St. Cloud State University

You may be a student who hasn’t decided what you want to major in, or you might be one who is contemplating two completely different career choices. Many students such as myself in college want the best out of our education. We want to learn and expand our way of thinking. We want to be able to understand any new material that may come our way. And most of all we want an education that will be useful for our future jobs. The two main paths one can take in college are a liberal arts education or a STEM education. While both are fine options, a liberal arts education is the best education to attain. A STEM education has some benefits such as a large income, because it makes one very knowledgeable in the subject or area of either science, technology, engineering or mathematics, but a liberal arts education focuses on engaging students on a very wide range of subjects. A liberal arts education is the best education to receive because it will teach students about the humanities, how to think creatively, and how to adapt to an ever changing workforce.

The humanities are a very important factor in our everyday lives and culture. I listen to music any chance I get, and am usually seen with headphones in my ears. I, like most people, love going to see the next big movie and watching our favorite actors/actresses on TV. Part of growing as a human being involves an appreciation of what is around you, and you can’t really appreciate unless you are educated in it. As Richard Cohen commented in his article The Actual Value of a College Education, “I know graduates of supposedly quality schools who have learned next to nothing . . . about American history, world history or literature.” A STEM student who does not know anything about the Renaissance or the Middle Ages might travel to Europe and find the Palace of Versailles incredibly boring, or not see the beauty in the paintings in the Sistine chapel. We need a liberal arts education to become conscious of the history and society around us, the good and the bad, and also become active participants in keeping the humanities alive.

College students heading to their classes

Using creativity is key in most aspects of our adult life. We use it for enjoyment such as making music. I, for example, play the guitar and piano, and love to improvise solos to develop a desirable sound. Making music involves a level of creativity and critical thinking to create a groove spontaneously. While I play with others, I listen to the beat, and as a song evolves, I start playing an alternate tone to complement the progression of the song. Having a liberal arts education teaches you how to think creatively by challenging your normal, average thought process, and giving you many different viewpoints through which to consider and analyze before you make a decision. Skills like these are key advantages that place liberal arts ahead of a STEM education. The ability to think on your feet gives you an edge that can and likely will lead you to better opportunities in your future.

Our job market is always changing and evolving. It is one that is becoming more and more diverse, which requires stronger communication skills between employees to communicate effectively. This puts you at a disadvantage if you do not have a background that shows interpersonal intelligence. In Myth: A Liberal Arts Education is Becoming Irrelevant, Carol T. Price explains that liberal arts is actually being recognized for its usefulness around the world, that “universities in Asia are adapting liberal arts education as an economic necessity”. A work environment cannot be productive if its workers do not have the capability to recognize problems, talk through their differences, and come to a compromise. The need for workers with qualified language skills to ensure cooperation and productivity often is underestimated, but its effectiveness can’t be overstated. Having a liberal arts degree means that you can become an effective communicator, and can work well and adapt where you need to, in order to better fit a rapidly developing workplace.

Liberal Arts Major Students

At first glance it might be easy to see how a liberal arts education can be overlooked. Opponents who are in favor of a STEM education say that they earn more money on average, and that the technical careers are specialized, meaning that they have knowledge that few others possess, which is needed for specific jobs. While I agree that some STEM careers are significant to our society and cannot be degraded, I shouldn’t have to remind everyone that money isn’t everything, and just because one earns more money does not mean in any way that he/she lives an easier or better life. I would also point out that specialization does not correlate with better problem-solving skills. In STEM careers, there is a systematic process, a plethora of formulas and rules, and if there lies a problem with the outcome, and repeating the steps over and over achieves the same wrong result, then there exists a big dilemma. However, with liberal arts, the emphasis on creativeness and imagination produces a think-outside-the-box effect, where if the right solution to a problem isn’t found, we can analyze past processes and create new ones to produce an original result or outcome. Specialized work is admirable, but a general knowledge of subjects enables you to be a much better thinker and problem-solver.

Other arguments in favor of STEM education state that there are better job opportunities for STEM graduates than liberal arts graduates. This varies on the specific career, but according to Edward Ray’s post, The Value of a Liberal Arts Education in Today’s Marketplace, “a third of all Fortune 500 CEOs have liberal arts degrees”. This clearly shows that a liberal arts education can be made of use in most industries, even in corporate leadership. Furthermore, it should be noted that having a degree in a STEM field does not guarantee you a job. To get a job, you need to network, which is very difficult to do without good communication skills. As a matter of fact, a liberal arts education would adequately prepare you for much of the employment process. From writing and drafting your resume and cover letter to make it appeal to the employer, to the interview process, where you must present yourself as a desirable employee, acquiring a job might seem near impossible to a STEM-oriented student.

A liberal arts education is the best education because it teaches us knowledge from many areas that you will use in your future, and not just a specified area. It is more valuable than a STEM education because unlike the technical field, it enables us to think creatively, helps us cherish the humanities, and gives us the skills to thrive in the workforce. Students will be better off because we will be able to communicate effectively and work well with others. A liberal arts education gives us the key qualities we need to fully grow and develop as college students.

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