Over the past few weeks in my new career as a business analyst, I realized something that I took for granted about my economics degree - it teaches liberal arts first and foremost. In addition to the math heavy courses I learned, such as econometrics and microeconomics, I also learned valuable skills that liberal arts are designed to teach - communication and creativity.
Maybe I am biased towards my own past but I think a liberal arts degree is better preparation for a career in business than business degrees, especially in areas where independent thought, communication, and creativity are needed for the job’s success.
Companies value the skills that a liberal arts degree teaches. A survey found that critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, and communication were the most valued skills of fresh college graduates by employers. These skills outranked ‘practical’ knowledge.
The New York Federal Reserve publishes data regarding college major and employment. Engineering and other skill-based degrees paid the most and had the lowest unemployment rates.
Outside of engineering, the difference between a business major and liberal arts major in terms of income and underemployment is not that big.
For example, political science majors earn a median starting income of $38,000. That is equal to the the median business management starting income. The political science major ends up having a median mid-career salary of $71,000 a year, which is $10,000 a year more than the business management degree at $61,000.
The political science major has a lower underemployment rate as well, but it does have a higher unemployment rate by 2%.
Why do political science majors end up out earning the business management ones? I say it probably comes down to the soft skills I mentioned earlier that most employers value.
There is a book called Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses explored the improvements in skills like critical thinking and communication and found that traditional liberal arts majors improved far more in these skills compared to business, education, social work, and communication.
I thought it was ironic that traditional liberal arts majors improved more at communication than communication majors.
If you are in a career where these skills are important and change is constant, a liberal arts major is light years ahead of a business management major.