Life

Liberal arts degree a sound investment

Dean Jobin-Bevans, Special to the Packet & Times

(Postmedia Network)

(Postmedia Network)

As a dean of a faculty of social sciences and humanities, I have often been asked to comment on the value of a liberal arts degree, most particularly in the context of anxieties over the current job market. To begin with, I need to state plainly a liberal arts education, which includes studying English, history, philosophy, music and the visual arts, among others, is an excellent investment.

A successful post-secondary education should both assist students in the process of knowledge acquisition and help students develop practical skills for the application of knowledge in a broad range of "real-world" settings. I believe universities have been very successful at the former for centuries, but have only recently been more concentrated on the delivery of the latter.

We know the current job market is ever-changing, and that youth who enter the market today will likely change their careers up to 15 times before they are ready to retire. Additionally, the jobs most youth of today will hold in five to 10 years' time do not currently exist; the job market morphs and changes that quickly. Simply put, the job market is -- and will continue to be -- a moving target, in part, as a result of the rapid and ever-changing world of modern technology.

And now to my point: A liberal arts degree encourages students to be creative, nimble and flexible in their intellectual processes. Liberal arts degrees are interdisciplinary by nature and encourage sharp communication skills and an openness to consider multiple perspectives when problem solving. These are precisely the skills that will best prepare a current university graduate for survival in the job market of the future.

Furthermore, in January 2015, the Education Policy Research Initiative at the University of Ottawa published the findings of a pilot study that analyzed total earnings, as reported on annual income-tax returns filed over a 13-year period, of 1998 graduates holding a bachelor of arts degree. The results showed the annual earnings of social science graduates doubled over 13 years to almost $80,000 -- an annual salary comparable to math and science graduates from the same cohort.

And so, my message to potential students who are considering a university education is first and foremost to study your passion. The best news of all is you should have no fear that if that passion is in the social sciences and humanities, your investment in a liberal arts education will more than prepare you for the uncertainties associated with an ever-changing job market, most especially since the jobs of the future are still to be imagined.

Dr. Dean Jobin-Bevans is the dean of the faculty of social sciences and humanities, and an associate professor in the department of music, at Lakehead University. 



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