Career

How Get a Liberal Arts Degree (And Not End Up Homeless)

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Liberal arts degrees are often the butt of jokes. I recall being in high school and seeing meme after meme on the internet making fun of liberal arts degrees. I understood from a young age that all liberal arts graduates will work at McDonald’s upon finishing their college career. So when I took interest in what was known as a traditionally “useless” academic subject, I initially decided against studying it in college.

It seems as though STEM majors are the hot degrees at the moment. It is drilled into young people’s minds that it’s STEM or bust. As our world increasingly relies on technology, degrees in computer science and engineering have become high-demand.

I know how difficult it is to be told that your passion can’t be pursued as a career. I fell in love with the study of sociology my senior year of high school. For an elective, I chose a psychology/sociology fusion class, as I had previously taken interest in psychology. I am someone who has always been fascinated with trying to figure out the way humans think and socialize. 

Now, if you don’t know what sociology is, I’ll provide a brief explanation. The study of sociology studies human social behavior, on both a large scale (macro) and small scale (micro). This field studies the way society functions as a whole. Many people misunderstand the field; I remember interviewers looking at me with confusion when I told them that I was a sociology major. Sociology is a relatively newer field; it was begun in the 1800s by philosopher Auguste Comte. As a result, it seems to be an academic field which is largely misunderstood.

The class focused on sociology during fall semester, and psychology throughout the spring. Initially, I believed I would find the psychology to be more fascinating, but sociology began to grow on me. It combined history, psychology, and criminology, which are all topics that have long fascinated me. It felt like a subject that was a perfect fit for me.

When it came time to apply to college, I was tempted to major in sociology. But then I remembered hearing about how useless liberal arts degrees were. I was told to never study an “-ology”. I chose to do a business major, as I desired to go into marketing since I was young.

I had taken sociology classes on the side and had originally intended for it to be my minor. I was soon to declare sociology as a minor, until I encountered some accounting and statistics courses. 

Now I loathe mathematics. I have always struggled with math in school, ever since I was very young. I also suffer from extreme test anxiety, making me a horrendous test-taker. But I have a history of excelling in writing. That has long been described as my strength.

I struggled with the math courses. I found that sociology classes were more writing-based, with more papers and fewer tests. I found the subject to be fascinating, providing me with a different view of the world.

When I grew tired of the math-related courses, I opted to change my major. I desired something with a more writing-based curriculum. I was in my junior year and had already taken so many sociology classes. I originally intended to change to a communication major, but I felt as though I was already so far along in my coursework.  I decided to bite the bullet and change my major to sociology.

I feared my future job security, but I was happy to finally be studying a subject I was passionate about. People joke about sociology majors. But I enjoyed studying the subject. 

While studying what was traditionally known as a “useless” major, I learnt how to make any degree marketable. I have gathered a few tips and tricks to making any major viable in the job market:

  1. Gain direct experience during college. Shortly after changing my major to sociology, I got a social media internship with a small start-up called Mason Bottle. The company owner saw the value in my understanding of human socialization. I also worked as a content manager for Elixir Interactive throughout the last three semesters of college. When you work in the corporate world, immediate experience trumps coursework. Of course, if you are thinking of going into a field with legal educational requirements, that is a different story. But business smarts are more about being street smart. All that matters to most employers is that you have a degree. A degree says that you are trainable and willing to learn.
  2. Figure out other skills your studies provide you with. Many liberal arts degrees provide one with writing and research skills. As people begin to understand the importance of content, writing skills are becoming more in-demand. The race to the top of search results is becoming highly competitive for companies and websites. The way to really shine in today’s world is to have top-notch and engaging content. One form of content that is crucial for top-tier SEO and branding is relevant and good-quality written content. If you are studying a social science, you can also market your in-depth knowledge on how humans think and operate. Understanding human needs and behaviors is essential for a career in marketing.

Now, I’ll be honest here. There will be more effort involved in making a lucrative career out of a liberal arts degree. But the thing is, college provides one with more than just career know-how. A college education nurtures the mind in a way that goes beyond coursework. It teaches you how to learn. It sounds ironic, but it’s very true. A college education provides you with the tools you need to succeed throughout your professional career. So if you’re a liberal arts major facing discouragement from your family and peers, you can relax knowing that life has a way of sorting itself out.

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