Opinions

Why Liberal Arts Colleges and Humanities Majors Are Valuable

Julia Maher ’23

Chief Opinions Editor

One thing that impressed me about Holy Cross during my college search was its personalized liberal arts curriculum. I wanted to keep my options open rather than attend a college that boxed students into majors very early on and did not encourage exploration of many subjects. I appreciate the common requirements and interdisciplinary style of the College’s liberal arts curriculum, not only because of the flexibility they provide in my studies, but also in the path to my future career. As a humanities major, I really enjoy studying English because it gives me a foundation for many different careers as well as invigorates my creative and critical thinking. These are advantages to choosing English as a major, as well as its ability to provide students with transferable skills, unlike some other more specialized programs. Studying English at a liberal arts college allows me to study what I love and have many different career prospects.

Despite liberal arts curriculums and humanities majors providing a lot of valuable information and skills to students, they are often discredited. Although liberal arts curriculum differs from humanities majors (for example, students can study biology and other non-humanities majors at liberal arts colleges), the arguments people use to discredit both are very similar. Some people believe that liberal arts colleges are useless because the curriculum is too broad, and they supposedly do not offer technical skills or any clear paths to careers. These are the same arguments that proponents of a more specialized college education use to discredit humanities majors; they often say that subjects such as English or history are useless and that they will not prepare students for careers.

Both of these assumptions are misguided. Humanities subjects, such as English, foster creative and critical thinking, allow students to develop immaculate oral and written communication skills, and do prepare students for future careers. Employers really value English majors and want to hire them, even more than business majors. While majors like business seemingly provide a straight path to careers, a specialized college education does not always guarantee that you will have “job ready” skills, such as writing, reasoning, and communication skills. (CBS, 2018). Employers really like candidates who are unconventional and think outside of the box, which a liberal arts education and humanities courses provide. Furthermore, although some people value STEM programs over humanities ones, English majors actually have a lower rate of underemployment (29%) than biology majors (35%), according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

People place far too much importance on college majors. It is very common for people to graduate from college and work in a field completely unrelated to their major. The transferable skills that the English major provides, such as creativity and communication, apply to virtually any career, and most careers provide on-the-job training. Finally, small, rigorous liberal arts colleges like Holy Cross allow students to engage in a vibrant alumni network, which is extremely valuable and is often what guides students to landing their first full-time job out of college—not their major.

People’s careers can either align to their major perfectly, not at all, or anywhere in between. In my case, I am an English major who is pursuing a career in film. One may look at these and ask—how could they possibly connect? Well, people often forget that storytelling and literature provide the foundation of film. Without literature, film would not exist. Films require scripts or even classic novels, which are often later adapted into movies. My English major, as well as my plethora of video editing experience, provides me with a lot of tools with which to enter the film industry. So the next time it feels compelling to devalue liberal arts colleges and humanities majors, it is important to focus on their advantages, too.

Photo Courtsey of Minerva Education

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