Achieving Professional Success With a Degree in the Liberal Arts and Sciences

By Kate Szumanski

Students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University are often told that they can do and be anything, that with their excellent liberal education, they can work any job, excel at it, and be paid well for it.

Strong evidence suggests that this and more are true.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) released a report in January 2014 on earnings and long-term career paths for college graduates with different undergraduate majors.

In How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment, authors Debra Humphreys and Patrick Kelly analyze data from the 2010-11 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and provide answers to some common questions posed by students, parents, and policy makers who are increasingly concerned about the value of college degrees.

Their findings are reassuring:

  • Liberal arts majors close earnings gaps—earn more than professional majors at peak earnings ages
  • Unemployment rates are low for liberal arts graduates—and decline over time
  • Liberal arts graduates disproportionately pursue social services professions
  • Many liberal arts and sciences majors also attain graduate and professional degrees and experience significant earnings boosts when they do
  • Graduate and professional degrees provide earning boosts for all; largest boost for science and math majors and smallest boost for professional majors

The report argues that “whatever undergraduate major they may choose, students who pursue their major within the context of a broad liberal education substantially increase their likelihood of achieving long-term professional success.”

In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University, and in the Office of Undergraduate Students, we teach our students – liberally educated young adults – to be adaptable, nimble, and flexible students and professionals.

We want our students to realize their full potential, to discover their passions and to pursue them with relentless determination. Maybe it’s through an internship. Maybe it’s through a professional development course. Maybe it’s through one of our many professional development events. Discovering who you are and what your impact can be should help define your Villanova journey.

I encourage students to visit the Office for Undergraduate Students in SAC 107 often. Discover who you are and who you are meant to be. Let our office of dedicated professionals help you on your journey of discovery.

Kate Szumanski, ’95, ’97, is the associate director for experiential education in the Office for Undergraduate Students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Villanova University. Follow her on Twitter @KateSzumanski.