For people wondering about the value of liberal arts degrees and what benefits they can bring, this post is a compilation of stories and comments from people who studied liberal arts and are glad to have done so. It’s my hope that this post will help people understand the value of liberal arts and, potentially, consider studying liberal arts themselves.
Here is the query I put out on the journalism sites I belong to:
There is a lot of cynicism about liberal arts majors today, but there’s plenty of liberal arts majors who have benefited greatly from their degree and who are much wiser for it. We’d like to hear from people who studied liberal arts at college and are glad to have done so. Personal stories welcome, the more detail the better.
Below are the responses to that which discuss the benefits of a liberal arts education. I strongly recommend having a read through these. 🙂
I earned my B.A. from UW-Madison in History and minored in African Studies. I found my liberal arts education hugely beneficial and am so glad I went that route versus a more focused path. It helped give me the skills to think expansively and flexibly as well as writing and research skills.
Now, I own my own content marketing business and I absolutely believe that my history major was instrumental in helping me make the leap into entrepreneurship.
I did decide to pursue my MBA because I wanted tactical and strategic business skills. I've been pleasantly surprised with how much my liberal arts undergrad experience set me up for success during my MBA program as well as in various business roles.
I'd tell anyone considering the liberal arts that it's more important than ever. We need more people who are able to think creatively and connect the dots that others can't.
--Maddie Michaud, Blue Spec Marketing
So in college, I double-majored in political science and philosophy. Here's how it's helped me both in life and in my legal career:
* It's helped me tremendously with my analytical skills and understanding people and the world. I took classes in everything from Machiavelli to symbolic logic, which gave me an ability to analyze and break information down that I use pretty much every day.
* For example, at work, I can read legal briefs and more easily spot weaknesses in opponents' arguments. This carries over to practical things like buying a car or a home, where I can get a better sense of what sellers are trying to hide or de-emphasize.
* I can learn new skills with greater ease. For instance, I'm teaching myself web development, and have completed online lessons in HTML and CSS (the language used for many of the stylistic elements of webpages).
* I believe it helps open your mind. You rely less on emotions and generalizations, and can better take in new information.
* Since liberal arts involve lots of reading and writing, studying them makes you a better writer and communicator.
--Miguel Suro, The Rich Miser
I graduated from University with a Liberal Arts degree when I was 26. It was long after most of my friends had graduated and moved into their careers. I honestly felt so behind and nervous about the fact that I didn't have a specialty. In fact, during my first year of University, some of the professors made a point of explaining why a Liberal Arts degree is a good thing to have and how opportunities are endless. It's almost like they too had experienced people who thought these degrees weren't useful. Needless to say, I started to panic at the end of my degree because I didn't know if I would get a job when I left.
Within one month of graduating, I was recruited into a Digital Marketing role that I was in no way qualified for. They chose to recruit me *because* I had an arts degree, which to them meant that I was extremely analytical, had strong problem solving skills, and a lot of creativity. This role then opened doors that I didn't even know were possible. After spending almost two years at that company, I decided to venture out on my own and start my digital marketing agency. Within my first year, I broke six-figures, which would have taken YEARS to do in my corporate job. I now spend my time working from home, helping other online businesses grow through digital marketing, AND I teach aspiring freelancers how to start their own businesses.
My Liberal Arts degree got me into the job that started it all. A job I would have never applied for. A job that saw the value of my degree. A job that started my journey to realizing that my experience in University has value and could help me build my own business. Liberal Arts is underrated and often overlooked because of its broad scope, BUT this broad scope means you can do whatever you want with it. My business is proof of that.
I'm a six-figure business owner who didn't go to business school and who had no experience in marketing. Just a good old-fashioned Liberal Arts degree!
--Samantha Ste Marie, samanthastemarie.com
I went to a liberal arts college in the Northeast where they claimed to teach students how to think. Many people in my hometown made fun of my choice to not go to school for a specific career path, but to gain a broad scope of knowledge for life. While initially after graduating college, my friends from high school who studied for a specific degree were able to get jobs faster, my peers from college, now 18 years after graduation, have achieved much cooler things, and mostly in the creative field, and mostly having created their own jobs and fields of work.
My husband Shmuel and I run a film production company specializing in commercials and documentaries. Not only is our actual work creative, but running a business, we've found, requires endless creativity in the form of problem solving and pivoting, especially during these unprecedented times.
