A liberal arts degree: for the Jack-of-all-trades

While studying at Guilford, students pursuing a liberal arts degree may ponder the ways in which a liberal arts education can actually be useful after graduation or even before then. They may question if this degree can help build a career, or wonder what skills can be acquired in pursuing liberal arts.

With a variety of programs offered here at Guilford, students pursuing a degree in the liberal arts have many opportunities and options from which to choose. Dana Beck, a sophomore double majoring in Child Psychology and Early Childhood Education, commented on the skills offered from her degree.

“With a liberal arts degree I hope to enter my field of study with a better understanding of how to problem solve and with a vast selection of literature that I can use in problem solving,” Beck said. “It really is about how I learn the material, and doing that in a liberal arts setting has proven to be a good fit for me.”

Rebecca Gibian ‘13, author of “The RBG Way,” who graduated from Guilford with a double major in English and Psychology, also shared what she has accomplished with her degree.

“I truly believe my liberal arts degree helps me in both my professional career and my personal life,” said Gibian. “Being an English major taught me how to communicate, how to express myself through language and how to think critically. As a psychology major, I learned how to research, how to problem solve and how to better understand human behavior. These skills have all proven helpful in both my personal relationships and within my career as a journalist.”

Not only does a liberal arts degree cover majors such as English and Psychology, but also fields such as Theatre Studies, History, Mathematics and Communications. Beth Ritson, a visiting assistant professor in Theatre Studies, spoke up about opportunities for liberal arts students in the entertainment industry.

“I speak mainly from the perspective of theatre studies. Consider this: Americans will spend an estimated $720 billion on entertainment in 2020,” Ritson commented. “Thousands of skilled personnel make up the teams that create the entertainment products that will generate that enormous volume of business.”

A liberal arts education seemingly provides students with more opportunities and career options than most others, and the diversity within a liberal arts degree can help students build a strong resume.

“When you’re applying for a job, the employer wants to know that you can think on your feet, you can listen to directions and get the job done, you can be creative and you can communicate with others,” said Gibian. “You learn all of that through a liberal arts degree.”

Heather Hayton, chair of the English and Creative Writing department and director of the Honors Program, provided her insight into how a liberal arts degree can prepare students for future opportunities.

“The liberal arts curriculum prepares you for any career and to succeed in any life path,” said Hayton. A liberal arts degree, especially, trains you to be a critical thinker and to creatively approach problems; it teaches you how to be well-rounded enough to adapt to a quickly changing world and keep pace with innovation.”

Gibian and Ritson also offered advice to current students.

“Don’t let anyone tell you your degree is worthless,” said Gibian. “You are learning skills that will last you in whatever career you decide. Also don’t worry if you don’t have it all figured out yet. I was privileged enough to know what I wanted to do when I grew up since I was a little kid, and I am still figuring out how to be that person. Savor your time in the Guilford bubble and take every opportunity to learn everything you can. You never know what skills will come in handy down the road.”

“Dive deep into what interests you and search for connections between your interests and the needs of the world,” Ritson advised. Remember that your career may not even have been invented yet, and someone like you will probably invent it. So keep inventing yourself.”