Move Over STEM - Employers Value Liberal Arts, Too

Monday, April 27th, 12:47pm, Topics: STEM, liberal arts, declare major, employment, career

If there is one thing that can keep college students up at night - besides that final term paper they put off, of course - it's which major to declare while earning their bachelor's degrees.  For many individuals, this choice can have a profound impact on their graduate school and professional careers.  Some students may shy away from liberal arts majors as a result, instead considering in-demand science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) fields as their best bet. 

That's not necessarily the best decision to make.  While STEM subjects are certainly important, students can also gain highly valued skills by studying liberal arts.

Employers Look for Liberal Arts

The Fiscal Times pointed out that majoring in liberal arts tends to be viewed as a poor investment. The cost of higher education continues to climb, making students and parents alike yearn for some sort of guarantee that college will actually pay off further down the road. Stuck in this mentality, students may forgo certain majors that seem to have less real-world applications so that they can increase their odds of financial success after graduation.

But students who graduate from school with a liberal arts degree are far from doomed in terms of their chances to advance professionally. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities' report Liberal Arts Graduates and Employment: Setting the Record Straight, businesses are looking to hire well-rounded candidates who are familiar with a wide range of faculties. In fact, four out of five employers polled stated that they believe all students should cultivate a strong knowledge base spanning both sciences and liberal arts topics. 

Additionally, the vast majority of those surveyed affirmed that there is more to a student's job application than his or her major. The research revealed that 93% consider skills related to communication, critical thinking and problem solving to rank higher than the subject candidates studied in college.

Students Weigh Their Options

As with anything, students contemplating declaring their major in one of the humanities should take these findings with a grain of salt. Although employers may claim that they would prefer to hire candidates who have had exposure to liberal arts, this may be an attitude better suited for an ideal world. With economic uncertainty persisting and an unending sprint toward innovation, companies could find that when push comes to shove, they have to look out for their own financial interest and future security. This could mean that even though employers would love to take on the philosophy graduate who has a different method of thinking, they may have to go with someone with specialized IT skills who would prove invaluable.