Value of Liberal Arts Degree

The economy’s bad. It’s good. It’s somewhere in-between. Whatever the situation, it’s time to choose a college degree, and chart a new–or different–path in life. Is a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts a direct course to professional, personal and financial success?

Employers say yes. Headhunters say yes. That’s the value of a liberal art’s degree. And liberal arts graduates, employed in fields as diverse as government and fashion, say yes. Despite stereotypes that still pop up occasionally, a liberal art’s degree is the best ticket to a variety of jobs–few positions are out of reach for students versed in a well-rounded world of college studies. This broad background includes courses in literature; language–verbal and written; philosophy; history; and the visual arts, among other subjects.

More liberal art’s majors attend graduate school than any other undergraduates. Furthermore, schools like Stanford University prefer MBA applicants with a liberal arts background, versus more specialized areas like business.

The exact number fluctuates among experts, but most studies conclude that Americans change jobs five to seven times in their careers. This supports a survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which reports that 69 percent of business leaders rate liberal art’s degrees as “very important.”

The positives of holding a “non-specialized” degree was confirmed by an AT&T poll, which concluded that liberal art’s majors advance more quickly to management positions than employees with other degrees. Several surveys point to this consistent fact as well: Major employers look for the right skills rather than the right major. Who better than a liberal arts graduate–who has breadth and depth of knowledge in several areas–can adapt quickly to fast-changing business? Specialization, in fact (except in highly technical fields), can put up more walls than open doors. Too much technical knowledge can prevent knowledge from being turned into practical, everyday context.

Liberal arts’ graduates no longer claim the lowest step on the educational ladder. Well-known personalities in every field received liberal arts’ degrees as undergraduates. President John F. Kennedy studied history; Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman in space, graduated in English; fashion designer Kate Spade studied journalism; NFL quarterback Peyton Manning earned a B.A. in speech communication; and actress Sigourney Weaver graduated in English.

But you don’t have to be a president or an astronaut to be appreciated by employers–well-rounded students have learned the necessary, underlying skills employers need today. Liberal arts’ grads adapt easily, unafraid to be molded and shaped to deliver whatever the job requires, even when the marketplace changes drastically, further cementing the value of a liberal art’s degree.

Liberal arts’ degrees have become even more attractive for young retirees, small business owners and military personnel, among other students, because of the ability to learn through online computer studies. According to “Online Education in the United States, 2008,” nearly four million students were taking at least one Internet course during the fall term, 2007, a 12 percent increase over the previous year. The figures aren’t in yet, but pollsters are confident that those numbers have risen significantly.

Arizona State University (ASU) is just one of the growing number of established and newly founded colleges to offer online-only liberal arts’ degrees. According to its site, convenience, rapid interaction with faculty, staff and peers; the ability to personalize the degree; access to all ASU resources online; and interaction with a unique mix of students make learning via the computer a safe bet.

For potential students looking to understand the past and present, while working toward a happy future, a liberal arts’ degree might fit perfectly in their life’s portfolio. Talk with someone who studied economics or finance. For when it comes to overall growth, they’ll tell you what so many people already know–liberal arts studies are a growth stock.

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