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The Best Prep for the Real World: Business or Liberal Arts Degrees?

If you plan to go into business after college, you may be wondering if you should study Business or liberal arts. Here's why you should consider both.

Choosing a major is a challenge for many college students, and as students are diving into their fall semester, many are still struggling to decide what to study. While many want to follow their passions in liberal arts, some argue it’s more practical to study business. There are also good arguments for studying both business and liberal arts at the same time. If you’re struggling to decide between liberal arts and business, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of your choices before making a decision. Changing your major later can delay graduation, result in additional tuition expenses, and/or cause you to take courses that won’t aid in achieving your degree. To help you understand the advantages of each path(or both), here’s a look at both courses of study and how they can both prepare you for your future. 

Majoring in Business

A Business degree is an excellent fit for those with an entrepreneurial spirit or a passion for business. Often promising a higher future salary (with a median entry-level pay of $$79,050), majoring in Business is appealing to many. In addition to pay, students with Business degrees are in high demand, as many companies prefer to hire employees with formal business training. A Business degree shows companies that the employee is dedicated to achieving long-term goals and willing to learn, both attributes that are desirable in employees. 

Studying the liberal arts

Liberal arts studies include Communication, Mathematics, History, Language, Economics, and other non-specialized fields. Unlike a Business degree, which teaches tangible skills like accounting practices and business law, liberal arts emphasize what are known as soft skills. Learning how to communicate effectively, interpersonal relations, and problem-solving are three benefits of studying the liberal arts. Too often Business study teaches a black-and-white way of looking at a problem, while liberal arts fields tend to teach you how to understand, work through issues, and communicate thoughts through productive conversations and actions.  

Related: The Top 10 Hard and Soft Skills All Employers Want

Business or liberal arts: Which should you choose?

Following either a liberal arts or business path offers students numerous benefits, but neither individually encompasses all the skills you need to be successful professionally and personally after graduation. Graduates from either major may find themselves missing specific skills necessary to be the best versions of themselves they need to be for a particular role. 

While Business graduates understand how to apply tools and numerical models to their everyday work, they often don’t understand what drives their colleagues or customers to make choices. Liberal arts graduates, on the other hand, are trained to communicate, observe, and dissect what others want or need. However, they may be lacking the specific training and problem-solving skills needed for a technical role. 

Enter the double major

You may have never thought about double-majoring before, but pursuing an integrated combined degree program that offers both types of courses could be the best option for your personal and professional growth. Here are six benefits of studying both fields during college and into adulthood.

1. Increased flexibility

Those who have a diverse education are often more flexible when it comes to accepting change after college. That’s because they’ve learned critical-thinking skills that guide them in working through the changes. With both majors under your belt, you'll also have a wider range of job positions and fields open to you with your broad qualifications. 

2. Increased financial acumen

Those with a background in business typically understand numbers and are positioned to make savvy financial decisions—professionally and personally. When you pair that with a background in the liberal arts, you also can work through hurdles such as figuring out when it’s best to ramp up your savings and creative ways to earn extra money. 

3. Better habits

Good habits are the key to a successful life. Students who study business and liberal arts are going to have to learn treated time management and organization skills. Two majors won't be a walk in the park, but with intentional academic habits, it doesn't have to be overwhelming for you either. When you enter the real world with healthy habits, it’s easier to find success in your career and adapt to new expectations as they arise. 

Related: The Top 10 Hard and Soft Skills All Employers Want

4. Greater understanding of numbers

It’s one thing to know how to manipulate and calculate numbers in an accounting or finance career, but it’s entirely different to know how to evaluate and apply them. The latter set of skills is learned through liberal arts classes, and putting both together makes for a winning combination. Pursuing both programs ensures you will always have both the expertise and practical application skills for anything a job throws your way. 

5. Combining practical and analytical skills

The rigor of pursuing multiple majors can prepare you for excellence in other areas of your life, including those outside the working world. For example, one area in your personal life that will require business savvy and critical analysis is purchasing a house. During this process, you may be faced with a variety of decisions, including deciphering documents like mortgages and insurance policies. According to a study by, only about half of policyholders understand their coverage, and 90% never compare rates, which puts them at risk of overpaying. With business and liberal arts practicalities, you may be more inclined to question the policy and do your homework when it comes to the numbers, leaving more money in your pocket.

6. Opportunity to be more culturally adept

By studying both business and the liberal arts, you’ll have a more diverse set of teachers and classmates to learn from, as well as gain a more diverse set of learning skills and cultural competencies. This makes it easier to transition to a career where you’ll interact with individuals from many different backgrounds and cultures. Ensuring you know how to appropriately navigate a cross-cultural workspace is crucial in the business field. 

Related: Boost Your Career Advantages With These 5 Liberal Arts Skills

While your future salary may be one consideration, there are many factors to consider when selecting a major. Too often students declare a major with the hopes of landing their dream job, only to find themselves unsure of what they want after graduation. By researching the front end, it can be easier to find the path that suits your interests and goals.

Learn more about earning your degree and find great colleges and programs to consider with the content in our Business section.

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