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Carly's avatar

What is the point of a Liberal Arts degree?

Asked by Carly (4550points) October 18th, 2010

Most of my friends who’ve graduated from my current college are realizing that they really don’t have that many skills to use at jobs they are applying for.

Do you feel a lot of Lib Arts schools aren’t preparing their students enough or the real world? Any specific examples?

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20 Answers

Winters's avatar

From what I understand, liberal arts degree from an undergraduate school is mostly for those who want to go into teaching, and occasionally research, I can’t think what else it could be really good for.

However, if they were to go into grad school or a professional school, they would have many more skills which would make them much more attractive to the jobs they’re applying for.

Otherwise, teaching seems to be really the only field they could be certain near 100% of getting a job in.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

No one I know has yet to see any advantage to their degree aside from qualifying them to apply for particular entry level jobs with the county.

the100thmonkey's avatar

It teaches you to think and reflect.

Admittedly, the degrees in liberal arts don’t teach any immediate practical skills, but life is about more than bare instrumental “workplace skills”.

I feel that the strong push towards specialisation and practical skills means that we lose something.

It’s not for everyone, but there is a balance to be struck.

cockswain's avatar

A stepping stone for grad school. Other than that, becoming a generally well-rounded individual who knows many interesting things.

GeorgeGee's avatar

It’s for people who aren’t quite ready for a real education and instead want to re-do high school with a regimen of “English, Math, Social Studies, and maybe a little French”

YARNLADY's avatar

A liberal arts degree is not designed to provide any sort of employment skill. It is designed to introduce the student to the various subjects that are available, and perhaps lead them to a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.

To a potential employer, it can show they have the ability to follow the prescribed set of courses through to completion, thereby a sign they can actually finish the job they are assigned.

Actual job skills can only be acquired on the job.

talljasperman's avatar

to make the university money…And to give you free time to decide which restaurant you want to do dishes for… not like you have a choice mind you

tranquilsea's avatar

I’m not sure that I would go for a Liberal Arts degree unless I was looking only for self edification. And then there is this joke:

The graduate with a Science degree asks, “Why does it work?”

The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, “How does it work?”

The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?”

The graduate with a Liberal Arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

Evelyn_475's avatar

I don’t understand why everyone is so quick to bash a Liberal Arts degree. I recently earned my B.A. Cum Laude in Liberal Arts and I took several truly interesting, interdisciplinary courses. Developmental Psychology, Science and Conscious, Sociology, Cultural and Physical Anthropology, Geology, Individuals w/ Disabilities, Physics of Art, Language in Social Context, Sign Language, Astronomy, etc.
Yes, I am planning on getting my teaching credentials (what the degree is truly intended for) which includes another year of schooling and several state tests but I feel that my Liberal Arts degree allowed me to think in so many different ways and understand the world in ways that my peers who majored in say, business, could not. I could not be happier that I chose to major in Liberal Arts.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@Evelyn_475 – it’s snobbery. They don’t understand it as they’ve never done it.

I disagree that a liberal arts degree is intended for teaching. Don’t drink the kool-aid.

GeorgeGee's avatar

Most specialized degrees require a reasonable number of liberal arts courses. As a business, engineering or architecture student, for instance, you can (and should) be taking courses such as psychology, biology, Italian and music. We value these courses as enrichment and culture, but if someone is nearly finished with college and hasn’t yet asked the question “what do I want to do with my life,” or “when should I start some practical training for a career,” I think that’s foolish and self indulgent. It’s akin to having just a plate of cake icing for dinner and almost as a afterthought asking if perhaps you should have considered a vegetable as well.

the100thmonkey's avatar


Philosophy 101 doesn’t mean anything.

Carly's avatar

@GeorgeGee what If I’ve been asking myself that question for 5 years, and I still don’t know what I want to do?

cockswain's avatar

I think any and all learning is useful. The degree itself may not make the most economically valuable of all possibilities, but it opens doors. Some employers just want someone they know was intelligent enough to finish college and may not be looking for a particular discipline. I work at a biotech place and one manager has an art degree.

The good thing about liberal arts is it forces you to study and write about things you may be too lazy to do on your own. As a result, you know a lot more. Nothing wrong with that. You may hate the student loans though.

MarthaStewart's avatar

You cited an “art degree” as a counter example, and apparently you don’t realize that “art” is quite different from “liberal arts.” Most arts degrees are quite practical and career oriented, such as:
Graphic Design
Industrial Design
Advertising Design
Fashion Design
Game Art
Yes, people with arts are employable, because they learn practical arts skills specific to arts careers, sprinkled with liberal arts courses for enrichment.

Carly's avatar

@MarthaStewart I did? It doesn’t say so in my question. :/

I think those kinds of degrees are usually found in either lib art programs that are very specialized, or art schools. The “Art” major at my school is comprised of the following classes:
graphic design I
oils I
water color I
drawing I
an Art History class
2 studio classes of your choosing (which are pretty much graphics, drawing or painting)
and a capstone/independent project.

I find it very hard to see how that could be practical outside of being either an art teacher or a drawing/painting artist. and self-employment isn’t what I hope to lean on in the future.

cockswain's avatar

@MarthaStewart I cited an art degree to show the person with it is working in management in biotech. In other words, having a degree helps you get a job and not necessarily mean in the field of study.

GeorgeGee's avatar

OR it could be that Art majors are regarded as being attentive to details, good with their hands, and creative thinkers, which is why the art major was hired, NOT the liberal arts major.

cockswain's avatar

I don’t know why you have such a bug up your ass about people who chose to get a liberal arts education. I definitely know you aren’t aware of the resumes of those who interviewed for the position the art major obtained.

Evelyn_475's avatar

I should have added a point of clarification to my response:

My university required that Liberal Arts majors chose both an “option” and an “emphasis.” My degree is technically “Liberal Arts: Teaching & Learning Option w/ an Emphasis in Visual & Performing Arts.” My foundation courses happened to be several education courses as a matter of fact. So I indeed learned many practical skills such as how to teach our youth, and the supporting non-core classes helped me to learn what to teach them. The entirety of my coursework was essential in helping me to pass the several state exams necessary to get accepted into a credential program. I am utterly offended that there are those out there who would speak so poorly on the education that I received solely based on the title of the major. Shame on you all who speak so ignorantly. Not only will I have a job that will allow me to make a difference in others lives but I will also likely have better benefits, longer vacation time, and I will be able to relocate practically anywhere and have a job. So long as people keep having children, I will be needed. Thank you Liberal Arts degree.

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