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Finishing Your Liberal Arts Degree Can Lead to More Income

One of the first things people do when they’re trying to get out of debt is to set up a budget. They worry so much about how much they’re spending that they cut their expenses to the bone. Maybe the answer isn’t to slash spending; perhaps the solution is to generate more income. People without degrees have less earning power, but a liberal arts degree can change their fortunes.

Why You Need Your Degree in Today’s Job Market

Between 1965 and 2012, the average earnings for people with bachelor’s degrees rose from $38,833 to $45,500. Over the same period, earnings for people with high school diplomas fell from $31,384 to $28,000. Back in 1965, a college graduate only earned about $7,500 more per year than someone with a high school diploma. By 2012, college grads earned $17,500 more than those with diplomas.

In today’s world, students are often steered away from the liberal arts and into STEM degrees: degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math. Liberal arts majors make up just eight percent of the student population compared to 17 percent in 1967. However, degrees that are heavy on science and quantitative elements don’t always translate to success. As Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told Business Insider, “I’ve seen many an actuary and many an engineer who are brilliant, but they fail in their ability to communicate or commercialize an idea.”

Misconceptions About Liberal Arts Degrees

Billionaire George Soros, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault all have one thing in common: a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. Soros majored in philosophy, Palmisano majored in English, and Chenault majored in history. Many people assume that liberal arts majors have trouble finding good jobs. However, the degree program with the most underemployed graduates is actually business. Colleges produce plenty of students with business degrees, but they need MBAs to find good-paying jobs.

Soros, Palmisano, and Chenault all went on to great success in business despite not getting an undergraduate business degree. Plus, people with liberal arts degrees are highly likely to go to graduate school eventually. With grad degrees, they significantly close the wage gap between themselves and the STEM graduates.

What You Get From a Liberal Arts Education 

In some ways, the future job market looks bleak. Many jobs will be outsourced overseas, where wages are much lower. Also, as computers grow increasingly sophisticated, they’ll be able to do many human jobs more efficiently. The jobs of the future will rest on things that computers and citizens of other countries can’t do at a lower cost. These jobs include work that requires human interaction and other non-quantitative skills, like writing.

The liberal arts are the study of humanity: its languages, history, artistic achievements, and its ways of seeing the world. In addition to the rigorous writing and analysis demands of a liberal arts education, liberal arts majors gain an understanding of people. The job market is hungry for graduates who have both soft skills and the ability to work in teams. Without these skills, even the most technically proficient computer science graduate will never get into a supervisory position.

Getting It Done

If you want to get a degree to make more money, liberal arts could be the answer. As you’re thinking about going back to school, you’ll want to consider certain issues:

  • Choosing online vs. traditional classes. Many of today’s schools offer online liberal arts or general studies degrees. You can keep your current job and work around your family schedule while completing your degree.
  • Transferring credits. Liberal arts degree programs accept credits from a breadth of different fields, so you can build on the credits that you already have. Instead of having to take prerequisites without being able to transfer your credits, you can transfer easily into a liberal arts program and graduate in a shorter amount of time.
  • Keeping costs low. Many low-cost universities offer liberal arts degrees. The more credits you’re able to transfer, the less you’ll have to pay for new classes.

Never Stop Learning

After you earn your liberal arts degree, you can easily increase your marketability by learning technical skills, like coding, from free online tools. Your bachelor’s degree will open doors, and your specialized skills will give you a competitive edge.

Do you see any benefits from having a degree?

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Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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The content on is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not financial advice and we are not certified financial advisors. strives to keep its information accurate and up to date, but it may differ from actual numbers. We may have financial relationships with companies listed on our site. We may receive compensation for the placement of sponsored products or services. We work hard to write authentic and accurate articles.