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Dec 04 2017
by Zoe Forest

Why Liberal Arts Majors are Needed in the Tech Field

By Zoe Forest - Dec 04 2017
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Unless you are an engineering, computer science or pre-med major, you have probably been asked at some point in your college career "What are you going to do with that?" It is not asked in an interested or inquisitive tone, but a derisive, mocking tone. In our culture there is the idea that only STEM majors get jobs, while the rest of us go on to work in fast food. This attitude is not only offensive and ignorant, it is completely wrong. Yes, it is more obvious what career path to take for a STEM major, but liberal arts and humanities majors have just as many options, if not more, when it comes to careers. In fact, many tech companies are hiring more and more liberal arts majors because they recognize that they possess invaluable skills that can't be learned in other fields. 

In most tech companies, software development and engineering departments take up only a fraction of the whole workforce. Companies need to place equal emphasis on deploying their product, increasing sales and profit and fostering a positive work environment to make a truly successful business that will change the world. 

A key component missing from many STEM-centered education models yet emphasized in the humanities is the importance of people and the human experience in any business. What is an iPhone or internet browser or car without the people that use it? With majors such as English, students are constantly diving into and exploring the human experience, giving them a unique perspective and great capacity for empathy. This is why tech industries are eager to hire liberal arts majors in fields such as market research, human relations, sales and more.

Additionally, liberal arts majors are taught to identify areas for research and delve deeply into important issues, exploring their original thoughts in well-written and well-researched papers. This is a crucial skill in the work force. Companies need to identify problems to solve or niches to fill before technical employers can start solving those problems and many liberal arts majors are good at this. 

And liberal arts majors don't just come in after the company is off and running. They are needed from the very beginning. Students with majors such as political science, psychology or economics tend to understand the issues people face daily and what the consumer really needs. Software programmers and engineers may have solutions to problems, but liberal arts majors are crucial to identify the problems that need to be solved and figuring out the solution to which people will best respond. 

There is still a deep divide between STEM people and liberal arts people in our society, but more and more tech leaders are realizing that it is all needed to create the most successful company. Computer science, engineering and mathematical skills help companies create amazing products and services, while liberal arts majors can bridge the gap between product and consumer. 

The next time someone asks you what your degree could possibly be useful for, tell them about the relevance of liberal arts majors in big companies, even tech companies. Tell them that Carly Fiornia (former CEO of HP) majored in medieval history and philosophy or that Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube) majored in history and literature. Tell them that Steve Jobs said, "It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing."

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Zoe Forest - University of California, Berkeley

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