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Careers for Liberal Arts Graduates

By Kate Juhl

Yes, there are jobs out there for liberal arts majors--even in a tough job market. While the link between college and career is, at first glance, more clearly defined for technical and business graduates, liberal arts graduates are, in fact, well positioned to secure meaningful, post-college careers. The keys to bridging this transition begin with understanding the value of your liberal arts education and utilizing every job search tool at your fingertips.

One of the main stumbling blocks liberal arts graduates face in the workplace is an inability to market their degree. A liberal arts education typically includes the study of languages, history, literature, philosophy, math and sciences. This study traditionally focuses more on intellectual learning than technical training. Through these intellectual pursuits, liberal arts students also hone valuable critical thinking, analytical, communication and teamwork skills. According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, these skills top the list of those most desired by employers. Employers realize that it is easier to provide job-specific technical training than to cultivate these ‘soft skills’ in new employees.

Adding real world experience to your résumé can also bolster your credentials. Consider completing an internship for academic credit or taking a part-time job in your field of study. These experiences are invaluable ways to test out career interests, while gaining career field-specific skills and networking with future employers. Studying abroad is another great way to broaden your knowledge of other cultures and languages, skills critical in today’s global economy.

Successful job searches require you to utilize multiple strategies and resources. Visit the CSC to clarify interests and skills, research potential employers, construct a professional résumé and strengthen interviewing skills. Networking through professors, past internship supervisors and local professionals is one of the most effective job search tools. Don’t be afraid to let others know about your job search.

In a tough job market, liberal arts majors can make themselves the most marketable by:

  • conducting a thorough self-assessment of personal skills, values and interests with a career counselor
  • completing thorough research into potential positions in all sectors of the economy (private sector as well as non-profit organization and local, state and federal governments)
  • participating in as many internships as possible to build tangible, real world experience on your resume
  • working with a career counselor to ensure your job searching and interviewing techniques are top-notch
  • considering starting in a low-level position to get your foot in the door, as long as opportunities are available for advancement.

The most challenging aspect of the job search process is starting early. Investigate majors and career fields of interest as early as your freshman year. Taking a proactive approach to career development ensures you will encounter few limits on future directions with your English (or history or philosophy) degree.

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