employers consistently say they want to hire people who have a broad knowledge base and can work together to solve problems, debate, communicate, and think critically, all skills that liberal arts programs aggressively teach.

Data also shows that people change jobs and careers more often than they have in the past. With a liberal arts background you will be able to be flexible, adaptable, and well-equipped to handle career changes and shifts in the job market. Even in the current tech-dominated economy, employers prize liberal arts graduates because of their ability to provide creative solutions.

In 2010, Steve Jobs famously mused that for technology to be truly brilliant, it must be coupled with artistry. "It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough," he said. "It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing." Did you know that some of America’s most successful CEOs were humanities majors?

 

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