Move Your Career Forward with a Liberal Arts Degree

Move Your Career Forward with a Liberal Arts Degree

Sara Teaster, UVA Class of 2009, credits the BIS faculty with helping her develop her strengths. "If I hadn't had the flexibility to take classes in the other schools at the University, I don't think I would be in the position I am in now," she says. She went on to complete her master’s degree at UVA and is currently the sustainability coordinator at VMDO Architects.

Perhaps liberal arts degrees have gotten a bad reputation. Some say they don’t give students intense exposure to a single topic, but graduates these days are leveraging them into highly specialized careers. How are they doing that?

It’s all about utilizing the skills you gain from earning the degree instead of emphasizing subjects you’ve learned about.

Stephen Levine, senior program director of the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) and assistant professor at the University of Virginia, has seen students go on to thriving careers in almost every field. The possibilities are truly endless for liberal studies students, he says.

“Employers seek people who can think critically, write well and articulate ideas clearly. They also want people who are good problems solvers, work well in teams and are adaptable,” says Levine. “This skill set is precisely what the liberal arts-focused BIS program helps students develop.”

In a recent survey of about 1,000 U.S. college graduates, those who studied the liberal arts were more successful in the working world than those who chose a specialty major. And having a six-figure salary was most strongly linked to taking classes beyond a single major as opposed to choice of major.

Thinking about pursuing a liberal arts/BIS degree? Here are just a few of the careers your studies will prepare you for:

• Government worker or contractor

Work for a branch of the government in a variety of roles such as information technology specialists, social workers, economists, or legal analysts. Government agencies need people with different skill levels and a wide range of capabilities, as do the vendors that team up with them.

• Corporate employee

Just like the government, the private sector is booming with roles for liberal arts majors – think marketing manager, financial manager, health assistant, or human resources specialist.

• Business entrepreneur

Form your own business in just about any field, say as a restaurant owner, psychologist, public relations consultant, or retail store owner/franchiser.

• Public or private educator

Some BIS grads go on to become elementary, high school and college teachers, but the degree is also an ideal foundation if you want to explore careers in curriculum development and school administration.

Levine also notes that going straight into the job market isn’t your only option. Many graduates choose to continue their studies in a variety of graduate programs before pursuing a full-time career.

Remember to explore all that a liberal arts program has to offer. Ask potential schools about what types of careers their graduates are pursuing, and what kind of assistance the school may provide in helping you to select a career. You also want to look for opportunities to interact with faculty and students, and courses that give you a diverse range of opportunities to build skills.

“The job market is changing rapidly, and people who possess these skills are better prepared to change with it than those with a specialized, applied degree,” Levine says. “Those who have learned how to learn are more attractive to many employers and are more likely to succeed than those who have merely learned how to do a certain job.”

The University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies program has graduated more than 700 students in the 18 years since it began. Candidates only need 60 transferable credits to apply.

With financial aid available, the program allows you to earn a liberal arts degree and gain the real-life skills you need to navigate a wide variety of career paths. For more information, visit SCPS.Virginia.edu or call 800-346-3882.

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