Completing a degree in the liberal arts is a rewarding experience. Graduates with a liberal arts education have accumulated knowledge and experience applicable to a variety of career fields. In fact, jobs for liberal arts graduates can be found in every industry and sector, including STEM fields.
But what exactly is the liberal arts path and what can you do with a liberal arts degree? This career guide explores the defining characteristics of liberal arts programs and some of the many possibilities they create for graduates’ futures.
In This Article:
- What Is a Liberal Arts Degree?
- Why Pursue Liberal Arts Careers?
- Liberal Arts Degree Careers and Industries
- What Jobs Can You Get With a Liberal Arts Degree?
- Pursue Your Liberal Arts Degree at GCU
What Is a Liberal Arts Degree?
Degree programs can be broadly categorized in a number of ways, such as by labeling them as STEM, liberal arts or fine arts degrees. Compared with a degree in a field like mathematics or chemistry, a liberal arts degree may be broader in scope or even multidisciplinary. It reflects study in subject areas such as history, sociology and the others mentioned below. Students learn extensively transferable skills such as communication, critical thinking, ethical judgment and analytical reasoning.
A liberal arts education involves a selection of courses from the social sciences and the humanities. For example, the humanities include:
Similarly, the social sciences include sociology, counseling and psychology.
Despite the name “liberal arts,” this type of education has nothing to do with liberal-leaning political perspectives and values. The term was established by the ancient Greeks, who believed that a comprehensive education to prepare one for civic engagement involved disciplines such as grammar, logic and rhetoric. Over the centuries, the definition and defining characteristics of a liberal arts education has certainly shifted, as few colleges today require knowledge of Greek and Latin for graduation, but a liberal arts education still prepares students to tackle many challenges that lie ahead of them.
Why Pursue Liberal Arts Careers?
A liberal arts education is invaluable in part because it teaches you how to think, rather than what to think. You’ll learn how to examine issues from multiple perspectives, develop strong problem-solving skills and acquire invaluable leadership abilities. A liberal arts education also offers the following advantages:
- Interdisciplinary in nature, exposing students to a broad range of fields
- Teaches transferrable skills that are applicable to a wide range of jobs and industries
- Interactive classes that encourage spirited discussions
- Focus on innovation, connecting ideas and sharing perspectives
- Often emphasizes social responsibility, civic engagement and social justice
- Instills strong cultural competencies and global awareness
In short, a liberal arts degree will enable you to acquire skills that are highly transferrable, making it possible to pursue a wide range of professions across industries and sectors. Someone with an English language degree, for example, could just as easily pursue a career at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as they could become an English teacher. There is considerable career flexibility for liberal arts graduates.
Liberal Arts Degree Careers and Industries
So, what can you do with a liberal arts degree? A liberal arts degree can position you to pursue a meaningful and rewarding career in virtually any sector, industry and field. You will find liberal arts degree holders working in nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and private companies. You’ll find them working in industries as diverse as entertainment, manufacturing, tourism, marketing and education.
What Jobs Can You Get With a Liberal Arts Degree?
If you are giving serious consideration to pursuing a liberal arts education, you’re likely wondering, “What jobs can you get with a liberal arts degree?” As previously stated, there is a wealth of opportunities available for liberal arts graduates to pursue. Consider the following possibilities:
Marketing managers are responsible for developing, overseeing and evaluating marketing and advertising campaigns. They are in charge of hiring, training and supervising their departmental teams, and of directing all marketing activities. A marketing manager may do any of the following:
- Meet with clients to discuss goals, expectations and the vision for an upcoming marketing campaign.
- Plan marketing and promotional campaigns, and delegate tasks to employees such as copywriters, social media specialists and graphic designers.
- Develop and evaluate market research studies to gain a clearer understanding of market opportunities and customer demographics.
- Develop and monitor the departmental budget.
- Coordinate activities with the managers of other departments on matters such as contractual obligations and marketing budgets.
It’s possible to become a marketing manager with just a bachelor’s degree; a graduate degree may be helpful but is usually not a requirement. However, this career isn’t an entry-level one. An aspiring marketing manager may get their start by working as a copywriter, social media specialist, graphic designer or sales professional.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers to increase by about 10% from 2020 to 2030, as fast as average, accounting for an estimated increase of 31,800 jobs in the field.1
Copywriters are professional writers who work in marketing and advertising. Their role is to create content that promotes a company’s products or services and drives sales. Sales copy may be entertaining and/or informative, with a sales angle.
A copywriter can do any of the following tasks:
- Meet with clients to ascertain their goals and vision, and learn about their products/services.
- Establish or follow brand style guidelines that shape all aspects of the copy, such as the brand voice and stylistic preferences.
- Write sales copy for a variety of mediums and platforms, including blog posts, website static pages, landing pages, social media posts, print ads and brochures.
- Coordinate projects with other professionals, such as graphic designers and social media specialists.
A bachelor’s degree in the humanities or social sciences, along with strong writing abilities, research skills and creativity are all that’s needed to pursue a career as a copywriter. Some copywriters give themselves an edge over their competition by obtaining a professional certification or acquiring additional skills, such as graphic design skills or fluency in another language.
A liberal arts education can prepare you to pursue success in any sector, including the nonprofit sector. A grant writer is a professional who writes grant proposals that seek to generate funding for a nonprofit organization’s mission. Grant writers may work for one specific charity, or they may be freelancers who work with a variety of nonprofits.
