Students who enter colleges as Liberal Arts majors often have no idea what they want for a career. Liberal Arts programs also have a less directed focus on career, in contrast to other specialized fields, such as business, engineering and law. Luckily, more and more colleges are realizing how important it is to have specialized career programs for Liberal Arts students to ensure that they enter the job market doing something they enjoy.
Many colleges have, therefore, created career-oriented programs to help students who are Liberal Arts majors, as classrooms fail to inspire them. According to college advisors, many of these programs rely on alumni networks.
Here are several different programs aimed at helping students turn their Liberal Arts degree into a well-paid job:
1. Alumni Mentor Programs
The University of Connecticut launched the CLAS Career Advisor Program for its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences two years ago. Through this online alumni program, sophomores and juniors are matched with alumni mentors that best fit their criteria. An alumni mentor helps students with internships, resumes and job concerns. It is a powerful program that taps into the vast CLAS alumni network of over 100,000 alumni worldwide.
Students who participated in this program have found it to be extremely helpful. Sarah Marshall, a CLAS student ‘18, stated: “I loved having this experience! It was so great to have someone to talk to about life after college and the different paths I could take!”
Alumni mentors volunteer as a way of giving back and find that they too gain from the relationship. Karen Glass CLAS ‘89 volunteers as a mentor and feels very positive of the program: “I’ve done this for several years now and once again, I’ve enjoyed the experience immensely! I hope to continue participating in the future as I feel I gain as much from the interaction as the student does. It’s a great program!”
2. Career Road Trips
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has the Learning Community Big Trip program, which provides students with an opportunity to travel to different cities and interact with alumni in their chosen fields. In 2016, the university’s Learning Community Big Trip took 80 students to Chicago, so they could tour the business areas to learn about potential career options while networking with professionals in their field of choice. Students were exposed to many events, including:
- Business Leaders: Start your Future Today
- Discover the Classroom: A Passion for Teaching; and
- Discover the Healthy Human: Nutrition & Health Sciences.
No set plans have been made yet for 2017, but the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is hoping to take a similar trip this fall.
Similarly, last year, Muhlenberg College took 80 students to New York City and visited several different sites that were hosted by alumni connections. This year during their fall semester, Muhlenberg College is planning on trips to New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, where they will interact with their alumni. Muhlenberg College also provides undergraduates with mentors based on their particular interest.
Additionally, Carleton College has an externship program where students connect with alumni who have similar jobs to their interest. The students spend 1-3 weeks with their host, shadowing work and networking with others in their interested career path. This program also offers a housing option with the alumni and parent volunteers. Externships provide students with first-hand experience in their area of interested and allow them to explore and learn about different career paths.
Through programs like these, students are encouraged to consider new career possibilities.
3. Special professional development courses
Schools have also added professional development programs to increase the value of a Liberal Arts major.
The University of Iowa, for instance, has developed a number of new courses that are designed to help students prepare for what comes after college. The college has introduced more faculty-led classes that encourage undergraduates to carry out internships, improve interview skills, and hone resumes. As the job conditions continue to grow for students with a Liberal Arts and Sciences majors, the University of Iowa has a class built distinctively around the skills gained by English majors. In this course, scholarly-minded students create portfolios and learn the different ways to apply their writing to careers.
Along with this, Albion College has added a concentration program to their 2016-17 curricular. This concentration program includes an internship, and is created to help students explore specific career possibilities within the framework of a liberals arts education.
Similarly, Muhlenberg College also has a Shadow Program where students get to experience their chosen career path for the day. The aim of this program is to provide students with an opportunity to explore different interests. The Shadow Program welcomes all students – those who are undecided about their career goals, those who have some knowledge about what they’d like to do, and those who are certain about their interest. This is the perfect opportunity to learn more about your area of interest or something to inspire you to make a career decision.
Colleges are slowly realizing that students need a more directed focus and are creating programs to achieve this. These programs and courses, which are dedicated to helping students find and apply to internships/jobs, are useful and beneficial to students who have undecided majors. They help students make a career decision, or at least helps them eliminate professions that they don’t find appealing after an internship. We hope that more colleges will start offering career-oriented programs to help their Liberal Arts students.