The benefits of a liberal arts education for the future careers of Augustana students

Chloe Baxter

A primary motivation for students who decide to pursue secondary education is the prospect of improving their success on their chosen career path. This holds for both Augie students as well as students at other liberal arts and state academic institutions. However, this raises the question, do the advantages of pursuing a liberal arts degree outweigh a professional degree when it comes to the likelihood of securing employment? 

The main difference between a degree received from a liberal arts college like Augustana and a pre-professional degree lies in the curriculum. Specifically, the latter aims to prepare students for a certain profession, and the curriculum focuses more so on skills and knowledge relevant to that field. In contrast, liberal arts degrees enable students to learn skills and concepts that relate to their professional interests. But, they also promote greater critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. 

This broad range contributes to both career and personal development, allowing for liberal arts graduates to hone and develop their skills in a career field. This in itself is perceived as a future advantage for liberal arts students compared to students of a pre-professional degree, contributing to a greater chance of employment later in life. 

Casey Larkin, a 2011 graduate interviewed by Boston University, said, “The applicable skills of a career-oriented major are more valuable at an entry-level position, but the skills of liberal arts major are more valuable later on. Overall, I’m optimistic about my future,” (Boston University). 

Some may argue that a more specialized education is a benefit in certain fields, as less training is involved for new employees compared to those with a broader education. The focus of state schools is teaching students soft skills that rely on creative thinking, such as teamwork, communication and conflict resolution, which are valuable and significant factors in the hiring process. 

Another focus of students when pursuing a college education is economic and financial success, which some argue varies depending on the source of education.

In exploring the economic benefits of a liberal arts education, report’s authors Catherine B. Hill and Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta write, “Some majors and occupations are more highly rewarded in the labor market, but these are not uniquely associated with any one type of education, and choice of major and/or occupation may have more to do with preferences and abilities than what one is qualified to do upon graduation from any particular college or university as a result of that education,” (The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation). 

There are also the more extensive benefits of a liberal arts degree and education with regards to the importance of the humanities, and the understanding of these concepts with relation to worldview and perception. The unique lens that a liberal arts education offers to students is invaluable in the workplace as it leads to innovation and new developments.

A liberal arts education in comparison to a specialized, pre-professional degree does offer graduates a keystone set of skills that contributes to success in the workplace. It is essential for a student’s success in their chosen career field and personal development.