Creativity takes longer to stew than practicality, but it really seems to pay off with greater rewards, at least in the self-fulfillment category.
--Margelit Hoffman, Hoffman Productions
It's not a secret that the education sector is evolving at a faster pace. I became a proud owner of a Liberal Arts Degree seven years ago. I went through a lot of hardship before completing the course and the hardship was simply induced by most of my relatives who wanted me to opt for STEM subjects rather than Liberal Arts. Since I had a strong zeal towards Liberal Arts, I went ahead and studied it and finally, I successfully completed the course.
Through liberal arts, I have benefited a lot due to the vast skills taught in this discipline. Problem-solving and analytical skills are some of the best skills I incorporated back then. As of now, I am a Virtual Consultant who gives advice on matters regarding analyzation, specifically ancient stories and occasionally, data analysis. As a humanity student, I am also well-informed in matters regarding psychology and political science. Therefore, offering problem-solving services is part of my perk as a virtual consultant.
To wind up, the cynicism about liberal arts is an ill-perception since I know of friends in this field who are doing better than me. In fact, I can advise learners to pursue this course due to its supremacy over other degrees.
--Samuel Smith, Kas Andz Marketing Group
I studied liberal arts for my bachelor degree, specifically Psychology. I wouldn't trade that for anything! I loved my undergraduate experience and I found it very enlightening on the human experience. I believe it helped me become a better person, and it continues to help me today; I went on to complete an M.D. after my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and I'm currently doing my postgraduate medical training in Psychiatry. The things I learned in my liberal arts degree are highly relevant to my current career path, and that degree helped me develop into the person I am today.
--Patricia Celan, LinkedIn profile
My name is Keirsh Cochran and I am one of the youngest (29 y/o) active chiefs of police in America. However, my undergrad degree is in broadcast journalism. I went to Huntington University to study broadcast journalism. I graduated in 2013 and began working in professional sports marketing upon graduation in 2013. In 2014, I transitioned to an advertising position with NBC. In 2015, in the months following the Ferguson, MO unrest I found myself troubled by the damaged relationship between the people of color and law enforcement. I applied to be a police officer and was hired. I worked for 5 years in a multicultural neighborhood and earned my master's in public administration until I was appointed Chief of Police for my alma mater. Additionally, I am an assistant professor of criminal justice while I pursue my doctorate.
I believe the writing skills, interpersonal communication skills, public speaking, psychology, sociology, and other non-major courses diversified my undergrad education enough to east the transition from journalism to marketing, then to law enforcement.
Currently, I operate a blog and travel the country speaking about racial reconciliation and why I chose to become a police officer during such a tumultuous time in America's history.
--Keirsh Cochran, racial-justice.com
I have a B.A. in history from Trinity College. I am an attorney, humanitarian, weight loss and wellness expert, and powerlifter (19 time World Champion, 38 time National Champion, member of the AAU Strength Sports Hall of Fame). I supervised the drug testing at the Rio Olympics and will have a similar role at Tokyo. I am quoted frequently in national publications and have done numerous radio interviews and podcasts, including a best of 2017 one for Reebok Spartan.
Having a liberal arts education has benefited me greatly as my background enables me to look at facts, events, and trends from many perspectives and to make inferences and come to conclusions based upon thousands of years of critical thinking by people much smarter than I. A liberal arts education is so important that when my son studied to be a chemical engineer at Lafayette College, he was required to take courses in the humanities. Everyone, especially scientists, should make empathetic decisions which consider the consequences to society and their fellow man.
--Robert Herbst, w8lifterusa.com
I majored in communication with a minor in American studies from Rutgers University at Douglas College and the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies in January 2005. I remember choosing comms because it felt like a practical degree at a time where I didn't know what my career would be. I ended up working as a photography editor at one of the college newspapers, and later joined the college radio station where I remained more than five years after graduating.
At this point in my career I've worked on huge television commercials and experiential productions that took over Times Square, presented at important conferences based on the marketing career I've built in social media and successfully pitched big ideas that actually helped people. I've been able to influence the strategic communications of cultural icons like Barbie, Fisher Price, Esurance, Method Products and Wells Fargo. I love what I do, which is important because I decided to open my own business in February!
