What Can You Do With That (Useless) Liberal Arts Degree?

Do you long to study art or music or history, but you’re afraid of what you can actually do with your degree? Your thoughts might run like this: “Don’t get a history degree. All you can do is teach history.” Or “Architecture? Who’s going to hire you for a real job with that?” Or “Yeah, nice barista you’ll be with that sociology degree. At least rent will be cheap; you’ll be living in mom’s basement.”

But maybe we’ve got the wrong assumption. Is it true there’s no demand for liberal arts grads? Do you have to study business or IT or health care to get a decent-wage career?

We wanted to find out. So we used a brand new prototype developed by Emsi (the data company behind Find Your Calling). The prototype taps into a database of over 182 million job postings to show how often employers mention your degree in their jobs ads. Here’s what we found: Liberal arts grads are in demand for careers far more diverse and attractive than people usually assume. 

shakespeare-1716106_1920Of course, you’ll need to develop some additional skills (either on the job or through separate courses, such as a writer who learns some coding to be a better blogger), but the truth remains: Employers in every sort of industry want people with these majors. Why? Because liberal arts graduates are famous for their critical thinking skills, communication abilities, and creativity. Businesses need all of those!

Let’s look at the real-life career opportunities for three liberal arts degrees: liberal arts proper, history, and English.

Liberal Arts Proper

Numerous companies want to hire these grads. At the top of the list is Leidos (spelled incorrectly as “Leids” in the prototype): a large defense, intelligence, and homeland security contractor. Other companies include American Express and The Hartford Financial Services Group. The jobs with highest demand are surprisingly diverse: intelligence analyst, client service specialist, signals intelligence (SIGINT) analyst, business development manager, and project manager—compelling, high-demand careers. The top skills sought after are management, communications, research, and operations.

History

Aecom, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Deliotte are all seeking history majors. Career options for historians include intelligence analystmanagement consultant, research analyst, and patient services rep. The top desired skills are management, research, teaching, communications, project management, and writing.

English

Just like history, an English degree lets you do a lot more than teach! The top positions for English majors include writer/editor, communication specialist, marketing coordinator, and sales manager. Companies in need of English majors are all over the map, ranging from health care to technology to logistics: United Health Care, Oracle, and Amazon, and more. Surprisingly, the most sought-after skill (after writing) is management. Other skills vary widely—everything from marketing to recruitment to operations.

Conclusion

Liberal arts students have been on the defensive for years. While STEM careers offer higher wages on the whole, the liberal arts have been put in time-out based on the myth that attractive careers will be out of reach!

But job postings tell a different story. As long as you’re willing to pick up some extra technical skills and you can answer the question “What are you going to do with that?” with a strategy instead of a shrug, then press on! You will be truly valuable to the labor market.

Note: A longer version of this article was originally published in Forbes. 

Use Find Your Calling to discover high-wage, in-demand careers you’ll love and the education you need. Get started with our free Discovery QuestionnaireGet career tips and college advice by following FYC on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Sign up here for the monthly newsletter. Contact me at rob@findyourcalling.com

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