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amazingme's avatar

What is your opinion on a liberal arts degree?

Asked by amazingme (1850points) August 26th, 2010

I am a senior in high school and I am trying to decide what I want to major in while in college. I was thinking about doing a liberal arts major because I can have a focus on history, but still receive a well-rounded education.
What’s your opinion on a liberal arts degree? Can I get a good job after college with it? Is it worth it?

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31 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It’s a really good idea. Truth is it’s all about post-college education these days and most workplaces will not at all care what you actually majored in.

selcouthstranger's avatar

Get one, but cheaply, please!

skfinkel's avatar

I’m with you on the idea of liberal arts. You become really educated, and can think about specializing later. Whatever you choose to do, you will bring an deep background of knowledge with you.

cockswain's avatar

I think it’s wise to have a college degree vs. not, but I personally don’t think that is a particularly useful degree unless you plan on primarily using it as a stepping stone to get to grad school. Maybe the greatest benefit of liberal arts education would be to expose you to a wide variety of subjects so that you might find one that interests you.

Obviously your career path should be in an area you enjoy, but energy, technology, science, engineering, or health care fields will be in high demand.

amazingme's avatar

@selcouthstranger I will, trust me! I live near a great community college where I can transfer to a university like JMU, UVA or GMU after two years.

@cockswain Part of the reason why I want to study liberal arts is because I can be exposed to more subjects.

cockswain's avatar

@amazingme That’s a great attitude. Learn what you like then choose what direction to go. Most 18 year olds have no clue what they want to do for a career right out of high school. I know I didn’t, and it’s perfectly normal to change your field several times throughout your life. Do whatever interests you and be useful.

TexasDude's avatar

I’m going to a liberal arts college for a history degree, and I implore you to only get a liberal arts degree if you are getting it for free or nearly free.

The economy is likely going to swing towards technical services in the near future (it’s already going that way) I.e.: engineering, medicine, skilled trades, etc.

If you graduate with a BA in liberal arts, you will not have a job upon graduation unless you go to graduate school and specialize a bit more. That’s why I implore you to only do it if you won’t have to pay for it, because there is no way you’ll be able to efficiently pay off your student loans after school (which is very important to maintaining good credit).

Trust me. I understand the value of having broad interests. I think it’s great to be able to understand Plato, and David Hume, and to be able to tell the difference between the pinch and coil methods in pottery making, and to speak Ancient Hebrew just because it’s fun. Problem is, the economy is not in that kind of mood right now, and services and trades are where the money is (and will be) for quite some time. I’m not trying to be mean, just giving you fair warning.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Don’t bother seeking such a degree just to avoid getting a job or because you have no idea what you want to study or why you want to be in University.

As a former university lecturer, I have found that such students typically waste everybody’s time and waste their parent’s money.

lillycoyote's avatar

Well, I think it can be a very good idea. It can be very difficult to balance the notion of going to college to become “Educated” with a capital “E” and seeing college as more of an intense, and expensive, “vocational” school. Nothing wrong with either choice. It depends on what you want to do with your life. I happen to really believe in the values of a liberal arts education and everyone, individuals and society and businesses and research institutions would benefit a lot from having people whose education has a broader base. But not everyone has the luxury of being able to do that and if you want to be a scientist, for example, you’re going to have trouble getting into grad school with a liberal arts degree.

Nullo's avatar

It’s got to be a useful liberal arts degree, though. History (for example) is only really useful, degree-wise, if you’re going to be teaching. When it comes to careers, science degrees give you more depth, but liberal arts degrees have more breadth.

Soft sciences combine the worst of both. An anthropology degree is really only going to be especially useful in the academic world.

Qualityoflife360's avatar

Great idea. I love it but does not pay well except you are exceptional.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Please do not discount the value of a liberal arts degree. You are studying the very warp and woof of the accumulated culture and the basis of societies. You will be part of the glue that holds society together. Employers realize this too. You will have ability to actually read and retain, an ability to effectively communicate, a grasp of logic and reasoning, the basics of planning, etc, all of which are skills desperately needed in business.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I have a BA in history from one of the top 10 small universities west of the Mississippi River, and I have a MALA (Master of Arts in Liberal Arts) from the third oldest university in the US. I highly applaud anyone who wishes to get a liberal arts education.

It is possible to get such an education while still pursuing a more specialized degree in a field such as science, mathematics, etc. There are liberal arts colleges all over the country. Many offer smaller class sizes and lower tuitions. A google search for liberal arts colleges brought up over 1.5 million sites to explore.

