Turning liberal arts degrees into 'real jobs'

Different majors demand different styles of career services, and many people still struggle to find work after they graduate.

While other colleges are only recently providing their students with resources, ASU has developed a comprehensive Career Services department.

Scott Berren, the assistant director for Research and Assessment for Career Services, “connect(s) students to employers and assist(s) them in their career development.”

The department accomplishes these goals through “individual advising, career fairs (and) Sun Devil CareerLink.

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, colleges are developing career services departments to enhance their graduates’ career searches. While the schools outlined are all small liberal arts colleges, the problem of graduating without a set career path plagues many students.

Untitled-1There seem to be two major areas of study in universities today. There is the trade school track represented by the STEM fields, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which lead directly into a specific career. In addition, business school is seen as the place that lends itself directly to a career.

It seems like there is a difference between the schools in terms of career support.

“From a practical standpoint, the students in W. P. Carey (School of Business) and Ira A. Fulton (Schools of Engineering) have a differential tuition fee which basically supports the career offices within their colleges. Their tuition supports those services,” Berren said.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, however, leaves the career counseling to Career Services and does not offer any specific career support for majors.

Liberal arts students must use liberal arts-based creativity to parlay their own talents and the skills emphasized by their disciplines, such as critical thinking, ingenuity and creativity, into a paycheck.

Jonathan Edwards, dean of Admissions at Grinnell College, says a liberal arts degree means “students are empowered to find their own answers through inquiry, dialogue and analysis.”

However, graduates with liberal arts degrees do not apply these skills. A 2010 study by Georgetown University shows that “more than three out of four people who major in education work in the education industry, while no more than 20 percent of liberal arts graduates are concentrated in any single industry.”

Liberal arts, then, requires a specific mindset that can be helped by college career services.

Berren offered some words on the state of the humanities degree.

“More than half our employers are looking for students of all majors," he said. "So, if there’s a conception out there, it’s a misconception that the only students that can get positions are business students or engineering students. That’s just not the reality."

The creative aspect of the liberal arts degree must go beyond the “slip-n-slide” trade school model into a degree.

“The vast majority of those employers are looking for students who have analytic skills, communication skills, who have writing skills,” Berren said.

Berren again encouraged the use of Career Services so that those who need help finding a path into a career do not have to do it on their own.

The fall career fair showed that only 16 percent of students in attendance were liberal arts majors, while 33 percent of the university is in that college, he said.

As liberal arts students, it is imperative that we use what we learn over four years to solve a problem: how to earn money. Luckily, we do not have to do it alone. ASU provides us with resources to tackle the job market headfirst.


Reach the columnist at peter.northfelt@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @peternorthfelt

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