Liberal arts degrees needed in workforce


At Mount Mary College, the liberal arts education provides students with connections to their professional studies. But in a changing workforce, is it still viable?

What the data says

A January 2013 study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows lower salaries for liberal arts majors. According to this study, graduates in humanities have an average salary of $36,988 while business graduates have an annual salary of $53,900.

Unemployment rates are also high for certain areas of liberal arts studies. According to a 2012 study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, in 2010, 9.4 percent of liberal arts majors are unemployed, while mathematics majors experience a 6 percent rate of unemployment.

Healthcare and education students are part of the lowest percentage and comprise 5.4 percent of the unemployed population.

While many liberal arts majors seem to be higher on the unemployment rate bracket and lower on the salary scale, choosing the right liberal arts major can make a difference. Education majors, for example, experience fairly low unemployment rates.

How Mount Mary is responding

According to Mount Mary President Eileen Schwalbach, the college does take steps to monitor the changing job markets.

“As a college, we do environmental scans to determine how Mount Mary might meet the needs of the external community,” Schwalbach said. “Our creative campus initiative will prepare students to be creative thinkers, regardless of their major, who will be able to be the leaders of the 21st century.”

The board of trustees just released recommendations to generate innovative curriculums and improve current programs to keep up with the changing job market, Schwalbach said.

Additionally, there is strong belief among some of the faculty that liberal arts degrees help graduates meet the demands of an evolving job market.

“People are talking about how the workforce is going to change,” said Dr. Wendy Weaver, chair of the English department. “There’s a shift from problem solving to problem identification. That is what we do so often in English classes.”

The English professional writing program has already made changes to adapt to the changing market.

“We are in a revolution now,” Weaver said. “[The English professional writing major] will be [changed to] writing for new media, because increasingly we’re moving to new types of media.”

Weaver is a firm believer in a liberal arts education.

“We are connecting professional studies and liberal arts studies to the benefit of both,” Weaver said. “Having all of that knowledge is going to make it easier for us to make connections and to come up with new ideas.”

Aeran Park, chairperson and associate professor in the fashion department, cited technology as the greatest factor in adapting to the changing job market. Increased involvement between students, the community and fashion organizations is another area of improvement, she said.

Park said “developing cross-disciplinary design activities with the merchandising management major and increasing involvement by local industry in the design program will be used to prepare fashion design graduates.”

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