Transferable Skills for Liberal Arts Majors

As an undergraduate, I was often asked what I was studying in school. When I said “I’m an English major,” I would typically get responses such as:

“Oh, so you must want to be a teacher.”

“What are you going to do with that, read Shakespeare for a living?”

“Good luck finding a job with that degree.”

I heard comments like these so often that I started to believe that my choice of liberal arts major was a massive waste of time and money. But I was passionate about literature, and I felt that I was really learning a lot in my classes. There had to be some value in my degree, right?

Right! Believe it or not, employers are increasingly seeking candidates with a liberal arts background because of the diverse skills we gain through our coursework.

It’s true, you probably won’t directly use your knowledge of Ancient Greece at the office, and chances are you won’t be asked to comment on Restoration literature during your weekly staff meetings. However, it’s important to recognize that you’ve gained a multitude of transferable skills through your studies that many employers are actively seeking. Here are just a few:

Communication. You’ll probably see this required skill in every job posting you come across. Employers want personnel who can effectively communicate their ideas, reasoning, research, etc. both in speech and in writing. As a liberal arts student, you’re trained in the art of communication through the large number of papers you’re asked to write, along with the frequent class discussions you participate in. Liberal arts students are required to defend their thought processes in a clear and coherent manner that everybody can understand; the same skill is essential in the working world.

My advice for liberal arts students; don’t let anyone make you feel inferior about your area of study.

Time Management. Efficiently balancing time is important for every college student, regardless of major. However, liberal arts majors are particularly competent in managing their time. Are you taking a full-time courseload in which every single class requires 50 pages of reading and an analytical essay or discussion post each week? By graduation, liberal arts students are pros at getting everything finished on time, a skill that will translate to every career.

Critical Thinking and Analytical Reasoning. Not only are you required to read lots of challenging material, but you’re also asked to draw conclusions from that material and defend your reasoning on a daily basis. Being able to think critically and analytically enables you to view things from multiple angles; liberal arts students are comfortable asking the questions “why?” and “how?” This kind of thinking and reasoning builds your problem-solving skills which are needed and desired in all industries.

A liberal arts education builds valuable skills. Reflect on, identify, and market those skills, and you’ll have a fantastic and meaningful career ahead of you.

If you want more ideas for leveraging your liberal arts major, check out What Can I Do With This Major?, a resource provided to BU students exclusively through Handshake! 

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