Kent Bonacki Examines the Key Benefits of a Liberal Arts Education
When it comes to what fields of study today’s college and university-bound students should pursue, the conversation is typically dominated by STEM. However, while it’s doubtlessly true that graduates with strong science, technology, engineering and math skills are coveted by employers — especially if they have some business courses added to the mix — the belief that all students either need to “go STEM or go home” is patently untrue, because those with liberal arts degrees are also poised to launch and lead organizations across all sectors and industries.
Kent Bonacki, a grant researcher and professional writer based in Park City, Utah, shares the key benefits of a liberal arts education.
For decades, a liberal arts education has been an easy target for those who make the unfounded argument that unless higher education is essentially about preparing students for a specific profession — such as becoming an engineer or a doctor — then it’s a huge waste of time and money, and those who ultimately obtain a liberal arts degree will spend the rest of their careers underpaid and under-employed.
According to Kent Bonacki, an abundance of research has shown that this is not the case at all. On the contrary, people with a liberal arts degree are highly coveted by employers and over the long-term often earn a significantly higher salary than their colleagues with only a more technical academic background.
Analytical and Communication Skills
Of course, employers who extend higher salaries, benefits, and perks to employees with liberal arts degrees aren’t dealing with theory or editorializing: they’re doing so because it makes pragmatic, measurable sense to their bottom-line. In other words, they’re getting an ROI from workers with a liberal arts background that they cannot get (in whole or in part) from those without this type of training. These benefits are rooted in superior written and oral communication skills, analytical abilities, cultural awareness, and adaptability.
Arguably the most critical skill that today’s employees need is the ability to communicate with different audiences, through various mediums ranging from face-to-face interaction to digital-driven correspondence,” comments Kent Bonacki. A liberal arts degree lays a solid foundation in this area, while at the same time equips employees to be culturally sensitive, analyze issues to find new and better solutions, and adapt to an ever-changing work landscape. All of these attributes are vital for organizations that want to ensure their best days are ahead instead of behind.
A Passion for Continuous Growth
With this in mind — and as any prudent guidance counselor or student advisor would hasten to point out — a liberal arts degree is not an automatic ticket to long-term job security or guarantee high income. Once they graduate, people need to augment and elevate their skills through ongoing professional development that includes both informal coaching experiences and formal education programs.
While each liberal arts graduate is unique and has their own interesting paradigm, what unites most — if not all — of the people who head in this academic direction, is that they are open-minded and have a passion for continuous growth, says Kent Bonacki. They grasp that what they know from yesterday, is not as important as what they can learn tomorrow. In today’s work landscape, this mindset is invaluable — because the only constant is change, and it’s faster and more furious than ever before. A liberal arts degree helps equip people with the tools and frameworks they need to lead organizations forward.
The Best Benefit, According to Kent Bonacki
The biggest benefit of pursuing a liberal arts education, says Kent Bonacki, is that a liberal arts education teaches students soft skills, and therefore very transferable skills. Job seekers that hold a variety of soft skills are in high demand, and most soft skills are taught through liberal arts programs. Soft skills may include leadership, teamwork, work ethic, adaptability, and overall confidence, in addition to analytical and communication skills.
Liberal arts has a bad rap, but more people should be taking those with a liberal arts education more seriously, as they may have a more broad set of skills when compared to someone with a more specific and traditional educational background.