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The Liberal Arts

Why major in the humanities or social sciences?

In the 21st century, in the context of economic uncertainties, some students (and parents) focus on majors that are closely connected with a particular career path.  It’s clear that students majoring in engineering becomes engineers, students majoring in accounting become accountants, while students majoring in nurses become nurses.  It’s less clear what the career path is for students who major in the liberal arts, the humanities and social science disciplines.

In fact, while the career path for these students is less clearly defined in the initial stages of the job search immediately following graduation, students with liberal arts majors are, in fact, prepared for a broad range of careers.  Humphreys and Carnevale (2010) observe that:

  • Every year more than 1/3 of the entire US labor force changes jobs

  • Today’s students will have 10-14 jobs by the time they are 38

  • Every year more than 30 million Americans are working in jobs that did not exist in the previous quarter

What this means is that today’s students will be well rewarded for developing skills to help them win jobs not only immediately after graduation, but for the rest of their working lives.  In every liberal arts major, students learn to read and think analytically, solve problems creatively, work with diverse partners, communicate effectively in speech and writing, use technology wisely, and participate fully in civic life.  This prepares students for their first job search and for job searches in decades to come.

Indeed, a survey of employers conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that employers want to hire people who:

  • Understand global issues and see the US in a global context;

  • Work well with others;

  • Think critical and reason analytically;

  • Write and speak well;

  • Understand how to evaluate the quality of information from a variety of sources;

  • Are creative and innovative; and

  • And can solve complex problems.

All of these skills are embedded in every liberal arts major in our School.  We also teach our students organizational skills, time management skills, leadership skills, the ability to see more than one solution to a problem, attention to detail, the ability to see the big picture, and flexibility.  All of these skills play a big role in career success throughout an individual’s working life.

People with liberal arts majors go on to a broad range of careers including:








Fortune 500 CEOs


Hospital Managers

Intelligence Officers





Parole Officers





Real Estate Agents




Social Workers

Speech Writers

Station Managers


Technical Writers


Transportation Planners

Urban Planners

Wedding Planners

If you aren’t convinced by this list of possible careers, consider this list of people some of whom you may recognize, who had a major in the liberal arts.

Edward B. Rust, Jr., Chairman and CEO of State Farm Insurance Companies said:

At State Farm, our employment exam does not test applicants on their knowledge of finance or the insurance business, but it does require them to demonstrate critical thinking skills and the ability to calculate and think logically.  These skills plus the ability to read for information, to communicate and write effectively, and to have an understanding of global integration need to be demonstrated. This isn’t just what employers want; it’s also what employees need if they are to be successful in navigating the workplace.

(Quoted in the brochure “What is a liberal education?” published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2010.)

With a major in the liberal arts at The College of New Jersey, you will have time in your program to explore a broad range of disciplines and participate in deeply-engaged learning experiences, such as study abroad, internships (for academic credit), and undergraduate research.  In fact, the American Psychological Association sponsored a research project that suggests that people who participate in study abroad score higher on indices of creativity than people who never participated in study abroad.  Study abroad is an option in all of our majors because all of the majors require only 10-12 units (courses).  This leaves fully one third of each student’s program for electives that can be combined (or not) into a second major (in our School or in one of the other Schools at TCNJ), a minor, or a concentration, with plenty of time for a study abroad experience.

For more information about the liberal arts and your career, see

Famous Liberal Arts (Humanities & Social Sciences) Graduates

  • Anderson, Bradbury, CEO of BestBuy, BA in Sociology

  • Annan, Kofi, Politician, BA in Economics

  • Baker, James, Former Secretary of State, BA in Classics

  • Brown, Jerry, Governor of California, BA in Classics

  • Bush, George W., Former President, BA in History

  • Christie, Chris, Governor, BA in Political Science

  • Clinton, Bill, Former President, BA in International Affairs

  • Clinton, Hillary Rodham, Secretary of State (and former Senator), BA in Political Science

  • Coen, Ethan, Filmmaker, BA in Philosophy

  • Couric, Katie, Journalist, BA in English/American Studies

  • Cuomo, Rivers, Musician, BA in American Literature

  • Duchovny, David, Actor, BA in English Literature

  • Elway, John, Athlete, BA in Economics

  • Florio, James, Former New Jersey Governor, BA in Social Studies

  • Foster, Jodi, Actress, BA in English Literature

  • Francis, Sage, Musician, BA in Journalism

  • Franco, James, Actor, BA in English with minor in creative writing

  • Friedan, Betty, Feminist, BA in Psychology

  • Garfunkel, Art, Musician, BA in Art History

  • Giuliani, Rudy, Former Mayor of New York, BA in Political Science

  • Glass, Philip, Composer, BA in Mathematics Philosophy

  • Graham, Lauren, Actress, BA in English

  • Groening, Matt, Creator of the Simpsons, BA in Philosophy

  • Gumbel, Byrant, Journalist, BA in History

  • Gyllenhaal, Maggie, Actress, BA in Literature

  • Hamm, John, Actor, BA in English

  • Hamm, Mia, Athlete, BA in Political Science

  • Hobson, Mellody, President of Ariel Investments, BA in International Affairs

  • Icahn, Carl, Corporate Financier, BA in Philosophy

  • Jabaar, Kareem Abdul, Athlete, BA in History

  • Jordan, Michael, Athlete, BA in Cultural Geography

  • Judd, Ashley, Actress, BA in French

  • Kennedy, John F., Former President, BA in History

  • Lautenberg, Frank, Senator, BA in Economics

  • Lee Jones, Tommy Lee, Actor, BA in English

  • Legend, John, Musician, BA in English

  • Loeb, Lisa, Songwriter, BA in Comparative Literature

  • Luther King, Martin, Jr., Civil Rights Leader, BA in Sociology

  • Maher, Bill, Entertainer, BA in English

  • Martin, Steve, Performer, BA in Philosophy

  • MC, Young, Musician, BA in Economics

  • McGraw, Phil, TV Psychologist, BA in Psychology

  • Morello, Tom, Musician, BA in Political Science

  • Morrison, Toni, Writer and Nobel Prize Winner, BA in English

  • O’Brien, Conan, Entertainer, BA in History and American Literature

  • Obama, Barak, President, BA in Political Science

  • Obama, Michele, First Lady, BA in Sociology

  • Philbin, Regis, Talk Show Host, BA in Sociology

  • Pitt, Brad, Actor, BA in Journalism

  • Plouffe, David, Political Consultant, BA in Political Science

  • Portman, Natalie, Actress, BA in Psychology

  • Ride, Sally, Astronaut, BA in English (and Physics)

  • Riggio, Stephen, CEO of Barnes & Noble, BA in Anthropology

  • Robinson, Janet, CEO of the New York Times Co., BA in English

  • Roth, Philip, Writer, BA in English

  • Scalia, Antonin, Supreme Court Justice, BA in History

  • Scott, Willard, TV Weatherman, BA in Philosophy & Religion

  • Shriver, Maria, Journalist, BA in American Studies

  • Simon, Paul, Musician, BA in English literature

  • Soros, George, Philanthropist, BA in Philosophy

  • Sorvino, Mira, Actress, BA in Asian Studies

  • Sotomayor, Sonya, Supreme Court Justice, BA in History

  • Springer, Jerry, Entertainer, BA in Political Science

  • Steele, Michael, Politician, BA in International Relations

  • Stephanopoulos, George, Journalist, BA in Political Science

  • Walters, Barbara, Journalist, BA in English

  • Whitman, Meg, Former CEO of eBay, BA in Economics

  • Williams, Robin, Entertainer, BA in Sociology