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Do Liberal Arts Degrees Hold Any Value?

There seems to be much debate over just what, exactly, constitutes a practical college degree program these days. After all, it is common knowledge that a college degree does not automatically qualify you for the career of your dreams, and many new college graduates wind up working in fields that have nothing to do with their majors, at least initially. Liberal arts educations have been getting some criticism in the media lately–the speculation being that they don’t necessarily lead directly to jobs upon graduation. However, when considering the value of a liberal arts education, it is important to keep a number of other things in mind.

Liberal arts versus STEM. The alternative to a liberal arts degree (or, a degree in the humanities) is a degree in any of the STEM disciplines. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. Proponents of STEM claim that these fields are most fundamental to the direction the world is going in, and that STEM majors will be most valued in the future. While it is true that in some areas of the globe (and in the United States), those holding a degree in one of the STEM fields are more likely to earn gainful employment right out of college, it would be difficult to argue that as proof of the inadequacy of a liberal arts degree. Liberal arts and STEM are two very different approaches to education; they both fill niches that are fundamental to human thriving.

Major and salary. While there are some liberal arts degrees that statistically lead to lower than average salaries when compared to their traditional degree counterparts, there are other degree programs that are highly competitive salary wise. For example, English and drama majors tend to make less right out of graduation than philosophy majors do. You simply cannot clump all liberal arts majors together, as the salaries tend to vary just as much as the degree programs themselves.

The long view. It is true that certain liberal arts degrees lead to lower than average salaries right out of college, but it is important to note that this is only in the beginning. Studies show that liberal arts majors actually out-earn traditional degree holders over the course of a lifetime. Therefore, when considering whether your liberal arts degree will hold any value, it is best to do so with the long view in mind.

Do liberal arts degrees hold any value? Ask any ten people and you might get ten different answers. When it comes to investing in an education, your best bet is to consider what you need and want as an individual, and then to tailor your plan to than end.

About the Author: Tommy Burgess loves to study education. His son is currently working with a Westchester French tutoring group and is going to graduate high school and head towards college this year.

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