Why Study the Liberal Arts?
Competition in the marketplace often leads us to question the value of studies that don’t offer a direct track to employment. But a broad-based liberal arts education does more than prepare you for a job. It lays the foundation for a future career while also preparing you to compete in the marketplace of ideas.
Whether you choose to read a poem, peer into a microscope, act in a Shakespeare play, decipher a medieval manuscript, or unravel the mysteries of the human brain, you learn more than facts: you learn to think independently and make sound judgments. You expand your horizons, discover new perspectives, and acquire the tools to defend your point of view.
To be liberally educated is to be transformed. A liberal arts education frees your mind and helps you connect dots you never noticed before, so you can put your own field of study into a broader context. It enables you to form opinions and judgments, rather than defer to an outside authority.
The foundation for a liberal arts education lies in a course of study that combines both breadth and depth, and few educational institutions in the world are better equipped to provide students with more breadth and depth than UC Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science.
Reaching across the disciplines
Every field of study is but one of many ways of partitioning knowledge — a part of a much greater whole. A liberal arts education bridges existing divides by offering a curriculum that creates coherence and integrity in your intellectual experience. L&S puts great emphasis on interdisciplinary perspectives and gives you the option of pursuing either a traditional major or designing new ones that reach across the disciplines.
Universities offer degrees in a chosen field. But life is not divided into majors. Then why should an educational experience be anything less than a unified whole?
A moral and historic compass
No matter how advanced our society, we never lose the need to reflect on life, to distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, and what is noble and beautiful from what is useful.
The tradition of asking questions and reflecting on such issues has its origin in the classical thought of Greek philosophers. But it was during the Age of Enlightenment that the scope of liberal arts expanded and turned into a core curriculum that still comprises the broad range of humanities and sciences that provide the moral compass the ancient Greeks sought and that we still strive for.
Building the foundations of a future career
A liberal arts education does not preclude specific career goals and vocations, but complements them by providing students with the skills and knowledge that offer access to many careers.
Employers increasingly realize that a liberal arts education prepares students for real life challenges in a way that vocational schools often cannot. In 2000, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveyed employers across the country to determine what they look for in new employees. What they found is that graduates with the right skills rather than the right major had the edge. Skills can be learned, but good thinking cannot.
In today’s economy, employers also desire transferable skills — skills employees take with them to any job, such as written and verbal communication skills, the ability to solve complex problems, to work well with others, and to adapt in a changing workplace — all hallmarks of a liberal arts education.
A liberal arts education prepares students to assume positions of leadership and to be flexible in the marketplace. You may acquire specific job skills while in college or after you graduate. But with a solid liberal arts education you are not limited to a particular niche, but freed and qualified for a wide range of opportunities for the rest of your life.