Why the Liberal Arts?

Why Study the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century?

Not every student who takes classes in the College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences comes pre-sold on the value of a liberal arts education. Fortunately, from core classes through our senior seminars, Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences students develop a strong awareness of the many personal and professional benefits of studying and majoring in the liberal arts.

Our liberal arts curricula focus heavily on critical thinking, sophistication in oral expression, excellence in writing, understanding human behavior and the complexities of culture, developing methodologies for problem solving and gaining team-building and leadership abilities grounded in these skill sets. Liberal arts faculty in the College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences (CHASS) help students’ individual passions evolve into a mastery of English, history, communications, languages, philosophy, theater, art and art history, psychology, sociology, criminology and criminal justice. CHASS faculty also help students recognize how perspectival openness, global awareness, and intellectual curiosity are invaluable dispositions for career advancement and the life-long learning that is a hallmark of the liberal arts tradition.  

What are the Employment Possibilities for Liberal Arts Majors?

The College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences is well aware that liberal arts majors must have the necessary skills to begin a career in a competitive marketplace, one still in recovery from the economic downturns of recent years. Our courses prepare students for what recent studies show employers are demanding. For example, the most current and comprehensive study, based on an Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) survey of thousands of business and non-profit leaders, reveals an immediate need for liberal arts graduates to support and enhance an innovation-fueled economy. An overview of this study reports:      

  • “Nearly all those surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
  • “More than 9 in 10 of those surveyed say it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for new learning.
  • “More than 75% of employers say they want more emphasis on five key areas including: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.
  • “Employers endorse several educational practices as potentially helpful in preparing college students for workplace success.  These include practices that require students to a) conduct research and use evidence-based analysis; b) gain in-depth knowledge in the major and analytic, problem solving and communication skills; and c) apply their learning in real-world settings.
  • “The majority of employers agree that having both field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of skills and knowledge is most important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success.  Few think that having field-specific knowledge and skills alone is what is most needed for individuals’ career success. 
  • “80 percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, all college students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.”

How Do Career Earnings for Liberal Arts Majors Compare to Salaries in Other Fields?

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint” is the common expression for salary potential in the liberal arts.   Although new graduates may earn roughly $5,000 less than their peers in STEM, this gap is closed significantly by mid-career and often completely with experience and additional graduate work. According to an extensive 2009-2012 Workforce Analysis by Georgetown University and the U.S. Census Bureau, experienced graduates of liberal arts programs report mid-career earnings of $50,000-$60,000, with later career peaks in the $80,000+ range.

 CNBC recently reported that “by the peak earning years, from 56 to 60, people with liberal arts degrees earn . . . about $2,000 more than their peers with professional or pre-professional degrees.” A liberal arts education at Drury further maximizes these earnings by integrating liberal arts preparation and professionalized majors, both in the core curriculum and in partnerships between the College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences and the Colleges of Education, Business, and Architecture.

For more information on these current surveys, statistics, and compelling arguments for the competitiveness of a liberal arts degree, please consult the full 2013-2015 reports on career salaries in the liberal arts and employer needs:

For related insights, please also read “Why Businesses Prefer a Liberal Arts Education

Why Not Contact Us to Learn More About the Liberal Arts in CHASS?

Please feel encouraged to contact the Dean’s Office of the College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences (asorenson@drury.edu) or any of the chairs and faculty profiled in the departmental pages that follow. We will be glad to discuss the outstanding work of current liberal arts majors as well as the career paths of our recent graduates.