More subjects, more opportunities
3 mins read

More subjects, more opportunities


Imagine a world where any person can graduate high school and get a job. Not a job at McDonald’s – a job that pays people well enough to live on. A job with a company people can and will spend their lives at.

This vision is a romantic expression of the American dream, but because of how the American economy is changing, the odds are that no one currently attending this university will be lucky enough to see it.

However, this is a liberal arts university, and a liberal arts degree might prove valuable in the new economy.

The workplace is changing, especially for millennials. According to Gallup, 21 percent of millennials have changed jobs in the last year (three times the average) and 60 percent are at least open to new job prospects. To have any hope of adapting, the world needs people with diverse skills, and that’s what is at the heart of liberal arts.

The AACU defines liberal education as “an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world… as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest.”

Those are precisely the skills that will help in possible transitions from one job to another. That is precisely what we need, now more than ever.

Consider what speakers at graduation are called: commencement speaker. Commencement, as in commencing the rest of adulthood. The first destination after college isn’t an end goal, it’s a step. The first step in a greater career path through life.

American values are shifting. The Brookings Institution found that millennials are less likely to consider money a marker of success, but more likely to prioritize interest in a job over salary. I would count myself among that group.

Perhaps I’m exemplary of the typical millennial student. I worked hard in pre-college life to get into a competitive STEM school, and then switched to political science because I realized that is where my passion was.

Given that I was studying electrical/computer engineering, this might be unfortunate for the competitive edge in our economy. Almost certainly I will make only a fraction of what I would have, but that isn’t the value paradigm I’m using anymore.

None of this is to speak ill of those who do find fulfillment in working the STEM fields. Though I decided not to continue with that path, I am glad I took advanced math and science classes because I learned a lot about the world and myself. Though STEM careers are consistently some of the best paying, they’re not for everyone.

So, for those of us who have chosen to pursue our passions rather than dollars, go in confidence for your English degree. Smile at your achievements in philosophy. Take some random classes just because they sound interesting – this is one of few times we’re afforded that opportunity.

I can’t promise we’ll all be successful, and I certainly can’t promise we won’t face hard times. But those aren’t issues exclusive to our generation, so we shouldn’t let them hold us back from chasing what it seems we value – happiness.

If you have any doubts, ask yourself, what is money worth to you?

Smith is a member of College Democrats and the Political Science League.