An Arts degree is not only valuable, but also teaches many of the skills and abilities that are needed in the contemporary place of work. That is why administrators in production, industry and government appreciate the value of an Arts degree in potential employees. They are on familiar terms with the significance of what are often called “employability skills”–reading, writing, listening, speaking effectively, knowledge of language, critical thinking, problem solving, basic numeracy, information literacy and the capacity to continue to learn for life. One must know that university Arts programs have always concentrated on just these skills. Students, too, appreciate that Arts Faculties tend to do the finest job in increasing these wide-ranging employability skills. That is one of the reasons that students carry on fulfilling their needs, by enrolling in Arts programs in high numbers.
However, there is still discernment out there that technical trainees get high income jobs in their fields while Arts graduates face high unemployment or can find only low wage jobs that do not use their university education. Recent studies, in both the U.S. and Canada, have demonstrated that a high intensity of education translates into higher income over a person’s lifetime. These studies show that most university graduates, including those with Arts degrees, have higher employment rates and higher lifetime earnings than people with only high school diplomas or technical/professional credentials.
Nevertheless there is more to it than a simple link between education and income. A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) points to what it calls “literacy skills” as the key factor that pays off in any job. Literacy, in this context, involves the types of skills that are cultivated in liberal arts programs: the ability to understand and make use of prose, to scrutinize documents, and to work with numbers. The report, permitted Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society, contains data comparing the literacy skills of people in 12 countries. It finds that the ability to comprehend and use words and figures plays a strong role in determining wages, especially in countries like Canada and the United States.
It is significant to note, however, that low literacy rates can be found even in people with higher education. The report points out that your educational credentials may get you a job in the first place, but having strong literacy skills will make you the kind of industrious and constructive employee who ascends through the ranks. What is more, workers with high literacy skills can adapt with less or no trouble to changing circumstances. This makes them less vulnerable to unemployment and more likely to be high income earners. In a rapidly changing information-based economy, the benefits of literacy cannot be underestimated.
A good liberal arts education increases your capacity to understand and enjoy humanity’s cultural and scientific achievements. Studies in your Arts program can increase your awareness and appreciation of literature, music, personality, nature, art, symbolism, wit, historical allusion or figurative language. Excluding that, a good wide-ranging education allows you to see things whole, to provide a context for seemingly meaningless events. Perhaps this helps explain, to a certain extent, why studies time after time show that educated people have, statistically, happier relationships, lower rates of depression, less loneliness, and a higher measure of contentment with life. Arts courses often facilitate students to reach beyond their own experiences and visualize worlds far distant in time and space. By opening your eyes, ears and mind, a good Arts education can strengthen the qualities of tolerance, sympathy, and respect for others. A liberal arts education will equip you to participate effectively in your community. It can also help you to engage in the controversies of our time–whether about the environment, cultural diversity, social justice, ethnic strife, gender relations or foreign policy.
The ability to take a diverse group of classes that have nothing to do with a future career is one of the appeals of a liberal arts college. However, the risk of not finding a job in something you like by aiming for a career in something one really loves, is part of a liberal arts education. But maybe the payout of spending all of that time and money in a class you find interesting but not fulfilling isn’t worth the price. For those students who have massive student loans, government grants and scholarships, is it really worth all of that debt to spend your time majoring in theater arts when you can be guaranteed a job in nursing or accounting? If your college experience means choosing something you love and potentially sacrificing your future, it’s your burden to bear. A good education may prepare us for the future, but it’s up to the individual to determine his/her own meaning of ‘good.’ Maybe one should learn to keep a proper balance between pragmatism and personal appeal.
I find it quite astonishing that despite a supposed declining interest in liberal arts, people are still enthusiastic about getting a certain educational base in it. As I am Indian, children in our culture grow up with two constrained lines of employment-engineering or pre-med, both of which involve knowledge of STEM subjects. Therefore, as I approached the issue of being a Liberal Arts Major, I had a very negative stand point until I realised that most of what made us civil citizens of the country was that we had a clear and unbiased view of the world we lived in. I am continuing this new found appreciation for the liberal arts by delving into President Trump’s decision to cut down on the National Endowment for Arts, by looking into why that shouldn’t be done. I hope that my blog has helped you in creating an objective view of the Arts and to understand that being indecisive about one’s future isn’t a shortcoming and the liberal arts are merely a manner in which college kids can explore their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe they don’t need to be liberated at all; maybe the stigma attached to it should be abolished.