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What are Liberal Studies?

Steve Jobs, one of the major visionaries of our time, believed that the best engineering, design, manufacturing and marketing would only get Apple so far.

The other ingredient Apple needed to thrive? Liberal arts.

“Technology alone is not enough,” Jobs said when he introduced the iPad in April 2010. “It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.”

So, what exactly are liberal studies (or liberal arts)? And how can they contribute to career success?

Liberal studies covers the arts, natural sciences, social sciences, philosophy and math. A liberal studies curriculum may also include topics such as religion, economics and foreign languages. Pre-professional or vocational subjects such as business and nursing are typically not considered liberal studies, although there can be some degree of overlap.

The goal of liberal studies is to create well-rounded individuals who can apply what they’ve learned in many disciplines to innovate, communicate and collaborate. A liberal studies graduate should be able to synthesize information, analyze facts, think logically and make educated decisions.

Career Development with a Liberal Arts Degree

An associate degree in liberal studies prepares students for a variety of career possibilities. A background in liberal arts can develop the following skills that employers value:

  • Collaboration and communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Real-world knowledge

“Studying literature and the arts, one gains insight into how various people expressed themselves at different times and in different situations – and also what timeless values people hold. Working on written responses to literature and art improves communication skills,” said Eugene Durkee, Director of New England College’s Office of Career and Life Planning.

Tech firms have recognized a need for employees with a liberal arts education, particularly in non-technical positions. Developing AI will need people from technical and liberal arts backgrounds, Microsoft President Brad Smith and EVP of Artificial Intelligence and Research Harry Shum wrote in the new book The Future Computed.  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the most common career fields for liberal arts majors under the age of 35 included commercial art and graphic design, communications, economics, English, fine arts, history, journalism, political science, psychology and sociology. Earning potential varies by field, experience, educational attainment, location and other factors.  

Businessman and investor Mark Cuban sees a bright future for liberal arts students. “I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering, because when the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you,  you need to have a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data,” he said in an interview on Bloomberg during the NBA All-Star Technology Summit in New Orleans.

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