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The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, from nationwide surveys to iconic CEOs, employers say they want to hire grads who can think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems.

They agree these skills, provided by a liberal arts education, matter more than what students choose as their undergraduate major.

Check out the executives' opinions and studies below.

How These Humanities Graduates are Finding Jobs in Silicon Valley
The Future of Work series explores why students with "soft skills" are critical for innovating and helping organizations run effectively.

Author Makes Case for "Surprising Power" of Liberal Arts Education
In his book You Can Do Anything, George Anders explains the remarkable power of a liberal arts education – and the ways it can open the door to thousands of cutting-edge jobs every week. 

Business Insider:  Hedge Fund Manager Reveals Why He Loves Hiring Liberal Arts Majors
"Students of history and literature are more trained to understand the existence of multiple perspectives and to engage with them, and so can often more accurately understand the human dynamics that drive stock market flows," said Daniel Rasmussen, founder of Verdad Fund Advisors. This is why he exclusively hires liberal arts majors for his undergraduate internship program.

Liberal Arts Education Can Lead to Career Success
Knoxville News Sentinel: According to the Department of Labor, professionals will have more than 10 jobs before they are 40 years old. So success is more than just getting a job; it's having the tools to build a lasting career over a lifetime. Regardless of their major, liberal arts graduates have the diverse skill set that today's employers seek.

Scientific American: STEM Education Is Vital—But Not at the Expense of the Humanities
The need to teach both music theory and string theory is a necessity for the U.S. economy to continue as the preeminent leader in technological innovation... Apple's Steve Jobs once declared: "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough—that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing."

Wall Street Journal: Why I Was Wrong About Liberal Arts Majors
Wall Street Journal Small Business Expert David Kalt says his experience has proven a liberal arts education produces the sharpest, best­-performing software developers and technology leaders: "A critical thinker is a self­-learning machine."

The Atlantic: Why America's Business Majors Are in Desperate Need of a Liberal Arts Education
Students are clamoring for degrees that will help them secure jobs in a shifting economy, but to succeed in the long term, they’ll require an education that allows them to grow, adapt, and to build successful careers: They need a liberal arts foundation.

The Washington Post: Enough with trashing the liberal arts. Stop being stupid
For years now, business leaders have been saying loudly that the skills learned in liberal arts education are exactly what they are looking for in employees. 

Forbes: Why Tech's Most Valuable Teacher Is A Classics Major
Business savvy was folded into a liberal arts education for Tim O'Reilly, who has built a formidable training institution for software engineers. "More broadly, all it takes is a quick scan through the job ads to see how useful a liberal-arts education can be — even in our tech-hungry society." 

Fast Company: Why Top Tech CEOs Want Employees With Liberal Arts Degrees
The liberal arts train students to synthesize multiple perspectives, to think differently about bigger questions, to translate complex information into clear language – and to adapt to changing circumstances, tech CEOs say.

Forbes: That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket
Software companies are discovering that liberal arts thinking makes them stronger. Just ask philosophy major Stewart Butterfield, cofounder and CEO of Slack Technologies. And he’s far from alone, as Forbes reports.

What You’ve Been Told About Picking a College Major is Probably Wrong
Expert advice: "Just pursue your passion. Employers prefer to hire people who have decision-making, organizational and planning, problem-solving, writing and communication skills" – skills best learned in liberal arts programs. "Major in what interests you most and what you are best at." Also: There are "dramatic differences between the 'sticker price' and the tuition and fees families actually pay."

Washington Post: Tech companies are hiring more liberal arts majors than you think
Liberal arts graduates joined the ranks of tech companies at a faster clip in the past few years than their engineering and computer-science counterparts, according an analysis by LinkedIn, which concluded, "These results reveal that the philosophy behind liberal arts, which encourages diversity of skills and flexible critical thinking, transfers to the workplace in various forms."

"Congrats Liberal Arts Majors, You're the Most Desirable Employees"
A star-studded panel of entrepreneurial leaders said liberal arts institutions produce graduates who bring the freshest ideas as employees.

Does Alma Mater Really Matter? Where MacArthur 'Genius' Fellows Went to College
Many factors explain why liberal arts colleges have produced a disproportionate share of MacArthur Fellows, valued as "self-directed original thinkers" who create groundbreaking work. Illinois Wesleyan boasts two MacArthur Fellows, 1982 grad and the first vocal artist to win the honor, 5-time Grammy winner Dawn Upshaw, and Chicago-based community leader  Juan Salgado '91. 

