It’s common knowledge that education is one of the most important tools on the road to success. But when it comes to which kind of education is useful, and which is not, it seems to me we’re splitting hairs. I’ve observed that the value of a liberal arts education is underplayed, even when there is ample evidence to its import.
Like many others before and after me, I studied liberal arts. Years later, I’m proud to say that I’ve become a successful businessman. In fact, I believe my English degree from Hamilton College was a foundation for my business acumen. The broad spectrum of knowledge this education provided me proved especially helpful in communicating and networking in the business world.
STEM disciplines are worthy areas of study, to be certain —you’ll even find that parents counsel their kids to pursue them in hopes of better job prospects down the line. Jobs in STEM fields can be great, but there aren’t actually more, and they aren’t necessarily better. Specialized skills come with the risk of more competition for specific jobs, and less flexibility for branching out to meet other needs.
Liberal arts, on the other hand, are not just nice-to-have, but critical to success in every economic sector. They are the foundation for learning in every professional field, and though advanced or specialized degrees are helpful, they go a long way by equipping students with skills like critical thinking, teamwork, cultural sensitivity, and emotional intelligence.
These days, most people will have six to 10 jobs over the course of their careers, a figure that could increase in our lifetime. Liberal arts majors are the most adaptable to new circumstances, and are a great grounding to build upon in any industry.
Don’t believe me? Well, take this into consideration: We now know that a third of all Fortune 500 CEOs have liberal arts degrees, including CBS leader Leslie Moonves (Spanish degree) and the CEO of Starbucks (communications).
Long story short, these skills are increasingly in demand across the world. Business and work can’t be all about numbers or molecules; you need to understand people and society to excel. They say that work will be roboticized within this century, and while this may be true for some, workers with deep-rooted understanding of personability and communication will not be taken down easily.
I owe my career to my education at Hamilton. There, I was given a platform to speak on my feet and think critically. In the world of business, doing so is tantamount to success. I believe we should concentrate on lifting up those that wish to pursue liberal arts educations, instead of attempting to steer them away.