You’re young yet. You don’t have to declare a major upon entering a university. If you think you’d really enjoy studying history, then by all means, go for it. I did. I loved it, and my degree helped me when I got into the business world. I was able to think clearer and quicker than many of my colleagues.

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amazingme's avatar

@hawaii_jake Thanks! I will really take all of that into consideration!! :D

lilikoi's avatar

I think going to college without knowing what you want from it and how to get it is a waste of time and money. I think it is wise to balance this position with the fact that there is no better time to get scholarships than on your way out of high school. If you have enough outside funding coming in for your studies, then it is probably worth it to go to university straight from high school, even blindly. You can get a well rounded education even if you study something specific – you can study engineering and still learn about politics, art, history, music, foreign languages and culture, etc etc etc. You can’t study liberal arts and also learn how to become an engineer. But it all depends on what you want and where you’re going. Maybe you want to practice constitutional law, in which case studying engineering now would be a much more circuitous, inefficient path than studying history.

CaptainHarley's avatar

You might keep in mind that college isn’t for everyone. I know several rather wealthy people who never darkened the door of a college or university.

BarnacleBill's avatar

The Robert Maynard Hutchins core curriculum will not fail you. Lots of universities model a core liberal arts curriculum as the basis of their undergraduate programs.

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SeventhSense's avatar

Well in sentiment agreeing with Fiddle Creole’s pragmatism and with a “talk to the hand” to Dr Lawrence’s snobbery, I must say that an education is more than a paycheck or a training manual. If everyone were engineers, doctors and lawyers the world would be a very boring place. Artists, dramatists, writers and curators also add to the tapestry of life. And if “wasting time” were a sin there would be a a plethora of advice and a paucity of assistance from those who put in their two cents on a daily basis.
<shoots a spitball at DrLawrence

P.S.-There’s billions in garbage and concrete and you don’t have to be a Rhode’s Scholar to pocket that coin. In fact some of the richest people I know have little more than a high school education.

Carly's avatar

If you don’t like anything except history then Lib Art classes outside your major are gonna suck. But I don’t know if there are too many non-liberal arts programs for history.

If you feel you really need a degree to do whatever you want to do with history, just read a whole bunch of history books. It’s free if you use the library. If not, then go for a Liberal Arts degree, a BA. Most of your other classes will enrich your life experience. I’ve taken classes completely outside my major, for GE credits, and I’ve come away with a lot of useful knowledge.

amazingme's avatar

I am not so interested in finding a job where I can make tons of money or are the upcoming money making careers in the job market. I am just interested in getting an education in what I am interested in, which includes a wide variety of subjects. If I can get a job out of college on a liberal arts degree that pays well, that’s awesome. But if I can’t or if I am not happy with that job, I won’t do it. As long as I am surviving and I am happy, that’s fine with me. Personally I would rather go back to school to get a teaching degree and teach history to 12 year olds than be stuck in a job that I don’t like, where I just happen to be making tons of money.

And to point out, I won’t be spending or wasting my parent’s money. I work hard for the money I have and will be spending my own. And I also work hard for the many scholarships I have already applied for and will apply for.
@Carly No, I love a ton of different subjects, which is why I want to do the liberal arts major. I just happen to have a strong love for history and culture which is why that’d be a focus, maybe.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@amazingme : If you’re really interested in a serious liberal arts degree, then you should take a close look at St. John’s College. They use the great books curriculum. Here’s the undergraduate reading list. It covers the greatest works of Western Civilization.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@hawaii_jake, St. John’s program is awesome. I want to get a “do over” and go there.

CaptainHarley's avatar

WTF?? So now telling someone they had a “great answer” is an “off-topic post?” You guys are going to push this too far and I, for one, am going to frakking LEAVE!

amazingme's avatar

@hawaii_jake Thanks, I’ll take a look. :]

skfinkel's avatar

If you are interested in pursuing the liberal arts, I suggest you take a look at a group of colleges that are public liberal arts schools—ie much less expensive than private liberal arts colleges. Each of these schools are the best of their kind in their state. Look up COPLAC.org, the organization that connects these schools.

amazingme's avatar

@skfinkel Oh I will absolutely take a look at that too!! Thanks :D

iamthemob's avatar

Your major needn’t be connected with your career. If you know what you want to do, it can provide you with some supplemental benefits (e.g., you can make some good connections). You’d get better results, however, by starting to intern or work in that field as soon as possible. You just need to assess to what degree you can afford taking the four years and however much potential debt they saddle you with to pursue actual, diverse higher education. It’s value lies less in it’s ability to get you a job, but rather in providing you with a variety of tools which may become useful to help you keep it.

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