In a recent US News & World Report article, “The Risky English Major? Not So Fast,” author Dan Glaser lays out some facts about liberal arts degrees and their success in the workplace.
He begins by warning students to learn the facts about the economy and to not make a life-shaping decision based on misplaced fears and incorrect economic assumptions.
“Fear arises because we live in an age of risk, uncertainty and relatively high levels of unemployment and underemployment,” he writes.
“Parents are afraid that their children’s futures are not assured…Additionally, the liberal arts education has been under attack across the social and political spectrum. Society is asking: What is Jenny going to do with an English or history degree? She may not be able to get a job. Shouldn’t she study computer science? Or engineering? I have nothing against computer science or engineering degrees, but I am troubled by the increasing societal pressure on teenagers that pushes them toward what amounts to specialized training before they have had enough exposure to discover what they really love.”
Glaser then details about the economic impact of a liberal arts degree.
“I mention false economics because graduating with a technical degree usually means a higher-paying job at graduation, but for how long? Income levels for many technical positions tap out very quickly…Inventions and innovations in technology will render some of today’s technical skills obsolete before long. Additionally, a recent study from the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems showed that at peak earning ages, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in humanities or social sciences earn more than those with professional or pre-professional degrees.”
He then summarizes the immense value of a liberal arts degree and explains why a liberal arts degree is a great foundation for aspiring leaders.
“[W]hen it comes to preparing them for the ‘brain economy,’ a great liberal arts education is unparalleled. Students learn to reflect, synthesize and form opinions. They become questioners, challengers and seekers. They are given an opportunity to experiment, innovate, create and collaborate. It’s great preparation for business and life.
The liberal arts are a great foundation for aspiring leaders. All sorts of qualities that are requisite for leadership success, including critical thinking, emotional intelligence and communication skills, can be linked to liberal arts subjects…And I’m certain the skills I learned through liberal arts pursuits helped fuel my own career trajectory. Not only do I continue to draw on those skills in my day-to-day work, but I see other colleagues effectively linking the humanities to an array of thorny business issues.”
He concludes by emphasizing the importance of critical thinking skills, which come through studying the liberal arts.
“In today’s uncertain world, one of the few certainties is the importance of critical thinking. Interdisciplinary and lateral thinking are vital skills. It’s not specialist degrees versus liberal arts degrees: We need both. Liberal arts teach students how to think, and this is the primary skill needed in all disciplines, especially rapidly advancing technical fields.”