My point is, when I was in college I didn't consciously know that I passion for good communication never mind what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the time, I was between the ages of 17-21 and struggling very much with the college experience. To me, liberal arts and comms felt right and achievable because I got to be creative and curious in a way that felt natural and regenerative. Solving communication puzzles felt what I imagine playing music feels like, a skill I always admired but never could really grasp despite my best efforts.
Having over 15 years of career experience, I now understand that if you have the privilege of attending college, you owe it to yourself to connect with what feels inspiring to you. It won't feel easy, but practice listening to your gut when deciding what feels fulfilling. There is enough opportunity to be successful no matter what you study. I personally know tech leaders who majored in sculpture. Pursuing your interests during college will give you a strong foundation for the career opportunities to come.
--Shannon Greevy, shannongreevy.com
While majors in Science, Technology, and Business have been regarded as the most important in the current world, those in Liberal Arts are also worth their weight in gold. What I can say about those criticizing Liberal Arts is that they lack information on what's encompassed by Liberal Arts. Personally, I have benefited a lot from my Liberal Arts Degree that I got eleven years ago.
In the current competitive job market, employers prefer workers that are versatile to workers who specialize in one field. As a Liberal Arts Degree holder, I have skills in research, critical thinking, data analysis and anything in between. These skills have plaid a key role in seeing me greatly advantaged in the job market. As I write, I have worked as a Makeup artist, HR Specialist, Author, etc. Besides, I have mentored a lot of young entrepreneurs who've made it to greater heights in different fields. So, I honestly have to admit that Liberal Arts is a hot cake and it's a degree that you'll never regret having pursued.
--Jens Madsen, HeatXperts
I loved getting my liberal arts degree. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Political Science in 2017. The short of it is that my degree offered me the opportunity and flexibility to take classes I thought would be interesting and thus fostered my curiosity for years to come.
In school, I was able to take classes like 'The History of American Sport' and 'Religion and Politics' as well as art classes and coding classes specifically tailored to Arts and Letters majors. Through all these different classes, I learned so much about why the world is the way it is, how to best and effectively connect with others, and like I mentioned earlier - stay curious.
I now host a podcast, 'First Hundred Days, that speaks with people from so many walks of life. Without having been exposed to all the various parts of life through my classes, it would be difficult to approach some of these conversations with a desire to learn from them. I speak with some of the best of the best, and who am I to pretend like I know it all, because I don't. Now I have the ability to research and learn, but also contribute to all sorts of conversations.
I also opened my own wedding and event planning firm immediately upon graduation. Many might say, and I will admit that sometimes I joke, that I should have gotten a business degree. But really, when it comes to weddings and anything in small business ownership, it's about meeting people where they are and fostering genuine connections. When people are planning a wedding, they aren't concerned about the stocks or accounting, but how to stay sane and enjoy a beautiful event. That's done when I can connect with my couples and navigate them through the whole process.
I would never trade my degree for the world no matter what I do in life!
--MK Andersen, First Hundred Days
I was a double major in theology & philosophy in college. I chose those two majors with the thought that I could be either a professor or a priest; the former was excluded because I had no desire for an additional seven years of school after graduation, and the latter because I had met the woman who would become my wife.
I’m 31 now, and have gotten a fair amount of criticism over the years for not studying something ‘useful’.
I could not disagree more. The liberal arts are only useless to those without imagination.
After college, admittedly, it was difficult to find a job with my humanities background. So, I applied where I could, and accepted a job as a bank teller; over my three years there, I was promoted a banker position and learned a great deal about how our financial system works. Because I spent years studying theology (including interning as an adult minister in an urban parish), I could be more empathetic to my clients who were in dire financial straits and had nowhere to turn.
After three years in banking, I moved to commercial insurance. Again, it would seem a far cry from the humanities. But insurance policies are long, complex documents with real implications that depend on a proper reading of the text. I can’t think of disciplines that can better prepare you for this career than theology & philosophy; both disciplines are firmly rooted in the reading & analyzing of long, complex documents with real implications for the reader!
To put it another way, if I can make sense of hundreds of pages of Aquinas, an insurance policy is no sweat.
Studying the liberal arts taught me to that anything has the potential to be interesting; therefore, no opportunity to learn should be wasted. While at my insurance agency, the opportunity came to start & lead a cybersecurity & cyber insurance working group. I always thought computers were interesting, so I joined up; together with my team, we grew that practice into an industry-differentiating strength. That strength would not have been cultivated, though, had I not seen the group as an interesting opportunity (a lens that was developed due to studying the liberal arts).
