A liberal arts degree is one of the broadest degrees you can get1, encompassing fields such as philosophy, history, literature, psychology, and some sciences. What exactly can a liberal arts major expect in the workplace?
The answer: it depends. Liberal arts degrees lead to arguably the widest range of career opportunities out of any of the degree paths. Whereas a degree in medicine will almost always lead to a medically related career, the liberal arts are so varied that it can be nearly impossible to pin down the career a graduate will have.
Types of Degrees
As the liberal arts encompasses such a wide variety of options, it's only natural that several different degrees fall under the category of liberal arts. These degrees include majors in literature and English, philosophy, history, psychology, and other social sciences.
The admission requirements for a liberal arts degree changes depending on which exact degree you want. However, in general, you'll be expected to have a high school diploma with high marks in English, particularly if you pursue the philosophy program. You'll likely need math as well, though the required math course will change depending on which liberal arts degree you attend to earn. For example, if you major in English or literature, it's unlikely you'll need the highest level of math available.
Strong marks in social studies will be required for those thinking of majoring in History, and a base knowledge of science will be helpful no matter what degree you pursue.
A liberal arts school is designed to give students a general knowledge of many things, which enables them to take on many careers. This is both a benefit and a drawback. A degree in a specialized field will automatically give that individual an advantage over the liberal arts major - but only for that field. A liberal arts education allows students to cast their net wider than those with specialized degrees, giving them the opportunity to compete for many jobs. Certain employers also look upon a liberal arts education as favorable, as it means the potential employee is likely to be more intellectually balanced.
Those with liberal arts education may have a wide variety of career opportunities2. Teaching is a popular choice for students attending a liberal arts school, and those that participate in the history program will likely try to find jobs as historians or curators. Other career opportunities include acting, real estate, sales, design, and interpretation.
Those majoring in general studies have the highest starting salary3 of all the liberal arts majors at $43 100. Those who tackle the history program can expect to start with a salary of $41 900. Students who complete the literature program or earn an English degree will find a starting salary of $40 200 typical. Lastly, majors in visual and performing arts have a starting salary a bit on the low end at $33 800.
Note that while these salaries are typical, as a liberal arts programs can lead to a wide variety of careers, it's difficult to pin down an exact salary. Liberal arts degrees do not translate to salary as easy as more specialized degrees, such as engineering.
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1 "A Liberal Arts Degree is More Valuable Than Learning Any Trade," Forbes, November 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/vivekranadive/2012/11/13/a-liberal-arts-degree-is-more-valuable-than-learning-any-trade/
2 "Statistics of the Program," Harvard University, http://www.extension.harvard.edu/degrees-certificates/master-liberal-arts/overview/statistics-program"
3 "The Top Paying Liberal Arts Degrees," Forbes, February 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/02/06/the-top-paying-liberal-arts-degrees/