Engineering majors become engineers. Nursing majors become nurses.
What about sociology majors? Is there any room in the workforce for a liberal
Absolutely. And the career options for liberal arts grads are even
more diverse than the number of liberal arts majors.
Students and employers are realizing that a liberal arts degree offers
excellent preparation for moving on to a highly successful career, says Robert
Stainton. He is a professor of philosophy and linguistics.
Many students are choosing to study liberal arts to improve their skills
in logic, language and critical thinking. Later, some of those students may
move on to study more specialized subjects like business, law, medicine or
other areas, Stainton says.
Language and critical thinking skills are sought after in any field, say
"It is worth noting that the word 'liberal' comes from the Latin word for
'free', since a liberal education frees one to think broadly, openly and creatively
when attempting to solve problems," says Michael Coyne. He is the head of
a university arts division.
"There is a huge need for talented, well-rounded, educated individuals
to enter the job force," says Jody Queen-Hubert, executive director of Co-op
and Career Services at Pace University. "While most employers agree that communication
skills are their No. 1 priority, liberal arts students possess a strong foundation
for a long-term career."
There's a myth that employers focus on the majors that students studied.
In fact, most employers don't require a particular major for entry-level positions
unless the work is more specialized, says Tim Harding. He is the director
of career services at the University of Tampa.
Instead of a specific degree, many employers are more focused on skills
like spoken and written communication, the ability to work in a team, leadership,
analytical thinking, and problem solving, Harding says.
Liberal arts students have the opportunity to gain knowledge of those important
job skills. In other words, it's more the skills you can learn from a liberal
arts degree than the degree itself.
"I have not seen an increase in employers seeking liberal arts grads. What
I have seen is employers fighting for top talent, whatever the student's academic
background," says Sheila J. Curran. She is executive director of the Duke
University Career Center and co-author of the book Smart Moves for Liberal
Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career.
How to Maximize Employment
While hundreds of career paths are open to liberal arts students, Queen-Hubert
says, these grads may need to do more in-depth career exploration and research
before arriving at their career.
"You cannot open the newspaper or go on the Internet and find a job for
a liberal artist," Queen-Hubert says.
"Students need to spend time with a career advisor who can help guide them
through the process of evaluating their transferable skills, their interests
and what they are good at. Students also need to learn about different industries
and what types of jobs and career paths they offer."
Students can explore entry-level jobs in various industries to get an idea
of specific job titles and functions available for liberal arts grads.
Another key to maximizing your employment potential is to gain a variety
of experiences before graduation, outside of the classroom.
How can you do this? Some options include traveling and studying abroad,
doing research with a faculty member, volunteering, and seeking out leadership
"Internships, co-op education, field work, summer and part-time jobs are
all essential in helping students explore their career interests, gain skills
and build a resume," Queen-Hubert says.
"Students need to take advantage of all the opportunities and resources
available to them, while they are in school -- before they enter the real
'Hottest' Job Examples
"One of the advantages of majoring in liberal arts subjects is that it
prepares you for just about any career," Curran says.
Stainton says there's a trend for universities to accept medical students
who have a liberal arts background and who may not a hold a degree in science,
biology and other traditional areas of study for pre-med students. "They find
these liberal arts students later become excellent physicians," he says.
"Employers like liberal arts grads from good schools because they know
these students possess skills that are critical to their business," says Curran.
"For one thing, they know how to think. If these students come across a
problem for which there is no precedent, they'll be able to identify and pursue
different options. They know how to work with and make sense of mountains
of data, and they know how to communicate."
Katherine Brooks is the director of the Liberal Arts Career Services Center
at the University of Texas at Austin. She's noticed that about 60 percent
of liberal arts majors she sees go into the business world. They are often
found in executive and high-level management positions, she says.
"As a general rule, liberal arts students are curious: they like to learn,"
"They are able to understand a variety of subjects from science to history
to language and cultures. They are flexible, comfortable working in teams,
and will learn for the sake of learning. As a result, they respond well to
good training and supervision and they often go the extra mile to learn more
about their jobs."
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