Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
9 TED Talks Every College Grad Needs to Hear on Life, Money and Career SuccessGuest Contributor
Parents want to make sure their student’s college journey is a fruitful one. For most of us, that means hoping the investment we've made in our student's college career will result in a quality education and, eventually, a well-paying job.
Some fields of study lead to higher-paying careers than others. For example, a student with a computer science degree can make about $70k a year right out of school, while entry-level salaries for biologists are closer to $40,000 a year.
But choosing an academic major isn’t just about how much money your student might make.
It’s important for a student to be authentically interested in their major. If they’re disinterested in what they’re studying, they could end up doing poorly, dropping out of school, or not pursuing a job related to their major after graduation.
For many students, it’s genuine passion that drives them to choose a liberal arts college over a research university or to declare a liberal arts major.
Some parents worry that the liberal arts don’t appear to have a direct connection to the job market. How will studying philosophy, poetry, history or anthropology translate into employment?
The truth is that by studying liberal arts, your student can develop valuable skills which will have a powerful impact in their professional and personal lives including:
Plus, the job market for liberal arts majors is a lot healthier than some people might think. Over 95% of people with liberal arts degrees get a job right out of college. And their earning potential gets better over time — by their peak earning age of around 50 to 60 years old, they’re earning as much if not more than graduates with other kinds of degrees.
Not everyone is familiar with what a liberal arts degree entails. Let’s start by looking at what fields of study are encompassed in a liberal arts program, and the types of skill sets your student can gain from these fields.
Liberal arts is shorthand for liberal arts and sciences, which in modern higher education refers to a body of studies that include natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.
Some liberal arts majors include:
Any college degree is a valuable asset in the modern world — college graduates make 80% more than their peers without college educations. Liberal arts degrees provide some unique benefits that you may not be aware of.
The world is full of career options for students with liberal arts degrees. While some of these careers require grad school, a liberal arts degree could be the first step to any of these jobs:
The personal, interactive nature of liberal arts courses, with a heavy focus on sharing opinions and debating topics, have a major impact on students’ soft skills. These include critical thinking, leadership, communication and creative problem-solving.
At its core, the liberal arts are about teaching students how to think rather than what to think.
Studies show that employers place a big premium on these types of skills. In fact, 93% of employers say the ability to communicate clearly, think with a critical mindset, and find creative solutions to complex problems is more important than whatever specific knowledge a candidate may bring to the workplace.
In today’s job market, your student’s major may not matter as much as their soft skill set. With more and more jobs relying on high level soft skills that can’t be automated by computers, the value of a liberal arts education is only going to go up.
Some of the most successful people in America earned liberal arts degrees. Madeleine Albright studied political science. Toni Morrison studied English. Oprah has a B.A. in communications!
A liberal arts education is a broader education than other academic routes, something that employers value.
In a study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, employers responded overwhelmingly that their ideal job candidate has a “broad range of knowledge and skills.”
A broad education and the intellectual agility that comes with it can actually help, not hinder, your student’s chances of getting a job after college.
Additionally, this type of education offers more flexibility throughout your student’s life. It’s easier to shift to other careers, because your student isn’t confined to a limited field of knowledge.
This flexibility is a professional bonus in the ever-changing job market, and it’s got the personal benefit of helping your student always find fulfillment in their work.
A liberal arts degree doesn’t have to be the end of the academic road for your student. Your student’s professional goals may change over time, even just within the four years of their undergraduate career.
With a liberal arts degree, students can go on to graduate school to become a doctor, lawyer, professor, engineer, veterinarian and more.
Between the personal benefits of studying the arts and the professional advantages of obtaining a liberal arts degree, you can come to peace with your student’s decision.
Keep in mind that your student is likely to be unhappy, and consequently less successful, if you pressure them to pursue an academic program they aren’t truly interested in. They may end up with a mountain of student loan debt and a job they dislike — not the positive outcome we hope for!