One of the hallmarks of an Elon University education is the Core Curriculum, through which students are challenged to think critically on subjects in the College of Arts and Sciences. Given the breadth of interests at Elon, completing the Core Curriculum, which offers a strong foundation in liberal arts courses, is a shared experience among all students.
Classical liberal arts may refer to language, arts and mathematics of Ancient Greece and Rome. Today, it generally describes a university-specific curriculum aimed at developing intellectual capacities, which may differ from technical and vocational degree programs.
There is a general decline in interest in certain types of liberal arts training as a path to success. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that the number of degrees in English language and literature/letters was 14 percent lower in 2014-2015 than in 2009-2010, and the number of degrees in philosophy and religious studies was 11 percent lower. Conversely, the number of bachelor's degrees in computer science/information sciences and engineering increased 50 percent and 30 percent, respectively, between 2009-2010 and 2014-2015.
It’s easy to doubt the importance of a liberal arts education in everyday life, especially when weighing the value of certain courses for potential career paths. But we should take advantage of ways in which combining aspects of this type of education can help us advance in life, both personally and professionally.
To its credit, “liberal arts” is a staple for higher education in the United States: it has created leaders for our great democracy, who benefited from instruction on how to think critically, make effective arguments and make connections between different academic disciplines.
Though its value is not so apparent in comparison with technical degrees (i.e. associate's degree programs), a liberal arts curriculum can be an asset in any job market. Medical doctors should understand how gender, class and race affect patients’ access to care and decision-making. A psychology course can help brand marketers understand consumer behavior. A Harvard Business Review article on venture capitalist Scott Hartley emphasizes how a liberal arts education helps economists and leaders in technology uncover the role of cultural and ethical challenges inherent to product design and development.
And the idea that degrees in the arts and sciences are not beneficial for future employment is not entirely true. A Forbes article highlights that “Foreign Languages, Literature and Linguistics” majors had the fewest underemployed graduates. According to the May 2018 report, The Permanent Detour – Underemployment’s Long-Term Effects on the Careers of College Grads, STEM majors were also least likely to face underemployment.
If you’re not sure about which career or major is best for you, you may want to reach out to the Student Professional Development Center or your advisor for recommendations. You should also consider applying for an internship, studying abroad, completing a research project or volunteering.
Any degree selection can be complemented with courses in the College of Arts and Sciences. Training in “liberal arts” courses lays a solid foundation for logic, reasoning, research and innovation required in any work setting.
Even though it’s not most popular for the four-year plan, a liberal arts pathway can help you craft ideas for career-long success. More importantly, it will help improve your understanding of the world through inquiry about the human condition.