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Value of a Liberal Arts Education

A Tall Tale for the Liberal Arts

Surveying the recent flurry of mass media publications and newscasts about the value of higher education, one is quickly left with the idea that a liberal arts education is a bad investment.

Media reports give the impression that a liberal arts education is worthless and graduates are destined to be underemployed in minimum wage jobs.

At UMass Dartmouth College of Arts and Sciences, we’ve heard those stories, too. But what if we told you that such media reports are wrong?

What if we told you that CEOs from top-companies want to hire you? Well, they do!

Employment Trends at Fast Growing Companies Tell Another Story

The truth is that in Silicon Valley, Fortune 500 companies, and many fast growing smaller companies, there are more job openings for graduates with liberal arts degrees than for graduates with engineering or computer science degrees.

For example, in early August 2015 Facebook, the social-networking giant, had openings for 225 sales and business development specialists and only 146 positions for software developers.

While graduates with professional and pre-professional degrees often earn higher starting salaries on average, by mid-career liberal arts majors earn comparable salaries.1

A Vital, Transportable Foundation of Skills

What do John Stewart, Barack Obama, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, and Martha Stewart have in common? They all have liberal arts degrees (psychology, political science, English and history, respectively).

A liberal arts education teaches students to deal with complexity and diversity. It teaches critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and the ability to apply knowledge to the larger world in a flexible way.

These are all skills that make graduates agile, able to learn on the job, and adapt to new career demands—all skills that employers say they are looking for in new employees.

Stewart Butterfield, Slack Technologies’ cofounder and CEO, holds an undergraduate degree in philosophy, and he insists that the skills he learned helped him to build his $300 million company.

“Studying philosophy taught me two things,” said Butterfield. “I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings.”

Employers Want YOUR Skills

And Butterfield is not the only boss who recognizes the value of a liberal arts education. In a 2013 study, Hart Research Associates found that most company heads surveyed thought like him, too.

  • 93% of employers say that an employee’s ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve problems is more important than their undergraduate major.
  • 80% of employers say that every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.
  • Nine in ten employers want new hires to have sound ethical judgment, integrity, and intercultural skills
  • 3 out of 4 employers recommend a liberal arts and sciences education as the best way for success in today’s global economy.

A Life Filled with Passion

When you compare the energy and passion you put into tasks that really interest you with those that don’t, it’s easy to see why following your passion makes sense. Passion drives success!

Now that you know there are careers and opportunities for liberal arts majors, doesn’t it make sense to choose the major that interests you most?

You’re not wasting your life by studying English & Communication, Political Science, Women’s Studies, Economics, Philosophy Department, or any of the majors in the College of Arts & Sciences. You are creating a life filled with value, knowledge, passion, and opportunity.


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