The Value of a Liberal Arts Education
As any student of the liberal arts will tell you, earning a degree from a liberal arts college does not constrain employment possibilities after graduation—it quite literally opens them up. Employers today expect new employees to be well rounded, intellectually engaged critical thinkers capable of managing projects on their own and capable of leading other employees in the successful completion of various tasks. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like teaching. Don’t believe us? Check out the results of this survey recently released by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), of which Gettysburg College is an active member. If you can't find time to read the whole thing, at least consider some highlights:
- Nearly all employers surveyed (95 percent) say they give hiring preference to college graduates with skills that will enable them to contribute to innovation in the workplace.
- 92 percent agree that “innovation is essential” to their organization’s continued success.
- Nearly all those surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than (a candidate’s) undergraduate major.”
- More than 9 in 10 of those surveyed say it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning.
- The majority of employers agree that having both field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of skills and knowledge is most important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success. Few think that having field-specific knowledge and skills alone is what is most needed for individuals’ career success.
- 80 percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, all college students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.
- When read a description of a “21st-century liberal arts education,” a large majority of employers recognize its importance; 74 percent would recommend this kind of education to a young person they know as the best way to prepare for success in today’s global economy.
In other words: a liberal arts education—a broad but deep, disciplined, and focused education—accomplishes two things at once. On one hand, it provides students with the foundation they need to be fully engaged, thoughtful, and conscientious people. Liberal arts graduates know something of the aesthetic pleasure of studying literature and the structured pleasure of understanding mathematics. They appreciate the careful, deliberate, orderly methods of scientific inquiry and the exhilaration of exploring and understanding the past on its own terms. They understand how and why knowledge is organized and recognize both the value of appreciating organizational schemes and the value of challenging the way the world is ordered.
On the other hand, getting a degree in the liberal arts makes graduates really attractive to employers. After Gettysburg, graduates of the Education programs are well prepared with the kinds of skills employers quite emphatically say they want. We aim to prepare people—not merely employees—who are thoughtful, philosophically-inclined, and interested in improving the worlds they work in both for themselves and for the people they work with. Classrooms are obvious workplaces for our students, but we also have graduates who intend to work outside school settings. Our goal is to provide every student at Gettysburg with an interest in the qualities of effective teaching with the skills they need to be effective teachers themselves, regardless of where they end up. Find out more about our graduates.