Research shows the most underestimated major may have the best outcomes.
Almost all liberal arts majors brace for impact when they share what they’re studying with family and friends. They’ve all heard this song before and it always ends on a sour note.
“So you’re majoring in unemployment?”
It’s almost as if the degradation of your interests and passions are an occupational hazard. And yet, these students press on with degrees in philosophy, English, history, sociology, and psychology and go on to be successful professionals in any and every field.
The abasement of liberal arts majors is emblematic of a culture that does not value the quality of a liberal arts education despite benefiting from the creative minds that fuel it. English majors become advertising managers, PR specialists, teachers. History majors become lawyers, museum curators, historians. Sociology majors become policy analysts, HR representatives, management consultants. They work across industries and perform jobs that affect our everyday lives. While these liberal arts majors continue to incite snide comments and comparisons to technical majors, liberal arts degrees remain steadfast in a tumultuous job market and mold to other positions as needed.
In fact, liberal arts majors may have more job stability than one thinks. One of the main philosophies of liberal arts majors is the practical application of their major. Students dive head first into complex problems with multifaceted answers and grapple with issues that affect us right now. These students learn a range of highly coveted skills, including critical thinking, creating and supporting informed arguments, and solving complex problems. The ability to address people and social situations is often called soft skills. Many dismiss soft skills as they are believed to be a fundamental, rudimentary ability, however, it is a skill employers desperately search for. In fact, according to Marymount College’s article, 44% of executives surveyed believe that the American job market is lacking in soft skills. Another 80% of employers said all students need the broad knowledge-base provided by a liberal arts education. Another article posted on CNBC, “120M workers need retraining due to AI– but they already have the skills most employers want,” states that the necessity of soft skills has, in fact, increased. In 2016, executives stated that hard skills such as STEM, computer, and software application skills were most salient to their success. However, as of recent years, they have recognized the pertinence of soft skills in their employees.
Such desirable skills allow liberal arts majors to traipse through a multitude of field, should they choose. “Putting your liberal arts degree to work,” a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics states, “As the data show[s], liberal arts graduates enter a range of career fields. And that’s because, some experts say, the skills they develop are applicable to nearly any job.” Furthermore, the jobs they choose, compensate liberal arts majors well down the line. The New York Times recently posted an article titled, “In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure,” in which writer, David Deming explores the benefits of liberal arts degrees. Deming states, “The advantage for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors fades steadily after their first jobs, and by age 40 the earnings of people who majored in fields in social science or history catch up.”
Finally, staring into the, at times, incomprehensible future job market, liberal arts majors still stand. Many liberal arts majors such as English, art, communication, and design hold a fighting chance in a dwindling job market. More and more people are losing their jobs to Artificial Intelligence and automation; meanwhile jobs that value creativity and innovation continue to thrive. In fact, according to Monster.com, “creative jobs could get a major hiring boost in the years ahead, as jobs for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers are expected to grow 10% through 2026.” The Harvard Business Review, in their article, “The Future of Human Work is Imagination, Creativity, and Strategy” says, “work that requires a high degree of imagination, creative analysis, and strategic thinking is harder to automate […] Computers are great at optimizing, but not so great at goal-setting. Or even using common sense.” Think about it. There will always be a new technological item on the market that will inevitably make our lives easier. There will also always need to be a creative designer to find a way to make it appealing to the public. In this way, their creativity will continue to be an asset for years to come.
Instead of joking about the impossibility of job stability, we should encourage liberal arts majors. Their degrees are providing them not only with skills that are severely lacking in the job market, but setting them up on the path for a successful future. In this way, we change the narrative and allow the occupational hazard shift from snide remarks to the dread of limitless possibility.