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April 12, 2018

Myths About Liberal Arts Degrees

We’ve all heard the claims. Go to a liberal arts school and you’ll spend four years majoring in a humanities, art or social science discipline and then end up right back at home after graduation.

The myth of the uselessness of the liberal arts degree has received its proper correction time and again in recent years. The Association of American Colleges and Universities breaks it down in the report How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment. Here are a few myths the report busts.

MYTH: You won’t get a job when you graduate.

FACT: Liberal arts graduates thrive in a variety of professional fields.

According to the report, four out of five employers say they believe all students should experience a liberal arts curriculum. Further, 93 percent say critical thinking, complex problem-solving, and communication skills are more important to professional success than the undergraduate major.

Liberal arts graduates are key players in social services careers, and they succeed in a wide variety of other careers, including:

  • Elementary and middle school teachers

  • Lawyers, judges and magistrates

  • Managers

  • Postsecondary teachers

  • CEOs

  • Legislators

  • Education administrators

  • Social workers

  • Secondary school teachers

  • Counselors

  • Sales reps

  • Clergy

  • Retail sales supervisors

  • Administrative assistants

  • Accountants and auditors

  • Marketing and sales managers

MYTH: Liberal arts graduates earn significantly less than professional or pre-professional school students.

FACT: Liberal arts graduates are closing the pay gap and, in fact, earn more than professional and pre-professional school graduates during peak earning periods of their lives.

Physical and natural sciences and mathematics majors are the top earners between the ages of 56 and 60, peak earning years. Humanities and social science graduates place second, earning on average $2,000 more a year than third-place professional and pre-professional graduates.


MYTH: Tech is the future — so a liberal arts degree is practically obsolete.

FACT: Liberal arts students are the future of the technology industry.

The Harvard Business Review cites venture capitalist Scott Hartley and his book The Fuzzy and the Techie, as he argues that STEM only approaches are the wrong way to go. Hartley encourages broadening — rather than narrowing — the college curriculum. The barrier for entry on tech jobs is lower each year as apps and the internet make it easier for novices to accomplish what it once took an experienced coder to do. What’s not decreasing? The complexity of the human problems that graduates will want to solve. This is what a liberal arts graduate can tackle, and it’s what the tech industry is looking for.

For more on liberal arts graduates and employment, read the brochure from the AACU.

Visit campus to hear from students, faculty and staff how Guilford is preparing its graduates to be dynamic, ethical leaders who are ready to take on an evolving and expanding professional landscape.