Your Arts degree is more useful than you think

While Arts students may often feel that they're graduating without a specific skillset, studies indicate that employers are more interested in critical thinkers than technical knowledge.

What do employers want from their potential candidates? According to a 2016 study conducted by the Business Council of Canada, the nation’s largest private-sector employers value soft skills over technical knowledge. Contrary to what most students might believe, industry-specific knowledge and technological literacy were the lowest priorities for employers seeking entry-level candidates. The highest? Strong social and critical thinking skills; collaboration and teamwork; communication skills, problem-solving, and the ability to build and nurture interpersonal relationships.

In other words: most employers are looking for Arts majors.

Despite the combined pressures from a highly-strung media; families who are impatient to see their darlings reap the benefits of higher education; and the soaring expectations Arts students place on themselves to produce, engage, and prove their academic and productive worth; it’s important for those working toward a B.A. to remember how vital they are outside of academia.

While it may seem that the “good” jobs go to engineers and dentists, management students and science majors, the truth is that whether in high tech or the non-profit sector, the world needs trouble-shooters and communicators – team players who know how to think their way around a problem and not simply do what’s always been done.   

If you look at leadership across industries, those with degrees in “the social sciences and humanities together make up more than half of bachelor’s degrees among current professional leaders with higher education qualifications, across 30 countries and all sectors,” according to a 2015 British Council report. This trend is even more prevalent among leaders under 45. And not by accident – the dynamism and adaptability of younger professionals appears to positively coincide with an inclination to study an Arts-related field.

For those motivated by civic engagement more than leadership experience, empirical evidence indicates bright and promising careers for them too. Experts agree that jobs which will be least impacted by automation (coincidentally, also reported as being higher in demand once artificial intelligence kicks off in the workplace) will be ones that require complex and deeper understandings of human behaviour. Creativity, imagination, leadership, humour and writing-skills are not just qualities that improve daily life – they are also marketable skills that employers are chasing after, in order to compete with the rapidly-evolving world of social change and innovation.

So fear not, Arts majors. The hours spent mulling over impenetrable texts, cultivating critical thinking and dedicated work ethics will be worth it in the end. Your understanding of human differences, cultures and traditions, and individual and collective behaviours, combined with your creative ideas and adaptable personalities make you highly competitive candidates on the job market. It may take you longer to figure out exactly what it is you want to do with your life, but if you keep working at it, your path will very likely lead you to become a future leader or star employee – regardless of the industry or sector you choose to work in.