The One Thing That Could Save Your Liberal Arts Degree


If you want to improve the marketability of your liberal arts degree, keep reading...


Liberal arts degrees - which generally emphasize the humanities, arts, and social sciences - might well be the Rodney Dangerfields of college education. They don't seem to get any respect.

It might be because if you majored in a liberal arts field, you might have a harder time finding a job after graduation. Recent college graduates with liberal arts and humanities degrees had a 9 percent unemployment rate. That's about 13 percent higher than the average for all recent college grads, according to a 2013 Georgetown University report*.

So what's a liberal arts grad to do? Well, the answer might be more schooling.

In fact, getting a master's degree is a fairly common practice of people who hold bachelor's degrees in liberal arts, according to a report by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. Nearly 40 percent of bachelor's degree holders in the humanities or social sciences also held a graduate or professional degree in 2011, notes the report, which was co-released by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems in January 2014.

Beyond employability, the report highlights another potential benefit for liberal arts degree holders: a major salary boost of nearly $20,000 after earning an advanced degree.

So if you're interested in getting more out of your liberal arts degree, consider earning one of the following master's degrees to potentially sharpen your credentials - and gain some respect - in the eyes of employers.

Degree #1 - Master's in Business Administration (MBA)

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Do you have a liberal arts degree but also consider yourself business-minded? Well, your bachelor's degree could be a great launching pad to a master's in business administration (MBA) degree.

Liberal arts degrees can prime students for MBA programs due to the general emphasis on developing communication skills in liberal arts programs, says Louie Bottaro, head advisor for the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University.

"Liberal arts students typically are better writers and have the critical thinking skills that an MBA program [requires]," Bottaro says. He explains that a liberal arts degree teaches students how to work with people through communication, which is a great skill to build upon when learning leadership skills in an MBA program.

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Plus, liberal arts degree holders might already possess some of the tools necessary to thrive in the highly specialized business-learning environment of an MBA program, says Valerie Savior, director of the Occidental College Career Development Center in Los Angeles, California.

"Liberal arts students might not know the same [industry] language as someone with a business undergraduate degree, but they are going to know how to tackle a problem set with their problem- solving skills," Savior says.

Potential Careers:*

Degree #2 - Master's in Health Care Administration (MHA)

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If you have an interest in joining the health care field, don't let your liberal arts degree keep you from pursuing that as a goal. According to our experts, the broad-based education of a liberal arts program might be just what the doctor ordered.

Liberal arts students often explore different cultures in their discipline, so they could use that knowledge while earning a master's degree in health care administration, says Bottaro. The study of foreign languages and social sciences, for example, can provide liberal studies majors with some basic knowledge about the way health care systems operate, he explains.

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"A lot of health care administration is about helping people understand their rights and the health care system," Bottaro says. "Having a [liberal arts] background in different languages, cultures, and people would be a tremendous stepping off point in going that way."

Additionally, liberal arts degree holders could flourish in a master's in health care administration program if they have studied the social sciences, including sociology and psychology, according to Savior. She says social sciences typically play a significant role in the study of how to manage health care facilities and better serve people of the community.

Potential Career:

Degree #3 - Master's in Psychology and Counseling

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Do you want to make use of your liberal arts degree, while helping people in the process? A master's degree in psychology and counseling might be a good complement to your liberal arts degree.

In plenty of cases, liberal arts students might have studied some of the subject matter covered in a master's program of psychology and counseling, says Savior. So the knowledge gap between liberal arts and a master's program narrows a bit more.

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"Liberal arts is a very holistic approach [to education] so programs generally have a science requirement, a language requirement, and a battery of social science requirements," Savior says. "If you took some psychology, too, you already have been trained with the critical-thinking skills and the capacity to understand the mind."

And by pursuing a master's in psychology and counseling, you can go deeper into subjects where you might have only scratched the surface during your undergraduate studies, says Bottaro.

"The master's degree helps you get more specialization," he adds. "It's going to say that you know the material at a greater level when working in the social sector."

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Degree #4 - Master's in Education Administration

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If you aspire to make your mark in schools, a liberal arts education could be a great place to start.

"A large percent of educators are coming from a liberal arts background," Bottaro says, referring to liberal arts programs' emphasis on students taking diverse subjects. "Administrators at the university level and teachers who end up working their way to administration and [becoming school] superintendents have a broad-based perspective."

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So why is there a natural connection between the liberal arts and education administration? Savior says the answer lies in how liberal arts can enhance critical-thinking skills that are crucial to administrating institutions of learning.

"A liberal arts degree is going to have you think about things in a macro and micro way - big policy issues, systemic issues, and national and local issues involving education and policy," Savior says. Perhaps you've taken a political science class or course in history in your liberal arts studies. That allows you to be holistic in the administration of education, she explains.

Potential Careers:

* All education options from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 edition.

** All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 edition.

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