Liberal Arts: Quite Possibly the Major of Future CEOs

A common stereotype in Western culture is the unemployable liberal arts major. We see it on television, in movies, and in the stories we tell: the student who bravely but naïvely studies their passion and ends up unemployed and deeply in debt. This stereotype has unfortunately woven its way into the mindset of many parents and young people, who believe that studying language or the arts is a waste of time and money, that it should be reduced to a hobby or eliminated altogether.

However, according to George Anders, author of You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education, the belief that liberal arts graduates are unemployable “ignores the reality of the modern economy, where jobs require a mix of skills not easily packaged in a college major . . . .Once CEOs see liberal arts graduates in action, they come aboard to the idea that they need more of them.’” (NYT)

One-third of Fortune 500 CEOs have liberal arts degrees; admissions officers from top business, law and medical schools are said to prefer liberal arts majors; and billionaire entrepreneur and tech investor Mark Cuban recently predicted that “there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than . . . for programming majors and maybe even engineering.” (Business Insider)

Why?

Innovation comes at the intersection of disciplines; the most successful students and professionals can successfully integrate education and experience. When students can choose a major in an area they are passionate about, and supplement it with a minor or coursework in another discipline, they dramatically increase their ability to function at this intersection. Phil Gardner, Director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, suggests that a narrow set of specialized skills is no longer sufficient for today’s jobs. It’s all happening at the intersection of education and experience. (Forbes)

BYU has a unique environment where students have access to quality education in both hard and soft skills. With more than 40 major and minor programs to choose from, the College of Humanities has courses to supplement every student’s trajectory. Outside of what is offered in the classroom, BYU also has a broad selection of study abroad and international internship programs to provide experience that supplements education.

BYU is often known as “The Language University,” and for good reason. We teach more than 1,500 language classes every year in more than 60 languages. We are motivated by a conviction that advanced language learning brings cultural insights and increases global understanding.  Second-language learning promotes the aims of a BYU education by giving students the power to think clearly, to act well in the world’s work, and to appreciate life.

As proud as we are of our strong language programs, however, the College of Humanities has much more to offer than just second-language classes. Our college has world-class faculty that promotes hands-on learning and critical thinking. Courses in linguistics, literature, philosophy, and writing enrich students’ holistic education and capability for lifelong learning.

Alumni of the liberal arts not only have excellent career prospects, but earning potential as well. “At peak earning ages, liberal arts majors surpass people in pre-professional degrees, in part because they are more likely to have graduate degrees. After people who focused on the social sciences and humanities as undergraduates attend graduate school, they may end up working as lawyers or professors, which are high-paying professions.” (Five Thirty-Eight)

The College of Humanities takes special care of its students who have graduate school ambitions. Whether it be law school, medical school, or a master’s or PhD program elsewhere, our professors are available to nurture, mentor, and advise students who aspire to a professional or academic career. We want all of our students to succeed, whatever career (or careers) in which they find themselves. Regardless of individual ambitions, students can be certain they will leave the College of Humanities with a holistic, human education as part of their degree.

Stephanie Graff Dossena is pursuing her master's degree in Public Administration and has loved working on the College of Humanities Communications Team for the past two years. A native of Orem, Utah, she enjoys reading and spending time outdoors.

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