Choosing a Liberal Arts Education
15 skills every employer needs
- Employers want people who are comfortable with subjectivity and ambiguity. Often there are multiple solutions or approaches to solving a problem. Many jobs require nuanced thinking – that which is not simply black and white and that which digs beneath the surface.
- Problem solving and the ability to approach a problem from multiple and informed perspectives is desirable. It means you understand that most issues are multifaceted and multidimensional, requiring a broad knowledge base in addition to specialized training. Employers value workers who have mastered a content base but who also have breadth of knowledge and can put that knowledge to work in solving problems.
- Employees must have excellent verbal communication abilities. They need to be able to clearly articulate their ideas to communicate effectively with co-workers and to they people they serve. A good vocabulary, both expressive and logical thought, as well as rapport are important.
- Active listening or the ability to hear and fully understand another's ideas and opinions is necessary in effective communication. An employee must be able to give thoughtful consideration to others, especially when there are differing opinions.
- Employees must have excellent written communication skills. That includes being able to spell and use correct grammar. Employers want people who can write for different levels of understanding and for different purposes.
- Employees need to have excellent research skills. They need to be willing to dig to get accurate and meaningful data. Data collection methods such as conducting surveys, interviewing, utilizing databases and observation are valued. Archival research and online web-sourcing are also useful tools to have.
- Employers want people who have excellent analytical skills, people who can organize information and people who can process complex data sets. Both qualitative and quantitative analysis methods are important.
- Ethical thinking and integrity are central to the well-being of any organization, ensuring the respect and reputation of its employees. Businesses often include integrity management to foster ethical behavior and personal integrity in the workplace. These include responsibility to oneself as well as to the group, reliability and an internal moral compass.
- The ability to thrive in a diverse environment is necessary. Diversity can mean many things: age, sex, ethnicity, physical or cognitive ability, education, socio-economic level, etc. A liberal arts education prepares students to negotiate an increasingly diverse environment and, regardless of what profession one pursues, intercultural understanding is key.
- Collaboration is a highly desirable skill sought by employers. Liberal arts majors will be required to complete group projects, which calls on their ability to work with others; to respect another’s opinion; to listen to and acknowledge the feelings, perception, opinions and ideas of others; to successfully complete tasks in order to contribute to the larger goal; and to support group decisions even when members are not in total agreement.
- Employers seek workers who love what they do and will keep at it until they get the job done. They want employees who are willing to commit to long term goals, not immediate gratification.
- Employers seek creativity, innovation and the ability to approach a problem in a novel way.
- Because the world is ever and rapidly changing, employers are interested in hiring workers with a commitment to continued learning. Liberal arts education fosters a commitment to lifelong scholarly engagement that will prepare majors to meet the unknown demands of the future, that is, the ability to anticipate, respond to and manage change.
- Applied knowledge is highly desirable; it is hands-on, real-world experience. Many majors and programs offer internships and field courses, and all majors offer independent study, directed study and directed reading courses in which students can hone these skills.
- Employers and, let's face it, employees seek personal satisfaction in the workplace: it is fulfilling to be able to do what you love. If you will be spending 40 hours a week at a job, you will get the most satisfaction if you're doing something that is meaningful to you, and that can only translate into being a better employee.
If you’re not sure which major to pursue, we have designed ‘exploratory majors’ to help you make this decision.
- Exploring the Arts – leads to majors in art, music, theatre, dance or film studies.
- Exploring the Social and Behavioral Sciences – leads to majors in Africana studies, anthropology, communication, gender and women's studies, geography, justice studies, political science, psychology, public administration or sociology.
- Exploring the Sciences/Math – leads to majors in biology, computer sciences and information systems, chemistry, mathematics, physics or health sciences.
- Exploring the Humanities – leads to majors in English, history, modern language or philosophy.
Most majors are around 40 credit hours and the General Education Program is 40 credit hours. Students must complete 180 credit hours to graduate. There are often courses within General Education that can be used to fulfill major requirements.
With careful planning and working closely with a faculty advisor, students completing a double major can finish in the normative time. Undertaking a double major, especially when both majors are complimentary, expands your skill set.
It is also possible to pair a major with a minor. Most minors require 18-22 credit hours of course work.
All majors and programs in the liberal arts offer opportunities for students to conduct their own research projects or create and perform in the fine arts. Students select a faculty mentor with whom they will work and enroll in an independent study or directed study course.