AAC&U Documents Liberal Arts Success

A new AAC&U report by Debra Humphreys and Patrick Kelly provides ample evidence of the role and value of a liberal arts education.  Here is a quote from the forward:

In How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment: A Report on Earnings and Long-Term Career Paths, Debra Humphreys and Patrick Kelly address the concerns about whether college is still worth it and whether “liberal arts” majors provide a solid foundation for long-term employment and career success. Responding directly to the recent assaults on the humanities and social sciences, this report compares earnings trajectories and career pathways for liberal arts majors with the earnings trajectories and career pathways for those majoring in science and mathematics, engineering, and professional or preprofessional fields such as business or education. Readers who value the liberal arts will, we believe, find the results reassuring.

There is a much larger case—beyond the purely vocational or economic case—to be made for study in the humanities and social sciences, of course. These fields build the capacity to understand our collective histories, ideals, aspirations, and social systems. They are indispensable to the vitality of our democracy and to the future of global understanding, engagement, and community.

A number of interesting key findings point to the short-term and long-term economic viability of the liberal arts degree:

Liberal Arts Majors Close Earnings Gaps—Earn More than Professional Majors at Peak Earnings Ages

  • At peak earnings ages (56-60 years) workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually on average about $2000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional or pre-professional fields. These data include all college graduates working full-time, including those with only a baccalaureate degree and those with both a baccalaureate and graduate or professional degree.

Unemployment Rates are Low for Liberal Arts Graduates—and Decline over Time

  • The unemployment rate for recent liberal arts graduates is 5.2 percent. The unemployment rate for mature workers with liberal arts degrees (41-50) is 3.5 percent—just .04 percent higher than the rates for those with a professional or preprofessional degree.