Throughout your college search, you've likely heard phrase "a background rooted in the liberal arts tradition" many times in your college research. But what is a liberal arts education? The liberal arts have nothing to do with political affiliation or artistic skill—it is the tradition of a broad education in various fields, including literature, philosophy, math, and the social and physical sciences. Often referred to as "core classes," the liberal arts tradition can be found in most institutions across the country, both those specifically designated as "liberal arts colleges" as well as bigger research universities. You may wonder why it's necessary to take courses outside your field of study—why not use your credit hours for classes that will be useful to your future career? But the liberal arts are in fact useful, maybe even more than you think. Here are five reasons why a liberal arts education might be best for you.
1. Liberal arts courses teach a broad range of skills
As stated above, a liberal arts education includes core classes in many areas of study, like math, science, literature, and even fine arts. Although one or more of the liberal arts classes you may take might not seem anywhere near relevant to your future career, the range of skills they provide can still benefit you. The job market is competitive, and people don't always end up in the field in which they originally intended to work. Having a broad education and varied knowledge can help you perform in any job you end up working after you graduate. Coming out of college with a well-rounded background is a key aspect of liberal arts education.
2. You're more likely to get hired with a liberal arts background
You've probably learned through the college admission process that being well rounded is a valued quality in any candidate. The same goes for applying for jobs—employers believe that all students should have a broad knowledge of the arts and sciences. In fact, a 2021 study conducted by The Association of American Colleges and Universities entitled "How College Contributes to Workforce Success: Employer Views on What Matters Most" found that at least 50% of the 500 employers surveyed viewed the skills of a liberal arts education as very important when seeking potential hires—skills including the ability to work effectively in teams, critical-thinking, creative thinking, ethical judgement and reasoning, complex-problem solving, and more. Many jobs require many different skills, not just the ones that seem obvious or are included in your major.
3. Your liberal arts skills are useful in any career
Most jobs require a wide range of skills. For example, in writing and research-based careers, it is likely you will need to know some math, usually statistics, to back up what you write. In science- and math-based professions, you will need to document your experiments and research and express your findings in writing. Many skills taught in the liberal arts are useful in any career field. Writing and communication are especially important skills taught in the liberal arts tradition, as they are needed in just about any field you can think of, even for tasks as simple as composing an email.
4. You can explore a variety of your interests
Taking a variety of classes, not just those within your specific major, can help you find other topics that you're interested in. And liberal arts courses are the best way to explore these interests. This can prompt you to take up new hobbies, learn new things, or even change the direction of your studies altogether. Who knows—you may find that another major or career choice suits you better than what you had planned. A liberal arts education has the potential to guide you in finding your true passions and could even change what you decide to do in life.
5. It shapes your perspective and broadens your mind
The liberal arts tradition can increase your world-view and add depth to your college experience. Gaining knowledge in a range of topics not only helps you to be well rounded in your skills but also in your thinking. Liberal arts education provides multiple viewpoints and allows for educational opportunities that cannot be obtained from trade or technical schools. Many colleges with strong liberal arts programs have interdisciplinary studies, internships, study abroad, and other opportunities that go into educating the student as a whole, adding depth to the overall college experience.
A liberal arts education holds more value than many give it credit for. This type of curriculum equips you with universal skills you can take into any field or career. So even if you’re planning on majoring in a STEM field, don’t discount the usefulness of taking liberal arts courses outside of your major. You may be surprised by the edge it gives you with potential employers in the job search process after graduation.
If you’re considering a liberal education, start exploring awesome schools with our list of Great Public Liberal Arts Colleges.