The value of a liberal arts degree.
Blogger: Madi Tsuji
Like many seniors, I am currently in the midst of the professional job hunt. The search for the elusive $38k/year salary has often entailed having to defend my liberal arts degree to future employers. As a public relations, communications, and marketing professional, I am often asked why I majored in psychology and art history instead of communications, business, journalism, or another directly applicable field. This is my response.
A) A liberal arts degree means your brain has been taught to think critically, think quickly, and learn broadly. Having a liberal arts degree means a high ability to learn whatever new task is presented and to think outside the box and on your feet. In an age where computers can do the formulaic work, creativity gets people hired.
B) A liberal arts degree also comes with a broad scope of interest and knowledge. You may have a major or two, and perhaps a minor. What your resume doesn’t show is that in order to complete the degree you also had to take classes in fields outside the major. I applied my focus in psychology to kinesiology, religious studies, art history, politics, and history. Exposure to different fields generates curiosity and a global purview.
C) You will graduate knowing how to communicate effectively in writing. This is an invaluable emphasis of the liberal arts degree that is often lost in the large research university setting. An eye for detail and an internal grammar- and spell-check will help you stand out in a sea of graduates who still don’t know the difference between “whose” and “who’s.”
D) I want to be specific about the connection between psychology and communications, because it’s a common direction for psychology majors who don’t want to go into clinical work. Chris Graves, Global CEO of Oglivy & Mather, once wrote: “PR requires a fairly comprehensive understanding of behavioral economics and managing human cognitive biases coupled with a mastery of narrative theory.” Translated, that means his line of work requires an understanding of social psychology and cognitive psychology coupled with the ability to write effectively and tell stories. I can’t think of a more explicit and compelling argument for why a psychology degree from a liberal arts institution is the strongest background for a communications professional. If you’re interested in learning more about social psychology and/or cognitive psychology, I suggest looking into the classes taught by Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Shtulman, respectively.
Working towards a liberal arts degree is not a four-year extension of high school, but rather a period of expanding the scope and repertoire of thinking patterns. Employers are less interested in the name of the institution granting the degree and more interested in relevant work experience, and the way to get relevant work experience while in college is to convince employers to give you a chance. Convince them that your liberal arts degree means you come with skills other applicants don't have!
Are you convinced? Are you not convinced? Let’s hear your thoughts!