Finally, that focus on cyber insurance led me to where I am now: Director of Business Development at Tetra Defense, a cybersecurity incident response & consulting firm.
I don’t think any of the above happens if I had gotten a degree in ‘business’. Those are important, and they have their place, but the liberal arts allow you to take a road less traveled. And that makes all the difference.
--David Kruse, LinkedIn profile
As an immigrant Indian entrepreneur in America, I can testify how my education in liberal arts has shaped and influenced my work that can cross boundaries and create a meaningful impact in this world. Often, being an Indian, you are always assumed to be a software engineer or a doctor. Countries and communities that focussed on technical education have only mass-manufactured talent that is only appropriate for resolving the supply-demand issues.
A large body of research suggests that future skills are changing faster than we can ever imagine. I have reimagined my skills at work at least three times in the last ten years, and I would give all the credit to my liberal arts background. The 3C's of 21st-century skills are Creativity, Cultural Literacy, and Civic Engagement. I have mentored/ advised engineers and tech teams who have great ideas, but they unable to make a connection with the real issues in hand as they fail to get the soul of the problems. With a major in liberal arts, you will become the most valuable asset to any organization as the skills and knowledge you bring cannot be manufactured and massified.
Especially in times of unprecedented challenges like the one we are in now, whether it is business leaders or institution heads, all need to have a holistic approach to the complex world. Therefore liberal arts gives the future generation an edge in terms of transferrable skills like creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and much more, that will be most valued by prospective employers.
--Rupa Dash, World Woman Foundation
My name is Rafa and I'm a liberal arts student that graduated four years ago. I was actually the second batch of students to ever graduate from liberal arts in my university because the program was new when I got into it. I always had my fair share of derogatory remarks about my studies, I was lucky to have my family support me through all of this.
And to be honest, there were moments where I was really scared. I was afraid of not finding a job and never finding my vocation, I was afraid of lacking meaning and purpose in life without being able to find it. Common problems in your early twenties, I suppose.
I only started to see a real payoff after graduating. I got a job rather quickly and I found I love psychology and am now specializing in it. I couldn't be where I'm now without my liberal arts degree, because I learned to adapt, to ask when I don't know and to learn more whenever I can. The skills liberal arts gave me set me in a path that might take longer to traverse, but the reward is also bigger. Sometimes, the cynicism towards my career actually helps me. It serves as a reminder that people who succeed through liberal arts succeed because of their own merit and effort. Liberal arts works as a catalyst that moves us and gives us the tools to achieve said success.
--Rafa Parra, Spanish Academy
I've always had an unusual career goal- since elementary school, I wanted to be an Herbalist. In the 80's and 90's there wasn't much available in the way of a career path, though, so when I went to college in the early 2000's I was lucky enough to find the perfect major- a liberal arts program designed for pre-med hopefuls.
At the time, Temple University offered this program through their Anthropology department. Called Human Biology, the major offered a BA with classes in Medical Anthropology, with plenty of elective credits available so we could fulfill science class requirements .
I ultimately did not go on to a graduate program, so the elective courses I had the opportunity to take, like a class on meditation or another on the elements of dramatic storytelling, were my first introduction into combining all my varied interests into what I do. This program also showed me that being flexible and adaptable were very important to me, and I value that to this day.
Plus, the amount of space to change and grow within the program gave me room to figure out higher ed and become the first in my family to earn a degree! All around, it was a great, lucky choice.
--Paula Billig, Paula's Herbals
I received my BA in History many years ago, and for quite a while wondered if I would ever put my studies to use. It was only ten years ago that I came across the world of Personal Historians when I realized that my studies, my passions and my work were finally all coming together. Yes, I learned a lot from 20 years working as a journalist, gaining interviewing and writing skills. And I also learned a lot about book publishing, and how to structure manuscripts when creating memoirs. But my education, especially my class on historiography, the study of how we write history, keeps coming back to me as I work with clients to help them recall and share their stories, experiences and life lessons in written form, to share with their loved ones and friends.
