If you’re studying at an alternative liberal arts college, you may have some friends and family wondering how your education will translate into eventual employment in the so-called "real world" or variations on that theme. However, when it comes down to it, a liberal arts education is one of the best possible settings to develop excellent critical thinking skills – skills that more and more employers are relying on for their prospective employees.
The abundance of students graduated with hyper-focused degrees like business, means that their skills are uniform and interchangeable. All too often, hyper-specialized programs like business degrees rely on a set curriculum, mimicking industry trends, and sticking with “how it’s always been done.” While this is all well and good on the surface, when you get out into the real world you’ll quickly realize that not everything is the same all of the time. Things can change at the drop of a hat, and if you’re suddenly stuck in a situation that your specific training didn’t prepare you for – you’d better be able to think quickly.
Diversity in Education
Since the amount of diversification of topics in a liberal arts degree is so vast, you’ll complete a degree having learned how to approach a subject or idea from several different angles. Whether looking at it methodically and logically having taken philosophy courses, or dissecting it in a more human and cultural way because of your anthropology training, you learn to appreciate and analyze problems and data from many angles.
In contrast, programs that specialize in teaching one avenue of thought may leave you in a lurch when that style of thinking or that approach to problem solving doesn’t work. There are several approaches to learning that simply employ an intake of information and the ability to regurgitate it. While this is an excellent way to form a base or surface-level understanding, it’s a very simple and fact-based approach. However, facts can change, and not all situations are equal. If you’re only aware of a certain way to solve a business problem, or a certain way to be able to write code then that’s not going to help you when things start to go awry.
Open Mind, Open World
Keeping an open mind, learning how to justify what you know and believe, and learning to recognize and appreciate criticisms and new ideas are all essential when it comes to success. No one ever achieved greatness by following a set-in-stone set of rules or ideas on how to do something - the best and most creative thinkers knew how to step outside those boxes, and break those molds. Liberal arts programs will provide you with so many more skills outside of the norm of just memorizing information and following trends. You’ll learn how to analyze, criticize and appreciate knowledge and ideas from various angles, juxtapose stances, and explore knowledge in a way that most programs won’t let you.
So if you’d rather forge a path to greatness than follow someone’s footsteps, having a strong grasp on critical thinking and the exploration of knowledge is absolutely essential.