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Why Liberal Arts Majors are In Demand in a Tech World

This is a message to those kids out there who are thinking about college and what they want to do. I know this is a hard time for you because we’re going through the same thing in my house with my oldest. Personally, I don’t remember this being such a stressful process back in my day.

You guys have it rough right now.

Tuition is through the roof. There’s testing and re-testing to organize. And then there’s that fun question that everyone seems to be asking:

“What do you want to do when you grow up?”

If it makes you feel any better, you’ll probably be asking yourself the same question when you’re in your 40s. Actually, when you’re in your 30s, 40s, and 50s and then when you retire you’ll wonder if you wasted all of those years doing something you didn’t even want to do.

Good times.

Anyway, this blog is for all those students out there who are thinking about going into the liberal arts, specifically for kids who are barely passing Algebra II and on a first-name basis with your science teacher – not because you're the teacher’s pet. More because you're in their office every single day for tutoring.

I feel your pain.

If you’re one of those students, the future can seem intimidating because everything we see now is gearing kids up for a career in science and technology.

But I want to assure you that that’s not all that’s needed in this world.

I decided on a degree in English because I was a terrible test taker. Yes, I based my entire college education on something that I knew I could pass. I was never able to take multiple choice tests, but I could ace essays like nobody’s business. And at 18-years-old, my focus was on graduating – even if I had no idea what I was going to do with the degree I enjoyed getting.

Turns out that wasn’t such a bad way to go.

It stands to reason that if you like studying it, you’ll like doing it. Even though many people voiced their concern about whether or not I would find employment without a degree in business or computer science or even education, I dove into the job market and immediately learned something valuable.

Every company needs someone who can write.

This was true 20 years ago and it’s even more true today. Because everything is based on technology, emails, websites, and content…yes, you need someone who can code and crunch numbers.

But then you need someone who can write about it and explain what you’re doing to clients, investors, and the media.

Last week I went with my daughter to tour a college out of state. Yes, it’s a liberal arts college, but they also support degrees in accounting, nursing, business…all the biggies.

We sat and listened to the head of the business department speak and as he was wrapping up, he added, “And if you can write, you’re ahead of the game. Kids today don’t know how to write – everything they do is in these short little posts. If you want to get anywhere in the business world, you need to know how to write.”

This isn’t just true for business. Here are a few quotes about writers in the technology industry:

Software development always requires designers who can write code. But artificial intelligence requires creative writing too.

Writing and communication skills are in high demand in conversational design because bots need scripts to follow. The ability to combine casual and professional writing is particularly valuable. “There is a difference between “good” writing, as an essayist or English professor might define it, and “effective” writing,” Bradbury says.

AI companies need writers who can write natural dialogue customers will easily understand. “Clear writing and communication is key for creating bots,” Bradbury explains. “Without it, the experience [of talking to AI] will be very frustrating.”

In short, the Internet is driving this increased need for writers. Writers are responsible for sharing your data, crafting viral social media posts, reaching your stakeholders, and generally keeping your sales and marketing strategies flowing. They are the people bridging the gap between you and your audience.

In an increasingly automated world, it is the qualities that make us most human that will be valued highest in the workplace of the future. And the liberal arts -- also known as humanities -- may well offer the clearest path to success.

So, what’s the bottom line with all of this? Well, as a parent who has one kid at the jumping off point for college and two more following quickly behind, it comes down to something very simple for me:

If you love it so much you would do it and not get paid for it…why not find a way to get paid for it? In other words – follow your passion.

And for the parents?

Not all boys should be doctors and engineers and not all girls should be nurses and teachers. The “real job” (something that you work 9-5) isn’t always the right answer in this increasingly gig economy and not always the most profitable. Yes, writers, philosophers, anthropology majors, and actors are valued in the business world – maybe even more so than someone who got a straight-up degree in finance or business.

Find your purpose. Money will follow.

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