You Want to Major in What?

The Value of Liberal Arts Majors    

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It is common for parents to be concerned about their student's choice of major. Will jobs be available? Will the investment in this education have long term career benefits? It can be tempting to make recommendations such as "Be an X major. That's where the jobs are." This, however, can be a source of great anxiety for many students. When mom or dad pushes a major that does not align with the student's passions and interests it can be difficult to successfully navigate the decision-making process.

The truth is a student's undergraduate major is typically not the critical key to success. Major does not equal career. How is this possible? The key is transferable skills ; abilities that can be translated to any career and any employer. Students may gain these skills in the classroom, but many are developed through internships , extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences and other out-of-the-classroom endeavors . Employers and graduate programs are interested in students who not only perform well academically, but who are also well rounded and engaged in their undergraduate experience. In fact, many seek students who come from academic programs outside of their own field and therefore have fresh ideas and new ways of thinking.

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Excerpts from a report that provides a detailed analysis of employers' priorities for the kinds of learning today's college students need to succeed in today's economy:

IT TAKES MORE THAN A MAJOR:
Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success
An Online Survey Among Employers Conducted on Behalf of:
The Association of American Colleges and Universities
By Hart Research Associates
April 10, 2013

   Employers recognize capacities that cut across majors as critical to a candidate's potential for career
   success, and they view these skills as more important than a student's choice of undergraduate major.

  • Nearly all those surveyed (93%) agree, "a candidate's demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate
    clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major."
  • More than nine in ten of those surveyed say it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment
    and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning.

   Employers recognize the importance of liberal education and the liberal arts.

  • The majority of employers agree that having both field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of
    skills and knowledge is most important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success.
    Few think that having field-specific knowledge and skills alone is what is most needed for individuals'
    career success.
  • Eighty percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, every college student should acquire broad
    knowledge in the liberal arts
    and sciences.

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Last Updated: 7/3/14