Students and faculty not concerned with marketability of liberal arts degrees

Marisol Medina/Staff Writer

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 2009-2010 about 3 percent of students in the United States graduated with a degree in liberal arts, 2 percent from English, 1 percent from history and 1 percent from philosophy and religious studies. The same statistics showed a business degree was the most popular between 2009-2010.

Currently at the University, the most popular major is still business. The degree accounts for 35 percent of all degrees conferred between 2011-2012.

Noble Cook, a professor of history, is not concerned about the low numbers of history graduates. He dismisses the possibility of concern for some students of having difficulties finding a job upon their graduation of an area in the liberal arts.

“It is a false worry because historians are trained to think critically and write coherently, which are the basic foundations for most careers,” Cook said.

Cook said that many history majors go on to have successful careers in journalism, law, business and the government. He said most history majors don’t end up teaching, but either continue their education or enter an entry-level job in fields like sales and government.

“I started my university career in engineering and switched to history in junior year because I realized that people are more interesting than engineering,” Cook said.

Cook said that the job market changes constantly, rising and falling every 3-5 years.

“Students should not pick their majors based on how the job market is, because it is very likely to change by the time the student graduates,” Cook said.

Sean Hermanson, a professor of philosophy, also dismisses fears of the marketability of a philosophy degree.

“I understand that it is a concern but it is important to acknowledge the university as a place to develop your mind and not like a trade school where you learn a technical skill and get a job,” Hermanson said.

Hermanson said that if a student’s sole concern is landing a job, that student should consider going to a trade school to learn a skill quickly to get a job upon finishing.

[pullquote]“Logic and reason never go out of fashion,” Hermanson said. [/pullquote]

“Philosophy will combine well with anything that requires someone to think critically because you have to become a linguistic acrobat and that serves well for areas such as law and even medicine,” Hermanson said.

About pursuing further education in order to improve job placement possibilities, Hermanson says it is not just a good idea for liberal arts majors, but others as well.

“There is no danger of the liberal arts disappearing. Whenever economy issues come up, the liberal arts are always targeted, but it is only because people don’t see an immediate payoff,” Hermanson said.

Carolyn Meeker, assistant director at the office of Career Services, says she thinks all students, not just liberal arts majors, worry too much about job placement upon graduation.

“I understand why some parents would push their kids towards other majors that are more technical but there are many things students can do to enrich their liberal arts degrees, like doing work with a school organization, for example,” Meeker said.

She suggests students start working on their outside-classroom skills such as networking and public speaking as soon as possible and get additional certificates to enrich their majors.

Matt Tanner, assistant director at Career Services, also suggests students do an internship soon in their college career so that they can show a future employer that they have real world experience.

“In the real world you need to be able to relate with employers. It’s no good having a 4.0 GPA if you can’t shake an employers’ hand and engage them in a conversation,” Tanner said.

Cathiana Limage, a senior studying linguistics, said she wasn’t worried about not being able to find a job immediately after graduation.

“Linguistics has a lot of fields, so I am not worried when it comes to that. I could teach, translate, interpret – there are so many things I could do,” Limage said.

Limage has found an internship and is working on gaining experience before she graduates, with hopes of continuing on to graduate school to become a professor.

Dexter Grooms, an art senior, is graduating this semester. He is currently working with Campus Life as a junior graphic designer. He will continue working there full-time when he graduates.

“I didn’t see myself doing anything else. I was all in because if you’re going to do art, you need to be in it fully to get results,” Grooms said.

Grooms admits the thought of his major’s marketability crossed his mind, but it didn’t stop him.

“It is a difficult road, but it is possible if you believe in yourself and you keep at it,” Grooms said.


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