Careers for Liberal Arts Majors

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While no college degree can guarantee wealth, there are important intangibles that come with a liberal arts education. The bearer of a liberal arts degree acquires problem-solving skills and a foundation in ethics sought in a broad range of professions. Employers across a spectrum of careers welcome new hires with liberal arts degrees and offer them both fulfilling and potentially lucrative futures.

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Companies are looking for managers who can think critically, and that training isn’t always central in a business curriculum. That’s why the American Association of Colleges and Universities listed managers and chief executives among the top 15 professions for liberal arts graduates. In a 2013 survey, the American Association of Colleges and Universities found more than half of employers seek both broad knowledge as well as knowledge in a specific relevant area from their new hires. Employers seek innovators among their new hires, and innovation is fostered in the crucible of the liberal arts classroom.

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Lawyers and judges are among the top 15 careers for liberal arts majors as determined by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. Harvard Law School, one of the most prestigious in the nation, discourages its prospective students from a pre-law curriculum in favor of a blend of liberal studies with an emphasis in a chosen field of history, economics, government, philosophy, mathematics, science or literature. A liberal arts education allows students to process conflicting points of view and arrive at a resolution rather than protract a dispute, according to Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray. That’s a skill essential in the courtroom.

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A liberal arts education can lay the foundation for all levels of teachers. Elementary, secondary and post-secondary teachers are three careers of the 15 listed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities as top professions for liberal arts majors. Teachers need the foundation in critical thinking that a liberal arts education provides so they can in turn challenge their students and broaden their minds. Liberal arts students are more likely to move on to advanced degrees than other students, which will make them more qualified teachers and ultimately higher earners than nonliberal arts students.

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Social workers and counselors are also among the top 15 professions for liberal arts graduates, according to the American Association of Colleges and Universities. About half of all social workers majored in the humanities or social sciences. For other jobs, only about a quarter of workers majored in those areas. The broad approach of a liberal education makes students sensitive to individuals’ cultural, societal, economic and demographic differences, according to Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray. A good social worker must be particularly aware of these differences.

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