Does a Liberal Arts Education Help or Hurt Entrepreneurs?

The market is definitely down on liberal arts majors, and I don’t understand why. For business owners looking for an intelligent and quick-thinking employee, an investment in an art historian or anthropologist might give you a better ROI than some hot-shot MBA,” states Carey Smith, contributor for Inc. magazine and founder of Big Ass Fans.

What is The Value of a Liberal Arts Education?

The interdisciplinary quality of liberal arts programs empower students with knowledge across the disciplines, and valuable, marketable skills. Upon graduation, liberal arts graduates have refined skills in oral and written communication, problem-solving, synthesis, analysis, reflection, and numerical skills.

Liberal Arts curriculum challenges students to pose meaningful questions, and to search for answers backed by evidence. Students solve problems as members of a team, develop public speaking skills, gain confidence and accrue content across the disciplines. Their training takes place in multicultural classrooms collaborating with international students under the guidance of diverse professors. Students also learn foreign languages and cultural histories.

Many travel abroad, where they are immersed in local cultures and they participate in global citizenship. Through travel abroad learning exchanges, students participate in humanitarian endeavors and partner for change.

Until the recent past, these skills had been undervalued, dismissed as too general, as producing graduates that were  jack of all trades-masters of none.  In today’s global world, companies are taking a second look and bringing liberal arts graduates into job sectors where they can previously been excluded.

Why Companies are Reconsidering Liberal Arts Graduates and Bringing Them On-board.

Intellectual Curiosity 

Liberal arts education promotes intellectual curiosity, which, according to Entrepreneur’s Steve Vanderveen, is the fuel that makes innovation, marketing and leadership possible. Successful entrepreneurs know good leadership and collaboration–skills developed in liberal arts programs.

Startups Are Recruiting Them 

Instead of comparing themselves to technicians, Startup Specialist, Jonathan Brill encourages liberal arts graduates to appreciate the unique contributions they bring to a startup and, what they can build with those. There is true market-value for what liberal arts graduates bring to the job sector. Graduates who tap into this power, gain leverage in terms of collaborative talents, and salary gains. Liberal arts graduates brings complementary power to a group, and this is important, because successful startups need all types of professionals; lopsided teams don’t perform as well.

Business Owners Think They Can Outperform MBAs

Big Ass Fans owner, Carey Smith argues that companies should put aside “the cookie-cutter formula of matching business majors to sales jobs and marketing majors to public relations jobs. The best person for the job, states Smith, is the well-rounded person.” No one wants employees without creativity, imagination or passion. Everyone wants an employee with an adaptable, can-do attitude and genuine interest in growing.

“Employees’ success isn’t what they know when they join the company, but rather what they’re interested in. I’d take one aggressively curious religion major over three well-trained, but complacent, engineers any day,” states Smith.

Post-Collegiate Employment Shows that Liberal Arts Degrees Can Pay Off

Susan Adams, Forbes contributor, finds evidence in the website PayScale which claims that when students select the right institution, their liberal arts degrees can lead to competitive salaries. According to Adams, PayScale’s latest College Salary Report states that the median mid-career pay for graduates of Washington and Lee University, a private school with 1,900 undergrads in Lexington, VA, founded in 1749, is $121,000. The school ranks No. 29 on the Forbes list of top colleges.

Liberal Arts Colleges Are The New Startup Incubators

“Small liberal arts colleges are reinventing themselves as entrepreneur hatcheries–both for billion-dollar startups and social change makers,”according to Liyan Chen, Forbes’ staff.

To counter critiques that liberal arts institutions are not preparing students to succeed in a 21st century global world, innovative colleges are taking steps to connect curriculum to for-profit and nonprofits endeavors. According to Chen, liberal arts colleges are now promoting social entrepreneurship in an attempt to bridge business with liberal arts studies. By including entrepreneurial initiatives, and promoting creativity and innovation Liberal Arts Colleges are proving that there is room for entrepreneurship in liberal arts curricula. As Chen reports,

Social entrepreneurship–a marriage of nonprofit idealism and business techniques–fits liberal arts so perfectly.


One thought on “Does a Liberal Arts Education Help or Hurt Entrepreneurs?

  1. Well thought out and presented. Yes, liberal arts majors do tend to think in more general terms, and that’s a key element for new entrepreneurs. And social entrepreneurship taps into the typical liberal arts major’s concern for the less fortunate members of society. There’s plenty of room for ALL kinds of entrepreneurs. Startups use new ideas to fuel change, and that fits liberal arts majors as well as those in more technical fields. A mix of arts, humanities, business and STEM backgrounds provide a potent combination for any startup.

    Liked by 1 person

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