Liberal Arts Majors—Can’t Get a Decent Job? Try This.

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You’ve read about it in the news, maybe experienced it first hand as a liberal arts grad—your psyche or English degree is practically worthless in today’s tech hungry economy. HR managers and recruiters label you as persona non grata for companies increasingly looking for STEM majors. Employers want people who can hit the ground running with a least some tech skills and knowledge. Interview after interview, you’re told they can’t use you, that you should go into teaching or pursue an advanced degree and publish papers. But you need a job now to pay back your student loan and move out of your parents’ house. And working at Starbucks or Target won’t get you there. What to do?

Add Some Tech Skills

Boston-based labor analytics firm, Burning Glass, recently looked at 3.8 million entry-level job openings posted nationally and found that liberal arts grads with technical skills could qualify for 862,000 more jobs. So what types of technical skills do you need to land these jobs? Burning Glass says adding IT networking and support, computer programming, data analysis and management, graphic design, general business, even social media skills can raise the odds of landing a job in today’s economy. Acquiring one or more of these in-demand skills could also add another $6,000 to your starting salary. The skill most employers ask for and are willing to pay extra for is computer programming. Adding that to your resume can boost your average entry-level salary by nearly $18,000. The need for social media skills, growing faster than any other skill, can add another $3,000 to your entry-level salary.

Add People Skills, Problem Solving Skills

HR managers and recruiters say that liberal arts majors can land a good entry-level job if they posses strong communication skills. Warren Buffett once told Columbia business students that having good communication skills can improve their value by another 50 percent, adding that he would pay grads $150,000 for 10 percent of their future earnings for good communication skills. Equally important are problem-solving abilities. Jaime S. Fall, VP at HR Policy Association, an organization of chief human resources managers from large employers noted that young employees are very good at finding information, but fall short in putting that information into context and resolving specific business problems.


Where you apply for work can have an impact on your ability to land a job. Let’s say you added a tech skill to your CV. You’re more likely to land a job in Denver or Dallas, areas where the demand for IT networking and support is high. If you added marketing or social media expertise to your skillset, you’d do better in places like Portland, Oregon. General Motors recently announced that it would be hiring 1,000 high-tech employees to staff an Information Technology Innovation Center in Phoenix.

Can’t find a decent job with your liberal arts degree? Add key skills and consider moving where the jobs are.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/


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