What skills will you gain?

Arts students have the opportunity to study some of the most important aspects of our society - events in our history, our cultural traditions, ethics and morality, for instance. And they learn to study these things in ways that develop sophisticated skills like critical thinking and articulate communication. There is an obvious personal value to studying these subjects, and to developing these skills, because they can help us better understand ourselves, the world around us, and what we might call 'the human experience'. Yet these traits transfer just as much value to the modern workplace!

The following are some of the key workplace competencies that liberal arts learning helps students develop:

Reading and Writing Skills

Much of arts learning is based on understanding and conveying complex ideas and points of view. Hence, arts students tend to develop finely tuned comprehension skills and become highly skilled written communicators. Some key abilities include:

  • effectively tailoring one's written message for different audiences/media
  • the ability to write smoothly, correctly, and with proper sentence structure
  • constructing well-supported ideas
  • reading critically and understanding subtext
  • the ability to understand the connection/relationship of ideas to other strains of social and political thought
  • a broadening of world view through exposure to multiple ideas, opinions, philosophies, and texts

Critical Thinking and Analytic Skills

Arts students are trained move beyond the surface and to dig deeply into ideas and concepts. They learn to recognize their own biases and to make sound conclusions based on carefully gathered evidence. As critical thinkers they are able to process abstract and complex ideas, and can examine issues from many different perspectives. A few abilities include:

  • understanding complex ideas
  • the ability to understand ideas within their context (historical, cultural etc.)
  • understanding underlying assumptions
  • the ability to connect ideas to one another
  • the ability to evaluate ideas and their merits/shortcomings
  • the ability to understand the influence of 'perspective' on ideas and facts
  • the ability to solve problems using evidence
  • the ability to make sound judgements based on research and analysis of data
  • the ability to create solid arguments

Data Analysis Skills

Arts encompasses learning in such areas as statistics, demographics, population studies, economics, business, finance, trade, and field study/research. This type of learning develops skill in data collection and analysis techniques, and the ability to apply them to contemporary issues and problems. A few key competencies include:     

  • numeracy (the ability to work competently and effectively with numbers)
  • the ability to draw meaning from qualitative and quantitative data
  • the ability to interpret economic data
  • the ability to organize and report on data findings
  • financial literacy
  • the ability to manage a research project

Research Skills
Research - in various forms - is a hallmark of arts learning. Arts students are trained not only in how and where to find information, but also in the ways in which its quality can be assessed. These are skills that can be applied to any issue or problem. Some key research skills include:

  • the ability to understand and integrate resources gleaned through various means - online, at the library, in archives, via interviews etc.
  • the ability to survey and understand 'fields' of knowledge
  • the ability to collect and organize important historical data
  • extracting salient information from longer resources
  • the ability to acknowledge research sources properly
  • the ability to formulate, document, analyse, and report on research
  • the ability to manage a research project

Presentation Skills

Much like the development of oral and written communication skills, arts learning facilitates skill in presenting information to people - and an understanding of the importance of that ability. In just about any workplace being able to clearly communicate one's message to others - be they individuals or groups - is crucial. A few key abilities include:     

  • the ability to deliver information and ideas orally
  • effectively tailoring one's spoken message for different audiences/media
  • the ability to foster engagement/participation
  • the ability to collaborate in a group setting
  • generating visual aids and supplementary materials
  • listening and comprehension skills

Creative Skills
Because they study some of the most unique aspects of the human experience - culture, literature, philosophy, etc. - and the techniques of independent and critical thought, arts learning specializes in 'big picture' and 'out of the box' thinking. The ability of arts students to create, innovate and problem solve is one of the key features of a liberal arts education. A few key creative competencies include:

  • the ability to formulate original ideas
  • the ability to interpret and create artistic and out-of-the-box ideas
  • the ability to convey ideas and views through artistic media
  • appreciation for the meaning/effects of artistic media
  • cultivation of cross-disciplinary sensibilities
  • openness to other modes of thought/being

Cultural and Civic Skills
An arts education is concerned with the human experience - in all regions and in all cultures, and across all periods of time. Through the study of diverse cultural and intellectual traditions, arts students learn that there are many different ways of seeing the world, leading them to become more informed citizens. How crucial this is in today's world, wherein various forms of political, social, economic, and technological inequality threaten the ways of life of people around the world. Some key competencies include:

  • cultivation of a broad-based and 'global' perspective
  • an understanding of how formative influences of the past influence the present
  • cross-cultural understanding
  • the ability to accurately identify and evaluate records of past events, ideas, and facts
  • understanding the influence of culture on behaviour and practice
  • insight into personality, character, and behaviour
  • the ability to integrate interdisciplinary and inter-cultural perspectives
  • cultivation of empathy

An Arts degree can help you develop all of these highly desireable personal traits and skills. These are skills that employers from many different career areas value in prospective employees.