The New York Times: Starving for Wisdom
The humanities enrich us, in wisdom, understanding, and our pocketbooks. "A broad liberal arts education is a key pathway to success in the 21st-century economy.... The economic return to pure technical skills has flattened, and the highest return now goes to those who combine soft skills — excellence at communicating and working with people — with technical skills."

Washington Post: What the 'liberal' in 'liberal arts' actually means
It's liberal, not as opposed to conservative, but as in free, in contrast to imprisoned, constrained or subjugated. "A liberal education is designed to provide students with the knowledge and abilities to become successful, productive members of a free society."

Washington Post: We don’t need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training.
If American science, technology, engineering and math grads are going lead the world in innovation, then their science education cannot be divorced from the liberal arts.

Weighing the Cost of Public vs. Private Colleges
A high school guidance counselor advises families to look past the sticker shock of private schools and consider their more generous financial aid packages and the much greater likelihood of graduating within four years.

I Will Hire You for Your "Useless" Degree, If...
In the interests of hiring managers who want their companies to thrive, how you think is more important than what you know. A so-called "useless" degree can teach you to observe and understand patterns and be forward thinking.

Time: Critics of the Liberal Arts Are Wrong
Yes, science and tech are important, but a congressional report shows that employers prize a more broadly-based education that has taught them to write well, think critically, research creatively and communicate easily.

Forbes: Employees Who Stand Out
The ability to think, to conceptualize and to come up with creative ideas separates top performers in their careers, according to CEO Steve Sadove. These traits are hallmarks of a liberal arts education.

More than a Major: What Employers Want
In a national survey, 80 percent of employers agree that – regardless of their major – all college students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.

Fast Company: Why Top Tech CEOs Want Employees With Liberal Arts Degrees 
Tech CEOs across the country agree that liberal arts training – with its emphasis on creativity and critical thinking – is vital to the success of their business. 

Business Insider: Why Every Tech Company Needs An English Major
A former Twitter and Google executive told The Wall Street Journal he was looking for good storytellers at his startup company – illustrating how businesses depend on "liberal arts-centric communicators."

When the Cost of College Stops Going Up
Hamilton Place Strategies set out to determine when the cost of a college education is no longer worth the investment. Their answer: not until the year 2086, if tuition reaches $181,000 per year. Up to that point, a college degree brings a solid return.

New York Times: Many of Wall Street's Top Executives Studied the Humanities
The co-chairman of Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, said that the reasoning skills that come with a well-rounded education result in higher-paying jobs over time.

Are the Liberal Arts Worth It?
A new report documents that liberal arts graduates reach higher earnings and enjoy long-term professional success.In a "chArts & Sciences" infographic, Phi Beta Kappa has compiled quick stats to illustrate why America must confirm the life-long value of a broad-based education, which expands opportunity and drives ingenuity and innovation.

CEO Advice: "Get a Liberal Arts Degree"
Edgar M. Bronfman, the former CEO of Seagram Company, Ltd., believes the work place of the future requires adaptable minds. "There is nothing that makes the mind more elastic and expandable than discovering how the world works," he writes.

Poll: Employers Favor Those With Well-Rounded Education
A recent public poll found that American adults and employers favor graduates who can communicate and think critically and creatively, rather than receive narrow training and industry-specific skills. Also reported by  Inside Higher Ed.

Why a Liberal Arts Education Creates Great Entrepreneurs 
John Dearborn, president of venture development firm JumpStart Inc., joins the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs in his view that great innovations spring from the liberal arts.

Numbers Don't Lie – A Cost/Value Analysis of a Liberal Arts Degree
Not only is a liberal arts education not as expensive as news stories lead us to believe, but there may be no better investment in America today.

Employers Demand Higher Learning Levels, More Liberal Education Outcomes
In a survey commissioned by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, employers said today's workers need a broader range of skills and knowledge.

Forbes: A Liberal Arts Degree Is More Valuable Than Learning Any Trade
The head of a billion-dollar software company argues that the skills necessary to succeed today are best fostered in a liberal arts environment.

Forbes: Major in What You Enjoy Most and Do Best
It's true: Liberal arts graduates earn well above the median income, excel in their careers and find great satisfaction in them.

Christian Science Monitor: Why a liberal arts education is the best job preparation
Students today can easily find information. The challenge is making connections, dealing with complexity.

USA Today: Liberal Arts Grads Better Prepared, More Satisfied
A national survey found that alumni of liberal arts colleges such as Illinois Wesleyan are better prepared for their careers and more satisfied with their education than graduates of other institutions.