“What are you going to do with THAT degree? Teach?”

How many times have liberal arts majors been asked this question? After almost two decades of work with students, I propose that the question should be reframed as, “What can’t a humanities student do with that degree?” And it appears that there is evidence to support my proposal. According to a recent study, our evolving economy is creating a greater need for workers with the skills acquired through training in liberal arts.

More than teaching just subject matter, a liberal arts education transforms your life (and usually teaches the top-notch writing and communication skills that not only get you hired, but promoted quickly, too). Engagement with challenging texts, wrestling with fundamental questions about the human person and the meaning of existence, and dialogue with other passionate students and professors all develop habits of thought and character which employers crave.  

Jobs with the highest demand for liberal arts majors are very diverse. Top fields include intelligence analyst, business development manager, project manager, client service specialist and signals intelligence analyst.

If none of those top careers are enticing, look further afield. Liberal arts majors can find their way in nearly any job. Business, marketing, sales, communications, and law are natural fits for liberal arts majors, but the options are limitless for alumni who can think and write and speak well upon graduation.

For students who wish to embark on the adventure of graduate school by earning a master’s, law, or doctoral degree, studying the liberal arts is a broad foundation for later specialization in grad school. Even medical schools are increasingly recognizing that humanities undergraduate degrees may be superior to a pre-med track because liberal arts-trained doctors have excellent social and communications skills and understand broader economic and community-related impacts of health and wellness.

Where will your specific interests, talents, and strengths take you? Everyone has a unique career path, but liberal arts majors can go on to be economists, archaeologists, photographers, public relations specialists, human resource professionals, teachers, social workers, graphic designers, writers, artists, and actors. Communication, research skills, critical thinking and creativity are valuable and rare skills in any career.

A degree in liberal arts can lead to a very well-paying job. In fact, some arts and humanities professionals earn as much as STEM professionals by mid-career. It’s not all about the money, but if your parents start to get a little worried look in their eyes when they ask you about what you’ll do with that humanities degree, this can be a very consoling piece of information. We don’t all have to be starving artists!  

During senior year and after graduation, students should visit the university’s career services office in order to learn how to market themselves to the organizations they’d like to work for — matching their skills with the skills required of their desired position. Nothing beats having an insightful mentor or advisor during your undergraduate years so that you can ask questions and get direction from someone who knows your strengths and interests well. This aspect of professorial work is one of my favorite parts of the job; advising students as they embark on the “real world” helps them to grow in self-knowledge as they discover where they will be happy and successful.

With the right mindset, the options are endless for the undergraduate student who has worked diligently to study a subject he or she loves.