How to Make the Most of Your Liberal Arts Degree

When I graduated from high school, I knew there were two things that I loved—reading and writing. 

I told everyone I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and the majority of them asked, “But what will you really do?”

My eighteen-year-old self felt misunderstood, but now that I have children of my own, I understand the question much better.   I majored in English, and my husband majored in anthropology; no offense to other poor souls in these majors, but fresh out of school, there is not much that you can do with degrees in these areas.

My son is only seven, and he loves to read and write, too.

If we are going to help pay for his college education, and we intend to, we don’t really want to pay for an English degree.

I know how hard it can be to make it with what many consider a “useless” degree, versus someone who majors in engineering or a branch of science.  Still, I don’t want to be a parent who dictates what major my child must choose if I help pay for his education.

A happy compromise is finding a way to make the most of a liberal arts degree. 

There are several ways to improve your marketability as a liberal arts major.

The most obvious is to get a teaching degree and teach at an elementary or high school or to pursue a graduate degree to teach at a college or university.  However, having taken that route myself, I can say that it certainly won’t make a person a great deal of money, and it can be exhausting, especially if your true passion is the subject, say English in my case, not teaching.

Options for an English Major

liberal arts degree

Pursuing a liberal arts degree is great, but it could be difficult making a living.

If your love is writing, consider a minor in a more profitable field such as engineering or business.  Technical writers are desperately needed in engineering and scientific fields as well as the business world.

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True, a technical writing job won’t fulfill your dream of being the next Stephen King, but it will give you the chance to write every day and to make enough money to pay your bills and then some, with the median income for technical writers at $57,000 in 2006, according to glassdoor.com .

And you could always work on your novel on the nights and weekends.

Options for an Art Major

If you are an art major, consider having a minor in biology.  Medical illustration, which pays a median salary of $46,000 according to glassdoor.com, is an in demand field and pays quite handsomely for art work.

Alternatively, consider taking a more technical route and studying web design.  Businesses will continue to increase their presence on the web, and more and more people are starting blogs and looking for designers to do the behind-the-scenes work for them.

These are just two examples, but if you think carefully, you can probably find ways to spin your love into a way to have a profitable career.

Being broke isn’t a requirement to being an artist; with some careful planning, you can pursue your artistic passion and make a decent living.

What other ways can you make the most of a liberal arts degree?

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Published or updated October 23, 2012.

Comments

  1. I have a liberal arts education, work in business, and now am going back to school to get my MBA. I think you can do anything with a liberal arts degree – I would make sure to get some econ / accounting classes in there and do a few internships if you are interested in switching to a more quantitative field.

  2. There are training programs which accept college grads that can eventually pay very well. My boss (president) was an English major who went into marketing.

  3. I majored in music, and I was able to get a job in a private company that does very well. Obviously, I’m not using my music training for this job, but I’m sure that the critical thinking and other skills that I learned during my college experience helped prepare me to do well in this position.

  4. Julie @ Freedom 48 says:

    I think having an open mind is key. So many of us have preconceived notions of what we’re going to do when we graduate… and that may or may not work out. I think if we keep an open mind and be willing to look at alternatives… you can be successful with any degree!

    • That’s true. But many get the degree thinking they are going to do X but they end up with Y and aren’t happy. An open mind opens up opportunities.

      I had a friend who loved music. She was never going to be a musician and instead became a lawyer. But she was an entertainment lawyer and was able to be close to the thing she loved.

  5. Online Budget Planner says:

    While you won’t get rich doing so, writing for pay via the many freelancing sites out there (like Elance, Freelancer, or oDesk) is an option. Some of the top ten “gigs” in demand on these and other sites involve knowing English well. In fact, many of the companies and individuals who seek writers will only accept proposals from native English speakers/writers.

  6. I recently had a friend who was a music major (took some science classes during that time), and she was able to get accepted into a major medical program. She took a year after college to finish some sciences and the med school really liked how she was well rounded. I actually didn’t know you could do this until I saw it.

  7. I’m an AB Psychology graduate and works for a government agency. Of course Liberal Arts courses are not totally useless, so to speak, if you will complement your course with other higher degrees. You can either proceed to major courses or pursue Graduate Studies, just like what I did.
    After graduation, I realized that as a Psych graduate, there’s less avenues for me, so I enrolled in Graduate School, took up MPA and finished it in two years.
    Now, my education and expenses had paid off ;)

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