Our Green Ivy offices are located in heart of the the Silicon Valley, so it isn’t surprising that many students we work with want to pursue a career in a STEM field. Most have a genuine passion or strength in these areas, but we also see students gravitating towards these academic majors because they are worried they are anxious about the post-undergraduate job market. They believe that pursuing subjects they enjoy, like English or history, isn’t a good use of time or that attending a liberal arts college won’t provide the security that like a degree in engineering or computer science. This misconception is in part because what exactly the liberal arts can provide students isn’t always emphasized, and there are also many misconceptions about what getting a “liberal arts education” actually means.
There is the persistent myth that the liberal arts are somehow “soft” and less important than STEM, yet the liberal arts actually comprise several key subjects that form the backbone of many important career skill sets, including philosophy, literature, mathematics, and the social or physical sciences. In addition, liberal art degrees emphasize well-roundedness, and focus on skills that promote critical thinking and communication. Liberal arts degrees also offer some unique skills for job applicants that employers value. More than ninety percent of employers interviewed expect candidates to demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity, as well as intercultural skills and a capacity to learn.
These are the specialties of a liberal arts education, which is focused on independent thinking and learning. Interestingly, three out of every four employers also recommend to young people that they get a liberal arts education because the capacity of these students to think critically, solve problems, and communicate leave them better prepared to deal with today’s shifting economy. In fact, Edward Ray, president of the University of Oregon, posits that a well-rounded liberal arts education can provide a foundation in critical thinking, teamwork, and sensitivity to socioeconomic, cultural, and demographic differences. Ethical thinking is not only a large component of the liberal arts, but is also incredibly important in social, political and diplomatic fields.
To be sure, research consistently suggests that students who major in STEM fields in college have higher starting salaries – but overall, there is no one right path to college and beyond, whether students major in the liberal arts or the STEM fields. The key, as we advise all of our students, is to figure out what they love and enjoy in academics and in life. For each individual, developing their specific interests sets the stage for intrinsically choosing the best match in a college degree and an eventual career.