What Can You Do With a Liberal Arts Degree?

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In this technology and business-driven world, the belief is that success comes with STEM and business degrees, but the reality is that some of the most successful people in the world studied liberal arts.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki studied history and literature. Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO and potential 2020 presidential candidate, earned a degree in communications. Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design. Even Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful people to have ever lived, earned a degree in communications.

Key Takeaways: What Can You Do With a Liberal Arts Degree?

  • Even though liberal arts degrees are on the decline, companies are increasingly interested in hiring graduates with these degrees.
  • Graduates with liberal arts degrees have strong critical thinking and analysis abilities, and they can problem solve quickly and efficiently.
  • Potential careers for graduates with liberal arts degrees range from sociologist and economist positions to management consultation and law. 

Companies want to hire students with liberal arts degrees. Apple co-founder and late CEO Steve Jobs made that very clear during the first demonstration of the iPad 2 when he lauded the importance of the relationship between technology and liberal arts.

"It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough—it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices." - Steve Jobs

Career Options for Liberal Arts Graduates

Liberal arts degrees set applicants apart because the skills they have acquired make them innovative and able to solve problems analytically and think on their feet. A successful career with a liberal arts degree requires a strategic answer to the commonly asked question, coupled with an interest in acquiring a few technical skills along the way.

Economist (Median Annual Salary: $101,050)

Economists collect and analyze data surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Using mathematical models, economists predict future market trends and demonstrate their analyses through the creation of charts, graphs, and other visual aids. Economists are employed by local, national, and international companies, governments, and research firms. 

Sociologist (Median Annual Salary: $79,750)

Sociologists study human beings, human behavior, and societal groupings and attempt to better understand how culture is formed. They use this research to inform public policy, educational standards, and more. Most sociologists are employed by governments, universities, nonprofit organizations, and independent research firms. 

Archeologist (Median Annual Salary: $63,190)

Archeologists study history by uncovering and examining artifacts, including bones and fossils, tools, and entire civilizations. They produce work to help human beings better understand their place and time in the world. Archeologists are often employed by universities and museums, and their digs are often sponsored by grants from research facilities, nonprofit organizations, and government initiatives.

Psychologist (Median Annual Salary: $95,710)

Psychologists study human behavioral patterns to better understand mental health and capability, interpersonal relationships, and memory. Not to be confused with psychiatrists, who are medical doctors and can prescribe medication, psychologists often counsel individuals, couples, and families to promote better mental health and wellness. They are usually self-employed or employed by health centers, universities, correctional facilities, and government agencies.

Editor (Median Annual Salary: $57,210)

Editors review, correct, and polish literary works, preparing them for publication. Editors also manage the hiring and firing of writers, copywriters, and other members of editorial teams. They are employed by magazines, newspapers, websites, and publishing houses.

Museum Curator (Median Annual Salary: $47,230)

Museums are in charge of the acquisition and maintenance of artifacts intended for display. They also keep catalogs of all the artifacts on display and in storage. Museum curators are employed by both public and private institutions,

Lawyer (Median Annual Salary: $118,160)

It is a fascinating indication of the value of liberal arts degrees that many of the arbiters of modern society—presidents, prime ministers, supreme court justices, members of congresses and parliaments across the globe—studied liberal arts before pursuing degrees in law. Lawyers have a thorough understanding of the rules and regulations that govern economic and daily activity. They are employed by law firms, governments, and private and public institutions.

Management Consultant (Median Annual Salary: $92,867)

Management consultants help businesses and corporations with business growth and workplace environment. Usually employed by consulting firms, they travel from corporation to corporation assisting in growth and development.

Intelligence Analyst (Annual Salary: $67,167)

Intelligence analysts collect and report on information from various sources, including surveillance and law enforcement offices, in order to prevent acts of crime and terrorism. They are employed mostly by governments and government organizations, though some work for private corporations and institutions.

Project Manager (Median Annual Salary: $132,569)

Project managers are hired to organize and orchestrate specific activities within companies and organizations. They oversee all elements of the project, including planning, budgeting, and implementation. Project manager employment is prolific within the information technology industry, though project managers can be hired by any public or private institution.

Sources

  • “10 Highest Paying Liberal Arts Degree Jobs.” College Ranker, 4 Nov. 2015.
  • Anders, George. You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education. Hatchette Book Group, Inc., 2017.
  • Jackson-Hayes, Loretta. "We don't need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training." Washington Post, 18 Feb. 2015.
  • Renzulli, Kari Anne. "10 Jobs That Pay More Than $55,000 That you Can Get With A Liberal Arts Degree." CNBC, 3 Mar. 2019.
  • Samsel, Haley. "Your 'useless' liberal arts degree can give you an edge in tech. Here's why." USA Today, 9 Aug. 2017.
  • Sentz, Rob. "What Can You Do With That (Useless) Liberal Arts Degree? A Lot More Than You Think." Forbes, 19 Oct. 2016.