The Collision Course of STEM and Liberal Arts

Monday, January 29, 2018 | Posted by: Alpha Kappa Psi

When students start college, they often feel made to choose between STEM and liberal arts degrees. Most universities house departments like science and math in the same buildings, put the humanities in others, and they don’t really touch. Outside of certain core education requirements, students at many schools are unlikely to get much exposure to types of thinking outside of their chosen field.

However, in today’s information economy, we’re seeing maybe it’s not so black and white. Here’s how having a STEM career can be enhanced by studying liberal arts, and vice versa.

Analytical Thinking Education

One of the best results of blending two dissimilar areas of study is the difference in thinking process each will require. Those in STEM fields are taught to think logically—how to follow a problem to a solution using reason, testing, and repetition. In liberal arts, analytical thinking is highly prized—how to break ideas down to basic principles and interpret them more deeply. On this side of the coin, personal opinion is everything. When you’re sitting in that Russian Literature class deconstructing Dostoyevsky, you might not think you’re learning a real-world skill. Yet, analytical thinking is something employers have grown desperate for.

Communication Skills Are Now Essential

Employers are also hungry for candidates who can communicate both in person and on the page with confidence. Taking the time to study things like technical writing and speech can help you diversify your skill set and stand out more to employers. No matter what type of career you pursue, knowing how to communicate means you’re prepared to be an ambassador for your company…and that your employer won’t have to stress out every time you speak up in a meeting or send an email.

Jobs For Those Who Love Both

If you have an interest in both STEM and liberal arts, there are a plethora of jobs out there for you. For visual artists there are jobs like medical illustration, meteorology, and even fashion design. Each of these career paths requires an ability to draw, think analytically, and utilize STEM knowledge. For those who prefer studying literature and writing, jobs like technical writing for STEM fields, software development, or engineering can offer a creative outlet in a high paying and structured environment.

Working for start-ups (or founding your own) often gives more fluidity to those looking to get the most out of their careers in the intersection. A great example of this is the company Slack. Many people don’t know that the loveable “Slack Bot” in the company’s team-based messaging software is the brainchild and pet project of actress and writer, Anna Pickard. Pickard isn’t the only member of Slack’s 180-person team with a background in liberal arts. The company’s founder and CEO studied philosophy as an undergrad.

Finding the right job isn’t just about finding a job that makes the big bucks. It’s about finding something that aligns with your interest and brings you pleasure as well. If you’re interested in the high-paying careers that STEM fields offer but still want to study liberal arts in college, all is not lost. You can read Wuthering Heights and be a fantastic engineer. We’d even argue that you’ve got the leg up!

Do you have more resources or information about STEM careers for liberal arts majors, or creative pursuits for the scientists among us? Share in the comments below! We’d love to have more information.

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