First things first, Liberal Arts must not be seen as an option for those who “could not do science and maths”.
Here are some myths that need to be busted.
Myth 1: Graduates of Liberal Arts degrees don’t find jobs.
This is a misconception. According to a study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 93% of employers agree that an individual’s ability to think critically, communicate effectively and solve problems is more important than their undergraduate major. They also have an upper hand when applying to social services professions, whether affiliated to the government or otherwise.
It is, however, true that it does not prepare you for a specific career like a degree in engineering or medicine. But it opens up a world of opportunities to you, giving you the freedom to work in disciplines you did not major in. Also, let us not forget that in today’s competitive world, no major guarantees you a job. It is a question of how you stand out.
Myth 2: You can find only humanities jobs.
It is bewildering why people assume there is an impenetrable wall between liberal arts courses and the corporate job market. Not all of them become teachers or social workers. According to a report published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a third of humanities graduates in the US hold sales, services, or administrative positions.
Myth 3: They don’t make as much money as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or Management graduates.
This is a highly subjective domain that has been generalised into a stereotype. From a research standpoint, it is futile to compare the salaries of two individuals from different disciplines since income is determined by a lot of factors. That being said, it is true that some disciplines have a better starting salary than others. Although liberal arts majors have relatively lower starting salaries than those of engineers, their salaries rise more quickly in their professional lifespan.
Myth 4: It is a degree for “leftovers”.
What they intend is that students who can’t get into STEM courses are left with no options other than Liberal Arts. This is a cultural stereotype, more visible in Asian countries than anywhere else in the world. There are different kinds of intelligences, including logical, musical, existential, emotional and so on. Do not buckle under social pressure that approves one kind over the other. Solving difficult equations is not the only measure of your mental acumen. You can be drafting the next government public policy, designing inspiring posters or taking the world by storm with your perception of humankind, to name a few options. All of these are essential too!
Myth 5: It’s too political, too liberal, and not for men
The use of the term “political” in the context of Liberal Arts is often misconstrued to mean government politics. But the discipline uses this word in its largest sense to indicate power relations between people. The same is the case with liberals. It simply denotes being free. A Liberal Arts classroom is ripe with discussions where all ideological standpoints can debated and discussed.
The gendered stereotype is an offshoot of myths 1, 2, and 3. Patriarchy does exert extra pressure on men to be financial providers and therefore Liberal Arts is not a suitable option. With the earlier myths being debunked, this does not hold water either.