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College and beyond
What Can You Do With a Liberal Arts Degree?
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Stephanie Nieves
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A liberal arts education integrates multiple disciplines, critical thinking strategies and effective communication skills to prepare students for success in any professional path they choose. This humanities-based approach gives undergraduates the opportunity to explore their passions and acquire a vast array of skills that can be applied to various fields and job positions. 

Whether you're pursuing a liberal arts education or already have, we're going to provide insight on the fields you can enter, opportunities for continued education and skills you can acquire from obtaining this degree. 

What jobs can you get with a liberal arts degree?

A common misconception of pursuing a liberal arts education is that it's difficult to find a job with that kind of degree. The truth is, it's difficult for many recent graduates to get a job regardless of the kind of degree they earn. Here are some career paths your liberal arts degree can help prepare you for:

Education

Some education organizations require at least a bachelor's degree, but do not require a teaching certification to begin. Others even pay for your master's in education as you teach full time. If you want to work in the classroom, you can be an associate teacher, a lead teacher, a teaching aide or an electives instructor. You can also land a school-based job on an operational team or you can consider working for the network, if recruiting, human resources or curriculum building is more of your thing.

Marketing and sales

A liberal arts education equips you with the people skills necessary to succeed in customer-facing roles. With its stress on cultural awareness and social action, a liberal arts student can depend on their education to make them successful ambassadors of the company they work for. Sales positions vary and include everything from travel agent, to real estate broker to retail associate. Some companies also offer account executive or customer service associate positions paired with extensive job training and mentorship for entry-level applicants. Positions such as these can lead to leadership or managerial promotions in the future. 

Editorial

Writing is one of the most flexible professions because it's universal across multiple disciplines. Many liberal arts programs are writing-intensive since they stress effective communication, argumentation and inquiry. Therefore, you'd be in an excellent position to complete editorial tasks such as writing, editing and content managing. Editorial roles range anywhere from curriculum writing, to copyediting, to staff writing meaning you can choose to work for a school network, a publication or a website among many other places. Most jobs in the editorial field are also data-driven which the scientific stroke of a liberal arts degree could prepare you for. 

The Arts

Liberal arts programs often incorporate artistic expression in their curriculum. This includes — but is not limited to — theater, dance, music, painting and architecture. With a liberal arts degree, you have the potential to land you a position in a museum, as a graphic designer or in the cast of a play to name a few examples. In general, the arts are both expressive and receptive in varying degrees. They are also heavily informed by rhetorical situations which make up the context and exigence of a given work of art. By crossing the creative arts with specialized disciplinary courses, liberal arts students can be valuable resources for their team and their audiences. 

Entrepreneurship

These days, you can build your own brand and make your own money with just a click of a button, but that doesn't mean that maintaining it will be as easy. Entrepreneurship involves consistent research — you need to appeal to what your audience wants, know what they need and deliver, deliver, deliver.  You also need to ask yourself, "How does my brand differ from others that already exist?" and set goals that meet and exceed your consumers' expectations. A liberal arts education develops you into an ethically-oriented marketer, boosting your credibility which is important to an audience who wants to know you have their best interests in mind. It also allows you to practice these business skills before you're forced to depend on them in the real world.

What skills can you gain from a liberal arts education?

There are countless benefits to earning a liberal arts degree based on your exposure to multiple fields, ways of thinking and connections. To spare you the Santa-list-long answer, we've compiled the most valuable five:

Articulate questioning

You'll know how to ask the right questions at the right time in the right manner. While there's no such thing as a "stupid question," incisive inquiry is always better.

Constructive response

Response — as opposed to reaction — involves listening before speaking. Your effective communication skills will encourage conversation from all members. 

Effective argumentation

Contrary to its negative connotation, argumentation simply means establishing a point of view based on evidence and appeal. Practice with persuasion can help you build your ethos and heighten your influence.

Adaptability

Flexible thinking and adaptability can be extremely valuable for start-up companies and professions that ask you to wear multiple hats at once. 

Critical analysis

In the age of clickbait sources and information overload, the ability to discern between fact and opinion, identify patterns and draw connections between ideas is extremely important.

What other routes can you take with a liberal arts degree?

In addition to preparing you for the vast world of work, a liberal arts degree can also be a great starting point for pursuing higher education. You can apply to:

Graduate school

Your liberal arts toolbox comes with the writing, marketing and professional skills you'll need to qualify your candidacy for graduate school.  Upon enrollment, you'll begin to specialize in a particular field and lucky for you, a liberal arts degree also offers a wide range of skills for you to lean on. Some psychology programs, for example, are going to require statistics and advanced mathematics. As a liberal arts undergrad, you may already have experience in experiential inquiry and quantitative reasoning, both of which will help those types of math requirements. Programs in the architecture field might require the completion of studio- or media-based courses prior to entrance — that's where the artistic learning goal from a liberal arts degree comes in handy.

Medical school

A liberal arts education often satisfies scientific and mathematical learning goals. Classes like biology, chemistry and physics set the stage for future success in the medical field. Most liberal arts schools also pair you with an advisor whom you can share your career goals and aspirations with. Together, you can design a tentative four-year pre-med plan that'll increase your chances of getting accepted into medical school. Most schools also offer resume-building activities and job opportunities to boost your candidacy. Emergency Medical Service (EMS) programs, for example, are one way to get the hands-on experience you need to be considered for most medical programs.

Law school

If law is where you aspire to be, then loading up on political science classes is one way for you to get there. Through this social science route, you gain exposure to comparative politics, international relations, political theory, and other facets of pre-law education. You can also get creative by integrating philosophy, media and society, and/or world history courses to your undergraduate track in order to expand your understanding of law as both a theoretical and culturally-informed practice. In preparation for the LSAT, you can leverage your advisor and career service cohort for assistance.

Certificate programs

If you graduate and are still not sure of what you want to do, certificate programs can serve as a gateway to finding your passion. You can also enroll as an undergraduate student, since some certificate programs are offered through online classes and take approximately a year or two to complete. Certain certificates cast a wide net around multiple professions, too, such as the CPR certification which is beneficial to both school leaders and lifeguards alike. 

So, is a liberal arts degree worth it?

That's up to you to decide. But it is worth sharing that as new businesses and platforms continue to launch, new positions will be created to maintain them. Job titles such as social media manager and SEO content writer didn't exist fifteen years ago; they were created when the need to monitor traffic and organic search arose. A liberal arts degree could put you in the running for scoring jobs such as these that require a combination of writing, rhetoric, research, data analysis and content and engagement strategies.  

In the famous words of Sophia Amoruso, "You belong wherever you want to belong"... and look where she ended up.

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Stephanie Nieves is the SEO & Editorial Associate on the Fairygodboss team. Her words can also be found on MediumPayScale and The Muse.


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