Liberal arts majors are in high demand

Oscar Chicas

More and more in today’s economy, we find that we cannot predict the future, it is dangerous to limit our learning experience to a single career track and we are each in need of a strong and broad foundation from which to quickly build a new career when the economy makes one of its typical and dramatic turns of tide.It is this broad foundation that is currently putting arts majors on track for high demand in the very near future. The surprising fact is that the demand is rising from businesses, not just graduate schools. What arts majors need to learn now is that in order to ride that wave of demand they need to know how to sell themselves to a business.”Engineering students can sell themselves on their class projects,” notes Bridget Bowers. “Liberal Arts majors can sell what they’ve hopefully received in college: a broad base of knowledge from which to synthesize ideas and analyze problems.”Bridget Bowers is the assistant director for Career Services, and also serves as its liaison to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Both Bowers and Career Services Director Nancy Dudak had much to say about what being an arts major means for a career after graduation.From the students’ side, one of the most important realizations is that the job search for every arts major is going to be different than it is for an accounting major or finance major, whose search is more naturally refined by the student’s background.”I wouldn’t say that it’s more difficult, but it is certainly different,” Bowers said. “It requires more digging.”The digging is apropos of the well-known fact that in a general sense, there aren’t sociology positions or history positions. What does exist, however, are those one-of-a-kind positions requiring that broad foundation given to a liberal arts student. They might be involved with consulting, human resources or something not yet conceived. They key is, companies don’t have the time or resources to actively seek out candidates for such unique positions.”The hiring processes are different for arts majors,” Dudak added. She continued to explain that it’s easy for businesses to conduct a mass search for accounting specialists or financial analysts. Those are primarily quantitative positions that a G.P.A. might be sufficient to rely upon for successful hiring. But for a more qualitative position, such as a project coordinator or other lower-level management position, the inter-personal and human aspect of a job is more apparent in a liberal arts major. The problem, as Dudak noted, is that for an arts major to find that position, the process is, as it should be, more interpersonal and human.In order to facilitate that process of more interpersonal connections, Career Services offers two programs, exclusively for Villanova students, offering effective networking primarily with Villanova alumni and friends.In the alumni database, after uploading your resume for those interested companies to search through, you can type in keywords such as your major and you will find job postings relevant to you. They will be relevant not only because your major will somehow be in the job description, but also because the employer who posted the position is clamoring to hire a Villanova student or graduate, according to Bowers.Bowers continued, “I think it’s also important for arts majors to become conversant in the language of their desired field. Businesses want people to know how to speak with them.”This is the purpose of another program offered by Career Services, the Mentor Module. No job offers are found in this program. What students will find here are alumni and other interested employers who want to help future graduates begin their careers on the right foot. Volunteers to the program – that is, participating businesses – have agreed to provide information and advice through their own personal experiences and knowledge of their industries, according to the Career Services website. Students can learn in this program the climate of the professional world they may choose to embark upon. An early glimpse into the corporate life may pique or dull your interest, the key being that you can do it early, and with someone who wants to expose you to that world. Again, you won’t be offered a job through this program, but what you will gain beyond the knowledge, is a connection in the industry.Widely cited statistics show that between 75 and 80 percent of all positions are filled through referrals. Nathan Elton is a career counselor in the CSO, and in a previous issue of , “Coffee Talk,” he cited networking when he wrote, “It’s one of the most effective job search strategies but students often fail to use this method to its fullest potential.” Effective networking, however, requires a focused, goal-oriented approach to the job search. You won’t impress anyone and network well if it doesn’t appear that you have a goal in mind.In that sense of having a goal in mind, an undecided arts major with a clear career goal might be more attractive than an undecided business major without that same clarity.Erin White of The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article earlier this year about the lucrative potential of a liberal arts degree.”Some management professors,” White wrote. “think that a liberal arts degree may offer future chief executives a broader foundation to operate in an increasingly complicated, global and fast moving business arena.”The watered-down truth is that arts majors who lack focus won’t be in as good a position as say, engineering, commerce and finance or nursing majors. Being in arts, however, doesn’t mean you lack focus; and in fact if you have a goal in mind, than being in arts might very well be the best thing for you.More information on this can be found on the Career Services Website, at