In Defense of Liberal ArtsFebruary 5, 2009
Yesterday I read a post from a fellow Brazen blogger complaining that she felt her liberal arts degree was useless. What did it prepare her for? She felt she had nothing to offer companies compared to her college-of-business classmates.
I beg to differ. Choosing liberal arts was the best decision I ever made. Yes, lots of engineers and business students look down on me and think they’re more prepared for life than this little political science student.
But, at the risk of offending all of them, I can confidently say: I’d never, ever trade my liberal arts education for business or engineering or anything supposedly more career-oriented or more lucrative. And here’s why.
1. Liberal arts teaches you to think critically. This is a skill that many of my engineering friends scoff at as a “soft” skill. It’s underrated, but a skill that’s highly valued in business. Our courses were filled with heavy analysis and forced in-class discussions. We pulled all-nighters writing analytical and persuasive papers while my business friends were at the bar, thanking their lucky stars all they had was multiple choice tests.
But at the end of the day, we learned how to analyze and examine problems from every angle. We learned how to think outside the box, try new things, take risks, defend our opinions logically, and creatively problem-solve.
Math problem sets won’t teach you that.
2. Liberal arts teaches you to be a better communicator. Writing, reading, analyzing, discussing, debating, public speaking — all are components of any good liberal arts education. And really, few things are more important to a successful career than being able to communicate with people and write well – skills which recruiters are looking for more and more.
Liberal arts majors can also carry on a conversation about almost anything thanks to our extremely well-rounded curriculum. As one commenter on the original post said…. “I also find people with liberal arts majors more fun and interesting to be around – they tend to be curious and open-minded.” We like learning about the world – and discussing it with people. This is extremely useful when you realize how important social skills are to any successful career.
Engineers…not always known for their social skills.
3. Liberal arts majors are passionate about what they do. And thus, they make better workers. We chose our majors for no other reason than because we love learning about that subject — I knew I loved politics since I was a toddler (I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not). And we’ll try our hardest to seek out jobs that we are just as passionate about, too.
I know far, far too many business students who aren’t passionate about anything they’re learning at all — many have admitted to me that they just picked business because it seemed like an easy ticket to a cushy, high-paying job.
Would you rather have an employee who just wants a nice salary, or an employee who’s genuinely passionate about doing a good job, and wants to make a difference?
Once upon a time I used worry that my liberal arts degree put me at a disadvantage compared to professional-track majors like accounting, business, and engineering. I may have more uncertainty than a nuclear engineering student about what kind of job to pursue with my degree – but that’s not for lack of options. It’s because liberal arts degrees give you, if anything, more options. Instead of limiting yourself to one career track, you can do almost anything. The skills and knowledge that a liberal arts degree arm you with will take you far – as long as you take advantage of them, and know how to market your degree.
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