Why Graduating with a Liberal Arts Degree Is Worthwhile

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Schmid

Graduating from a liberal arts university means that you’ll use your brain well after graduation. (Schmid/MCT)

Graduating from a liberal arts university means that you’ll use your brain well after graduation. (Schmid/MCT)

By BIANCA JEAN-PIERRE
Staff Writer
Published: April 18, 2012

College offers a world of possibilities. You can live in a new city, make lifelong friends and most importantly, map out the essential steps to establishing your future career. Whether you want to be a journalist, an accountant or a musician, Fordham has a multitude of majors for you to choose from with great professors that will get you on the right path to turning your dreams into a reality. As promising and optimistic as this sounds, quite similar to the brochures being mailed to you relentlessly during senior year of high school, once you receive that coveted degree, the job market will not be very welcoming. In fact, it’s pretty merciless when your degree is in the liberal arts.

Despite the incentive of more career possibilities as a college graduate compared to a high school graduate, those with college degrees are still being sucked into menial jobs like retail and food service. Many question whether pursuing higher education is worth the time, money and effort. According to an article in the New York Times by Catherine Rampell titled “Many with New College Degrees Find the Job Market Humbling,” only a depressing half of the jobs acquired by new college graduates even require a degree. In fact you probably know alumni from other universities in addition to Fordham who majored in communications, English or psychology and are now stacking boxes at Duane Reade or folding T-shirts at the Gap.

Degrees in the liberal arts are as worthy as you make them. You have to work beyond the classroom and set career goals before graduation. Assessing your talents, networking and working hard at your craft can guarantee you a spot in your most desired field. No one wants to be the former French major and current Starbucks barista preparing a frappuccino for the former communications major turned columnist for Time magazine who made all of the right moves and built the essential personal connections.

I have a friend who worked relentlessly through internships at GQ and Fader magazine for consecutive summers while attending SUNY Albany as a communications major. His hard work paid off once he was offered a job at GQ a little less than a year after graduating. A fellow Fordham student also experienced success with her liberal arts degree before even receiving it. An English major, she was offered a job at Macmillan Publishers after interning at Penguin, Simon & Schuster and a literary agency. Of course there are not enough jobs for everyone, but with the right attitude and enough determination a liberal arts degree can be more of a solid guarantee of employment than most people assume.

In all honesty, the available jobs in liberal arts can be few and far between. This is why it is important to not only assess your talent and skills to make sure they are adequate but also networking. Networking is a must when pursuing such low demand but rewarding careers. My dream job is to become an editor of a fashion magazine and I never would have realized the specific skills and demands of such an industry if I didn’t land my internship at a Condé Nast publication this semester. Building the right connections and immersing myself in that specific career environment can turn my potential post-graduation job at my local movie theater to a position at the company of my dreams, including the fancy office with the even fancier name plaque. Realistically, it will probably be a cubicle, but a girl can dream.

We are all warned about the dangers of pursuing a liberal arts degree and suggested, by parents and caring friends, to focus on a career where jobs are in demand like those in the health field. But where’s the fun in that?

Unfortunately, the burgeoning artist, writer, musician, architect within many of us cannot be silenced. As the economy is stifled by mass unemployment and a rising cost of living, with rent in New York City being the most appalling, a secure and comfortable job seems like the right way to go. How can you decide to be a nurse or a paramedic because it is a “safe” choice when you know your passion lies in editing a magazine or designing public works projects for urban areas? By no means am I belittling the health field or making it seem like a shortcut. I am only warning against falling for the potentially easy way out financially which can lead to much disappointment and frustration in the long run when the unhappiness you face at work becomes a heavy downpour on your life.

If that philosophy degree does turn out to be a dead end after all, you can always use that sharp, well-rounded liberal arts wit and cura personalis to strike up stimulating conversation with guests while waiting tables at Le Bernardin.