The Value of a Liberal Arts Degree
Many writers have debated the practicality of obtaining a liberal arts degree. I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from a small Canadian university, St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and as a graduate, you would think my views would be very favorable. And they are, for the most part.
My outlook on life is quite practical. As my own kids are getting older, and are soon to choose which universities they will attend and which programmes to take, the question I answered for myself in the eighties again becomes relevant.
And with the cost of a university degree today, is a B.A. the right degree? Or are there other options that might be better suited?
Solid Educational Foundation
The pragmatic side of me analyzes the investment in education by ROI—Return on Investment. Although “return” isn’t necessarily purely financial, it is the easiest to quantify.
Will a B.A. be a good investment in your future? There is little disputing that a B.A. can be the cornerstone of many careers. Unlike many kids coming out of high school, I knew what I wanted to do as a career—the practice of law was it, and nothing would dissuade me from that pursuit (albeit ironically, given I no longer actively practice).
And, save for limited exceptions, an undergrad was required as a prerequisite for law school admission. So for me, a B.A. undergrad was the perfect foundation. I learned to research, write and communicate ideas, hopefully well.
If you’re not certain where your vocational path may take you, but feel strongly that your future path is more qualitative than quantitative, an Arts degree is an excellent option for you. A good school will prepare you for the next steps on your educational pathway.
What’s the ROI (Return on Investment) With a Liberal Arts Degree?
I do feel that if you take a liberal arts degree in undergrad with a view toward immediate employment at stratospheric rates of compensation, you might be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, there are many employers out there who value a liberal arts degree and employ B.A. grads by the hundreds.
Will it be the path that is most likely to lead you to immediate pots of gold upon graduation?
With some exceptions, of course—not likely. There are degrees that have statistically higher employment rates and starting salaries—e.g., a better ROI. Business, engineering, and even a B.Ed. these days come to mind. So if at the post-high school stage of your life, you’re keen to start making big bucks as quickly as possible, a B.A. might not be your best option.
Course Choices Count
I remember at St. Thomas, there were many students focused so much on getting top grades that their course choices weren’t based upon learning or interest, but instead upon simply getting good grades. I get it. Law school or grad school is competitive, and good grades get you in the door, not the courses that you studied to get there.
Personally, I think this is a waste of time and money.
Sure, you might make your way into law school by taking Psych courses almost exclusively; however, if law school or the practice of law isn’t your gig unless you actually want a career in the field of psychology, you’re kinda SOL (not going to translate that for you LOL). I actually enjoyed practicing law, but because I chose courses in language arts and history, I now, post-law career, get to have fun writing (hopefully compelling) stories that utilize skills.
Final Thoughts on a Liberal Arts Degree
Choosing a career is a difficult decision. An arts degree is a solid foundation and is a great way to give yourself options for furthering your education. And despite the assault on grammar, spelling, and sentence construction we have all witnessed with the advent of texting and electronic communication, the ability to communicate well and clearly is still relevant, and can set you apart in today’s job market.
As such, the value of a liberal art degree today remains high.
I look forward to sharing this journey with you. Let’s connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram; or my newsletter here.
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