Is a liberal arts degree worth it?
What is a liberal arts degree good for?
What kind of jobs can I get with a liberal arts degree?
Can I be successful with a liberal arts degree?
Should I get a liberal arts degree?
If you are contemplating an education in the liberal arts, these are some of the crucial questions coursing through your mind, and rightfully so. Arts degrees have never garnered much respect in any part of the world, especially in the 21st century when technology has taken the front seat.
There might be other factors causing hesitation as well. Maybe your parents aren’t convinced, and maybe you aren’t either. Taking on the financial burden of pursuing this degree at an international institution without being certain of the outcome is daunting, indeed.
But, are fear and indecision reasons enough to write off this degree so quickly? Shouldn’t you know of its full potential before you make a decision?
We’ll make it easier for you to discover all there is to know about a liberal arts degree. We’ll tackle questions most people are confused with, and we’ll delve into the pros and cons of this kind of education. Lastly, you’ll have to answer some questions for yourself to arrive at a final decision.
Don’t let the term “liberal arts” fool you into making a fallacious assumption. Arts is a broad category in itself, and the liberal arts encompasses more than arts alone. It is an umbrella term for multifarious disciplines. The scope of a liberal arts degree is vaster than you imagine.
There are four main branches of the liberal arts. Each branch offers numerous fields of study. Here’s how they can be categorized:
- Humanities (e.g., literature, history, philosophy [/how-to-pick-the-right-philosophy-college-in-the-us-cheatsheet-for-international-students/]) – Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Arts (e.g., theatre, painting, music) – Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
- Social sciences (e.g., economics, psychology, sociology) – Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Natural sciences (e.g., chemistry, physics, mathematics) – Bachelor of Science (BS)
Of course, which majors are offered under a certain branch of the liberal arts is up to different each institution. So, choosing the right college is the first step in your path to a quality liberal arts education.
The course, curriculum, and teaching style of liberal arts colleges are distinct from other vocational degrees you might encounter. Flexibility is the key. This means you have the freedom to build your own course load to meet your interests.
- A mix of required and elective courses are offered. You earn a degree in a specific subject area, such as History, but you have the power to combine other courses, say Anthropology and Sociology, to build the knowledge base you desire.
- This obviously leads to an interdisciplinary style of learning. Students learn to switch between research, thought, and craft, and make connections between different subject areas to understand how diverse topics fit together.
- Instead of honing in on one craft, students have a vastly varied workload. This includes reading, writing, thinking, and discussing. They develop transferable skills that are useful in any field of work.
- Liberal arts colleges are typically smaller than traditional universities. This means the class sizes are also reduced. Consequently, students get a more personal experience with their professors and fellow students. They are expected to share opinions and participate in the teaching process.
Although the curriculum is mostly theoretical, there is room for some hands-on learning, particularly in the arts category. After a debate or seminar, students can look forward to a rejuvenating painting or theatre class. The list of cool and fun activities doesn’t end.
- Student-teacher interactions are of prime importance. There is an abundance of mentorships, project collaborations, workshops, and so on. Students get the opportunity to work closely with experts in their chosen field.
Now that you’ve had a taste of what student life will look like as a liberal arts student, it’s time to address the main concern—what advantages will a liberal arts degree generate for you?
1. Soft Skills
Skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, storytelling, and teamwork are transferable across all disciplines. For instance, knowing how to effectively work in a team is going to prove useful whether you run a business or join the police force.
Moreover, unlike technical skills, soft skills resist automation. Your job can never be replaced by machines.
2. A Solid Foundation for Graduate Studies
Making a career shift is simple for liberal arts graduates. Should you decide to pursue a more technical field, there are multiple choices available to you.
Degrees like information technology, nursing, cybersecurity, and data analytics don’t require you to have a related bachelor’s degree. You are not limited to non-STEM fields forever. The world is yours to explore.
3. Preparation for Jobs Not Yet Created
Due to the adaptability that a liberal arts degree gives you, a changing job world is not a threat to you. In fact, thanks to your soft skills, you are at an advantage.
As artificial intelligence advances, there will be more need to add the human touch to technology. Your judgment and analytical skills, along with your creative approach, will be more in demand than ever.
Due to these classic liberal art skills, you will be able to adapt faster than others. This degree doesn’t just prepare you for your first job, but for a job 30 years down the line that doesn’t exist today.
