In defense of liberal arts majors

In defense of liberal arts majors

In defense of liberal arts majors
May 17
15:11 2018

Be an engineer, they said. Be a CEO. A chemist. An accountant.

Don’t, by all means, go to college and major in philosophy, history or English — aka the liberal arts.

A lot of people assume liberal arts majors won’t be able to find a job after graduation, and if they do, they won’t be making a lot of money. I’ve heard it all before.

We need to stop criticizing liberal arts majors.

I am an English major, which just so happens to fall into the humanities category of the liberal arts, and even includes social sciences and creative arts.

It’s exhausting to deal with people who don’t view English as a legitimate major even though I am studying a subject that I love.

According to a 2014 report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, at peak earnings ages, 56 to 60, workers who majored in the humanities or social sciences as undergraduates earn on average each year about $2,000 more than professional or pre-professional majors.

Recent college graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) majors may earn more than other degree holders, but according to the AACU, college graduates in all fields see their salaries increase significantly over time.

I have yet to meet a fellow classmate, in journalism classes or English, who is going to college for a liberal arts degree for the money, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be working at McDonald’s.

Students pursue liberal arts degrees to study subjects we are passionate about. I’ve taken classes on how to write short stories and digital rhetoric, and while what I learn in those classes may not directly apply to the professional world, the liberal arts are teaching me valuable skills.

Those skills are called “soft skills,” meaning they cannot be easily replicated by a machine. For example, leadership, teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills are skills I am using in the classroom and will translate directly to the workforce.

Employers are looking for those skills. A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found around 80 percent of employers seek leadership on a resume and about 79 percent seek the ability to work in a team.

In my English classes we debate social issues, work in teams and practice effective written and verbal communication all while studying ancient rhetoric.

There’s also value in the broad knowledge liberal arts students receive. For example, I took a class called “introduction to literary studies,” and I walked away from the class knowing more information than ever about Chicano studies and the environment.

That broad knowledge shows liberal arts majors care about more than just the subject they are studying, they care about people and issues.

So, please, the days of shaming college students for their choice of major are over.

College is for all types of students, no matter what major you choose. If art is your thing, go for it. If sociology, psychology or geography is, that’s OK.

We’re not in it for the money, and we’ll be just fine. There are jobs out there, and no, not at your local fast food joint.

Featured illustration by Austin Banzon

About Author

Kelly Fox

Kelly Fox

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