Liberal Arts and Sciences Degrees and Careers
Some people question the employment viability of a liberal arts and sciences degree. Some claim the only worthwhile education is one that is technically based, pointing directly to a specific job. The problem with this argument is that on average the North American worker changes jobs five times. So, for which job should one train?
The economy is undergoing vast transformations that require agility of mind and spirit. It is an unsettling world. But what many employers say is that “there is not just room for liberal arts and sciences graduates in today’s workforce, there is a necessity.”
That quote is from Louis Gerstner, the former head of IBM. A recent survey of university graduates by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada compared the success rates of liberal arts and sciences graduates with those in specialized technical fields. It showed that in the long run the former do very well.
Companies, government agencies, and community organizations need leaders, especially those with communication skills and those able to analyze complex questions. These are the skills underpinning liberal arts and sciences degrees in every field.
The Collegiate Employment Research Institute issues annual recruiting trends for college graduates. Its director, Phillip D. Gardner, stresses that employers want graduates with strong communication skills, analytical and problem-solving abilities, leadership and interpersonal skills, and computer literacy. Employers want graduates who are self-directed. A liberal arts and sciences education encourages these attributes.
Many voices confirm this. In an article titled “Secrets of Effective Leadership in the 21st Century,” Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, strategic business futurists with wide consulting experience, predict “the most critical ingredient in the years – and decades – ahead will be a broad and deep understanding of a wide range of topics” (www.hermangroup.com).
They continue: “The future work environment will demand people who can think creatively, collaborate well with others, and approach life from a solid interdisciplinary foundation. Strength in a narrow specialty will no longer be sufficient.” Consequently, “liberal arts graduates are now sought after because of their abilities to be flexible, adaptable, and to look at things from a number of perspectives.”
In addition, some liberal arts and sciences degrees can lead directly to a job. History majors may end up in museum work, English majors with a publisher, Communications majors at a newspaper, Computer Science majors with an IT firm, Biology majors with a pharmaceutical firm, Women’s Studies majors with a domestic violence shelter, Visual Arts majors in a graphic design department, and virtually any major in teaching.
Liberal arts and sciences degrees are also excellent preparation for graduate and professional study. Any liberal arts and sciences major, combined with a careful selection of electives, may lead to law school, medical school, or business school.
The general education curriculum of UIS combined with a liberal arts and sciences major will provide you with needed experiences and skills. The general education curriculum is carefully crafted to stress writing, oral communication, mathematical literacy, and critical thinking. It encourages you to explore a wide range of issues and “ways of knowing”. It also stresses a knowledge of the broader forces at work in society, including national issues and globalization, enabling you to see the “bigger picture.”
Experiential and service learning opportunities give you real world experience. Professors in every liberal arts and sciences major will challenge you to think logically, research complex questions, develop arguments, and express yourself well.
We are confident that a liberal arts and sciences degree will not only let you follow your personal interests and passions, but will also serve you well in the long run.