4. Appeal to Potential Employers
Companies have started spotting a lack in their employees’ soft skills nowadays. Engineers who can’t work with a team, and CEOs who can’t adapt to sudden changes in the industry are deemed incapable despite their advanced degrees and skills.
A person can be trained in technical skills, but learning soft skills is more nuanced and subtle. That’s a ball that liberal arts graduates already have in their court. Employers know the value of your soft skills, and these skills make you an asset in a huge range of fields.
5. Freedom to Choose a Career
You can literally become anything you want. With a law degree, you can only become a lawyer, but with an English degree, you can become anything from an author to a politician. You might need additional training, but your freedom won’t be inhibited. A liberal arts degree will always help you fly, never tie you down.
6. Evergreen Value
Sure, an IT or MBA degree is all the rage today, but who’s to say that’ll be the case 10 years down the line when technology has advanced and the global economy has changed?
Concrete business skills and trendy, job-specific majors often have a short shelf-life. Your outdated STEM education becomes irrelevant as the situation changes. On the other hand, a liberal arts education can stand the test of time. Skills like out-of-the-box thinking and leadership never expire.
7. Satisfaction and Fulfillment
The most important factor in your career, and life in general, is happiness. Studying liberal arts is a joy in itself. Why should you spend all your time learning formulas when you can read Virginia Woolf under the shade of a tree?
The personal fulfillment you get from this degree is unparalleled. You are more likely to follow your heart and choose a career that gives you purpose. When you enjoy the work you do, job satisfaction is also guaranteed.
Before you get too excited, you should know that it’s not all a bed of roses. Much like any other degree, a liberal arts degree also has its drawbacks. It’s necessary that you’re fully aware of what you’re in for, before you decide anything.
1. Fighting the Stigma
You have heard so many times that liberal arts graduates are doomed to failure, and you’re afraid it might be true. So, is it true or not?
The answer is subjective. This statement is true for those who believe it, but those who believe in themselves can prove this statement false, as many have in the past.
2. Navigating the World with Uncertainty
The fight is not with the world, but with yourself. Your parents, friends, and society at large will try to hammer this statement deep into your psyche. If you let it invade your mind, failure is indeed promised. That’s because you’ll give up when the going gets tough, not because of your major.
Liberal arts is not an instantaneous career-ready degree. Because you have endless career options available to explore, the prospect of work can become confusing and overwhelming. It’s called the fatigue of choice.
But, uncertainty stems from a lack of self-knowledge. Liberal arts degrees, when pursued aimlessly, will not bear fruitful results. You need to do intense career planning to overcome this uncertainty.
3. Fewer Technical Skills
No, you won’t know how to code or how to do surgeries, but you will know how to think and learn. With that primary knowledge, it’s easy for you to turn this drawback into an advantage.
A graphic designer with a background in visual arts and painting is going to have more to offer than one without that additional benefit. You can do a small technical course, or learn through internships if you are applying for jobs requiring a specific skillset. With adequate personal branding, selling your skills won’t be too challenging.
4. Intense Competition
A major reason why liberal arts degrees are not favored is because of the high number of graduates compared to the low number of available jobs. With more experienced and skilled candidates present, a fresh college graduate is bound to have a hard time securing a job. But, that’s only if they think conventionally.
If you enter an oversaturated field, say journalism, with nothing unique to offer but a mass communication degree, you’re bound to be washed away. So, this is where your creativity counts. You can explore a less-chartered territory like content creation, or create a profession of your own. A liberal arts degree can also be the ideal launchpad for a budding entrepreneur, where those soft skills you’ve developed can be a huge advantage.
5. Earning Tons of Cash
It’s fair to say you won’t be raking up a six-figure salary fresh out of college. There won’t be many companies waiting in line to recruit you either, so money won’t come as easily.
But, that’s not to say you won’t earn enough to sustain yourself. As you accrue more experience and industry knowledge, your income is also likely to increase. Eventually, your return on investment will be high. But, it’s a slow and steady process.
If you want a huge paycheck right off the bat, this might not be the path for you. Patience is the virtue a liberal arts graduate requires.
Now for the final push to help you reach a decision:
- Do you value passion and personal satisfaction more than anything?
- Are you okay with uncertainty even if it scares you?
- Is it fine if money and wealth are not guaranteed?
- Do you have the patience and perseverance it takes?
If you answered “yes” to all four questions, you should start planning your liberal arts degree. You’ve got a fulfilling career ahead of you.
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