Personal history offers the opportunity to support individuals and families as they seek to pass on their stories, in book, audio or video formats, to coming generations. I am honored to be able to support people who want to share this gift of their life lessons. My college classes come back to me often, people I met along the way, experiences and stories I heard. Can you learn these lessons other ways? Of course. Will you have a guarantee of return on your investment? I wish I could promise this, but I cannot. What I can say is that I am grateful that at a time in my life when I had no idea of the questions to ask, that I was challenged to start looking for those questions, and keep asking them, and then to ask more questions after that.
--Marjorie Turner Hollman, marjorieturner.com
I was a theatre major at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. Lot's of 'adults' at the time, questioned my choice and always encouraged me to have something to fall back on. They asked what would happen if the career didn't work or I no longer wanted to perform. I thought they were crazy until after 10 years in Hollywood I threw in the towel. Crap, I didn't really have anything to fall back on. I had sort of studied massage and realized that was a great career. Here I am 20 years later. I still have an incredible massage career, but have also parlayed that in to an international speaking career. I've done almost 300 programs worldwide. Part of my success as a speaker comes from my education and experience as an actor. I'm also a hypnotherapist and the acting comes in handy with that career too. If I had to do it again, would I? You bet!
--Kathy Gruver, KathyGruver.com
I started a global branding and marketing firm 19 years ago. I majored in Economics in college (Stanford '87) and started my career on Wall Street in the 80s then worked in Corporate America for many years at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola before joining several startups. Now I run my own company. I think my liberal arts degree has served me well. For me it taught me how to think, write and because it did not have as many course requirements as engineering or pre med it allowed me to take classes throughout the university and explore areas I was curious about outside of my major. I was also able to study abroad during my junior year which more taxing departments and majors precluded. I got a great education with broad perspective that has given me a lot of flexibility and career options. I specialized later by getting an MBA but I do not see that as a con to be honest. Unless you want a career in medicine or hard sciences I think getting a liberal arts degree is a great idea today and you can still take plenty of computer science classes too! Get great internships to gain valuable experience on the job. There is no one path to success.
I have now been in marketing since 1990 and it turns out marketing is a great fit for my strengths and personality. I think all the odd jobs I had earlier in my life and career (including working in retail, hospitality, in a law firm, etc.) make me a better marketer today because I can relate to so many people, careers and situations from my first hand experience. I think being a generalist has made me more creative and relevant. I am a writer, speaker, Board member, consultant and by not being in the same box forever I find it fun (not scary) to explore various paths and ideas. Had I specialized in only one thing I am sure I would not be as creative successful or happy today. Variety is the spice of life!
--Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls
I'm quite proud to have earned my first degree from liberal arts institution Samford University. I studied both English and communication studies there. The English major gave me a strong foundation in writing and MLA, both of which I taught to English 101 and 102 college freshmen years later (3.5 years total). Further, my English knowledge has allowed me to be a tutor at all three of my collegiate alma maters as well as for myself for a span of 12 years.
The communication studies major gave me a foundation in public speaking, research, and APA. Acquiring public speaking skills was huge for me, as I had always been shy grades K-12 and my first three years of college (out of 5 years). These skills ultimately helped me obtain the confidence I needed to teach English 101 and 102 at the college level. Further doing presentations in front of classmates and even at conferences became less daunting. Apparently the research skills I acquired were pretty advanced for undergrad. I recall my research professor, Dr. Parker, mentioning at the time that the research we were doing was at the graduate level. I mean we were given the opportunity to run an actual experimental research study with school peers, input data into statistical analysis systems, and present research questions, findings, and conclusions in a lengthy paper. This experience later aided me when I was required to take a research class during my fourth degree program (MS in Speech-Language Pathology) in Fall 2017 at another institution. That course was the easiest of all my courses within that degree program.
Finally, my solid education in APA made me a popular tutor in the writing center of my second college alma mater, which is known for its high quality medical programs (nursing, medical doctor, public health, etc.) I recall my joy in aiding bachelor's, master's, and doctoral nursing students with their APA-style papers that consisted of a wealth of knowledge. My supervisor kept me on the tutoring schedule for several semesters over multiple years because I was one of the best APA tutors she had. It was good to know that my job was secure because of my skill. Today I run my own tutoring business where I focus on all the previously mentioned skills and more (e.g., math). All in all, I don't believe I would see my current success as a tutor and budding speech-language pathologist if it had not been for the foundation my liberal arts education provided me.
--Jessica Bonner-Gomez, Instagram profile