If you decide to pursue a career as a grant writer, you can expect to do the following tasks:
- Research opportunities to identify funding opportunities that fit the nonprofit’s mission and programs.
- Write grant proposals that explain the nonprofit’s mission and activities, discuss the impact on the community and explain how the funds would be used.
- Collect supporting documents to attach to the grant proposal.
- Respond to follow-up questions from funding organizations and donors.
- Track, document and disseminate information about the impact of grant money.
Grant writers are generally expected to have a bachelor’s degree, which may be in fields as diverse as professional writing, English, social work, public policy, governmental studies or marketing and advertising.
Human Resources Manager
Human resources (HR) managers run the HR department of an organization. They are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating their company’s administrative functions, particularly with regard to staffing and employee development. A human resources manager will typically handle the following tasks:
- Meet with management to assess the company’s long-term growth needs and vision.
- Oversee the recruitment, selection, interviewing and hiring processes, ensuring that the hiring strategies will enable the company to meet its objectives.
- Develop and supervise the employees’ benefits programs.
- Serve as a liaison between the employees and management.
- Develop and oversee employee development programs, such as continuing education workshops and seminars.
- Manage staffing issues, including everything from firing to disciplinary procedures to disputes.
An aspiring human resources manager needs a bachelor’s degree in a liberal arts field, such as psychology, business or communications. Some colleges offer dedicated HR degrees. Aspiring managers also need work experience as a human resources specialist.
As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for human resources managers to increase by about 9% from 2020 to 2030, as fast as average, accounting for an estimated increase of 14,800 jobs in the field.2
Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists are responsible for nurturing and curating a positive image for their clients. Their clients may be individuals, such as professional athletes, politicians or entertainers, or they may be organizations, such as companies, schools, professional associations and nonprofits.
A public relations specialist may do any of the following tasks:
- Write press releases, blog posts, social media posts and thought leadership articles intended to showcase the client in a positive light.
- Write speeches for the client to deliver, and help prepare the client to effectively answer questions from the media during press conferences.
- Evaluate the public opinion of the client in forums such as social media.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for public relations specialists to increase by about 8% from 2021 to 2031, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 22,300 jobs in the field.3
A liberal arts education can often lead to a career in a STEM field, such as healthcare. If you’re passionate about making a difference in the lives of others and you’re interested in healthcare, you might consider pursuing a career as a health educator.
A health education specialist is a professional who teaches people in a community about healthy choices and behaviors. These experts may do any of the following:
- Evaluate the health trends and needs of the community.
- Develop programs and learning materials designed to disseminate information about health issues, such as managing diabetes or identifying the signs of stroke.
- Develop training programs for other community health workers.
- Help community members to access health-related resources.
- Advocate for the community, such as by pushing for health-focused policies and better health resources.
Although an aspiring health educator could earn a degree in healthcare, a health sciences degree is another solid choice. Additional certificates in health education can help enhance one’s career qualifications.
Social Service Manager
One of the defining characteristics of a thriving community is its offering of publicly available social service programs, such as those designed to increase literacy, enhance mental health and end food insecurity. It’s the job of a social service manager to develop, implement and oversee these types of social service programs. A social service manager, also known as a community service manager, may do any of the following tasks:
- Meet with community members and other stakeholders to ascertain the type and extent of programs and services that are needed in the community.
- Develop and implement community service programs and resources.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of community programs and implement improvements when needed.
- Plan and direct outreach activities to help the public learn about available resources and how to access them.
- Write grant proposals to obtain funding for public service programs.
- Handle administrative tasks necessary for the operation of programs and resources.
If you think you’d like to become a social service manager, you’ll need a degree in social sciences, such as social work or public policy. You may also need relevant professional work experience before stepping into a managerial role.
As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for community and social service occupations to increase by about 12% from 2020 to 2030, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 346,900 jobs in the field.4
Market Research Analyst
In order for a company to be successful, it needs to know which products or services to offer for sale, and how to market them to the right demographic. It’s the job of a market research analyst to study the raw data and turn them into insights that generate upward growth for the company. On any given day, a market research analyst may do any of the following tasks:
- Evaluate current marketing and sales trends and anticipate future trends.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and strategies.
- Develop and implement methods for collecting raw data from consumers, including opinion polls and surveys.
- Acquire and study data on market conditions and the company’s competitors.
- Use statistical software to analyze the data and develop written reports and other materials that explain the findings.
- Make recommendations to management regarding the types of products or services consumers would likely want and the best possible price range for those products or services.
A bachelor’s degree in social science, communications or business can create a pathway toward pursuing a career as a market research analyst. Some employers do prefer candidates with a master’s degree, but a graduate degree isn’t usually necessary to gain a foothold in the field.
Job growth for market research analysts is projected to grow by an estimated 22% from 2020 to 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics.5
Pursue Your Liberal Arts Degree at GCU
Grand Canyon University welcomes students who are excited about pursuing a liberal arts degree. Our College of Humanities and Social Sciences offers many different liberal arts degree options, all of which instill strong competencies in communications, critical thinking and ethical servant leadership.
1 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers, retrieved on Feb. 1, 2022.
2 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on 2020, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Human Resources Managers.
3 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2022, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations Specialists, retrieved on Nov. 11, 2022.
4 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Community and Social Service Occupations
5 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Market Research Analysts, retrieved from June 2, 2022.
Approved by the coordinator for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Feb. 13, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.