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Career Information for a Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences

The liberal arts and sciences involve the study of human concepts, inquiries and pursuits, such as literature, history, philosophy and theater. Students might be attracted to these subjects because of their intellectual appeal or range of subject matter. A degree in the liberal arts and sciences can help students prepare for a number of career options or continue their studies to focus on more specific education.

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Career Overview

Liberal arts and sciences is an extremely broad field that often encompasses many disciplines. Those who earn a degree in liberal arts and sciences often appeal to employers who seek job candidates with analytical and communications skills. However, according to the 2010 Student Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), liberal arts and sciences majors had fewer employment and lower salary offers than those who chose field-specific majors (www.naceweb.org). Liberal arts and sciences graduates could continue their education in a number of fields, such as medicine, law or education. A liberal arts and sciences curriculum usually contains courses, such as communication, technology and math, that can apply to numerous careers in business, academia, government or the nonprofit sector.

Education

Many schools offer associate's degree programs in liberal arts and sciences. These programs frequently award transfer degrees to 4-year universities allowing students to complete the requirements for a bachelor's degree. The curricula are traditionally rooted in a foundation of communication study and the development of critical-thinking skills, but can include a myriad of subjects, including philosophy, anthropology, political science and mathematics. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that 55% of associate degrees awarded were in liberal arts and sciences during the 2007-2008 academic year (www.nces.ed.gov).

Many schools also offer bachelor's degrees in liberal arts and sciences. However, even these are not always intended to lead to one career path but rather to provide a broad and extensive interdisciplinary education. Students might have the option of choosing a single concentration, such as history, linguistics or sociology, or choosing multiple areas of focus that complement one another to develop a broader knowledge base. Several law and medical schools recommend liberal arts and sciences majors for students interested in becoming lawyers or physicians.

Job Outlook

Because of the diverse array of careers available to liberal arts and sciences majors, job outlook varies based on a graduate's chosen profession. With an associate's or bachelor's degree in liberal arts and sciences, one might qualify for teaching, business management or film editing positions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that job opportunities for kindergarten and elementary school teachers would increase about 17% overall from 2010-2020. Similarly, a 15% job growth for administrative services was expected during that time period (www.bls.gov).

Salary

Salary for liberal arts and sciences professionals also vary depending on the selected career. NACE's 2013 Student Survey reported that graduates of a liberal arts and sciences degree program received starting salaries of $42,300, on average. The survey showed that educational services was the top-paying industry for liberal arts graduates, with an average of $42,000 per year.

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