Why being a liberal arts major is better for job stability

Liberal arts can’t be replaced by an algorithm

As a student in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at NC State, I often find myself in conversation with students in the College of Engineering or Poole College of Management. The conversation could be going well, but their demeanor totally changes once they find out I am a social science student.

This has happened on more than one occasion, not only to me, but also to a friend in criminology and another friend in history. Being a liberal arts major does not make you less intelligent.

Critical thinking, analyzation and problem-solving are skills used more so in the humanities and social sciences than in engineering.

Former SecDef Chuck Hagel and Lt. Gen (RET) Dan Bolger

Former SecDef Chuck Hagel and Lt. Gen (RET) Dan Bolger

At an event called "Brown Bag Lunch with the Dean," the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Jeff Braden, talked about the stigma attached to liberal arts majors, discussed why it's associated with lesser intelligence, and addressed the benefits of Liberal Arts degrees.

"Too often, people focus on the skills they need to get their first job rather than the capacities they will need in their last job," Dean Braden said. "The more a skill can be objectively specified and precisely executed, the more appealing that skill is to an employer."

Dean Jeffrey Braden, the coolest Dean at NC State

Dean Jeffrey Braden, the coolest Dean at NC State

Dean Braden mentioned the movie Hidden Figures in which NASA needed people, working as computers, to perform calculations. It teaches an important lesson about how highly technical and specialized skills can be completely automated, erasing the need for humans to do the job.

In comparison, skills that came from the humanities and social sciences are not as easily replaced by a computer.

Skills like ability to listen critically, write clearly, and the skill to simplify complex or ambiguous ideas. This particular set of skills is dubbed as "soft skills," according to Dean Braden.

"They are difficult to objectively specify and precisely execute thus making them the capacities least amenable to automation," Dean Braden explained.

Dean Braden went on to say jobs that depend on soft skills are less likely to succumb to automation, so the skills taught in humanities and liberal arts "therefore have an important role to play."

Essentially, liberal arts majors will always have a career because political science, English, criminology, philosophy, psychology, history and all other social sciences and humanities are too difficult to automate.

To add another point Dean Braden made, the word liberal stems from the Latin word līber, which means free. In classic antiquity, these fields were considered essential in order for a citizen to be free and have the ability to partake in their civil duties.

North Carolina State University