Ohio University

The Liberal Arts Experience

One of the most commonly asked questions about programs in the College of Arts & Sciences is, "What type of career will I be able to pursue with a liberal arts degree?" To answer that important question, we must first outline the goals of a liberal arts education.

Definition and Goals of a Liberal Arts Education

A liberal arts education reflects a philosophy of learning that is based not on specific courses, but rather, requires exposure to a broad range of subjects, as well as to in-depth study in at least one academic area. Greater Expectations (2002), a national panel report conducted by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, reported that a liberal education facilitates the development of mental agility, intellectual power, an understanding and appreciation of diversity, ethical issues, service to others, and critical thinking skills.

"These objectives are achieved through courses that make up the curricula of the college--courses which historically have been regarded as the means whereby human beings come to understand themselves and the world in which they live. These courses fall within the academic areas known as the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. A liberal arts education, both in breadth and approach, provides not only the specific knowledge and skills required for careers in today's changing society, but encourages a lifetime quest for active learning" (Ohio University Catalog).

Why Require a Foreign Language?

In the College of Arts & Sciences we believe that studying a foreign language is a critical component of becoming a well-educated person. The following (from Alan C. Frantz - Seventeen Values of Foreign Language Study) are just some of the reasons why studying a foreign language is considered a worthwhile academic pursuit:

  • offers a sense of a relevant past, both culturally and linguistically
  • helps expand one's view of the world
  • contributes to the creation of a student's personality
  • fosters an understanding of the interrelation between language and human nature
  • contributes to cultural awareness
  • develops the intellect (includes learning "how" to learn)
  • improves one's knowledge of the native language, through comparison and contrast with the foreign language
  • teaches and encourages respect for other peoples
  • expands one's opportunities for meaningful leisure activities such as travel, reading, or viewing foreign language films

How Does a Liberal Arts Degree Relate to a Career?

N. Victor Goodman, former Ohio University Board of Trustee member, and prominent attorney, spoke to our graduating class of 2004 and said that "as our world becomes ever more specialized and complex, as technology threatens to outrun our ability to understand it, it is more important than ever to gain the perspective and utilize the judgment that a lifelong liberal arts education provides."

The answer, therefore, to the question, "How does a liberal arts degree relate to a career?" is that is that it prepares you for all potential careers. In most cases, it is a mistake to attempt to draw a direct connection between "major" and "job". Students graduating with an undergraduate major are not yet professionals in a specific field. As you may be aware, the average American changes careers an average of five times over a lifetime. In the world of work, a college degree, along with your own salesmanship, wins the job race. Even more than a major, what matters most in building a lifetime of successful careers, is your ability as an educated person to learn "on the job," and your capacity to adjust to and thrive in new and challenging environments. Employers value employees who have good critical thinking and decision-making skills, the ability to communicate effectively (written and verbal), know how to research subjects, have the ability to work with others, and who are committed to a life-time of independent learning. These skills are hallmarks of a liberal arts degree.

How Do You Choose Your Major?

We recommend that you select a major you know you will enjoy and one in which you can excel. Some entering students know exactly what they want to major in; many others are unsure. In fact, most first-year students change majors at least once! If you are undecided about a major, don't worry. You have the opportunity to explore many different academic fields. We have specially selected faculty and professional advisers who guide our undecided students through the exploration process. For more information on choosing a major, you can go to:

Student Success & Career Development

eHow.com: How to Choose a Major in College

University of Minnesota Morris: How to Choose a Major

What Can I Do with a Liberal Arts Major?

The answer, in a nutshell, is "anything" you want! Once you've decided on your major, your work is not yet complete. You also need to think about what you are interested in doing after undergraduate school. Are you considering graduate or professional school? Are you planning to enter the job market? Our Office of Career Services can assist you with how best to prepare for your next step. You may decide to add a minor or certificate program in a career field or opt to do an internship or volunteer in that area. In any case, because of the academic and work/volunteer experiences you complete as an undergraduate liberal arts student in the College of Arts & Sciences, you can become a desirable candidate for that first professional job or master's program.

For additional information on careers, use the Career and Leadership Development Center Career Tools, or visit the following websites: