If you follow the conversation about higher education, you will notice plenty of talk and media attention surrounding the liberal arts: Are they good? Are they a waste of time? Are they “obsolete”? Do they have a place in the landscape of education, especially when we consider the cost of higher education?
The 44 member colleges comprising Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL) strongly believe that the liberal arts are the best way to education our future leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, artists, and lawyers. Why? Because a liberal arts education teaches people how to think, write, analyze, and problem-solve.
When surveyed, employers consistently say the most important skills they need—and skills they too often find lacking—in employees are those developed in a liberal arts education. The ability to communicate with people one-on-one, in small groups, and in large groups. The ability to write well for many different audiences. The ability to persuade and influence with words and ideas. Employers look for creative problem solvers, people who can integrate several perspectives, analyze the data, and create an action plan. These skills are the hallmark of a liberal arts education, and they prepare students for the world in which they will live and work.
Innovators and entrepreneurs in the world of online marketing and social media were not trained for these fields. The jobs they have today likely didn’t exist when they left high school and college, just as many of the jobs of tomorrow have yet to be imagined. But a liberal arts education prepares students for many careers by giving them this foundational skill set. By studying the liberal arts, students also gain essential leadership skills as they learn how to be good thinkers and strategists who can see the big picture as well as make definite plans when solving problems or marketing ideas.
A student who is able to use skills to move from one industry to another will find their career paths more flexible, and they will be ready to follow new developments in technology. They will be the decision makers and the social change agents of the future. Financial reward will follow.
And liberal arts truly are viable for practically any career path—including those more traditional, concrete professional jobs, like law and medicine. People advising students toward medical school and careers in medicine highly recommend a liberal arts undergraduate degree for several reasons: Doctors need to be lifelong learners to stay current in their fields, and a liberal arts education develops that love of learning. When working with patients, understanding the social, cultural, and historical context from which they present makes a doctor more able to diagnose and treat their patients. Cultural literacy is also a hallmark of a liberal education. The liberal arts encourage communication, and understanding patients’ needs is one of the most useful tools in a doctor’s arsenal.
So whether you see yourself on the front lines of technology or health science, marketing or design, consider a liberal arts school for a lifetime of opportunity.