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What's the value of a BA? 'Plenty,' says Gazette student columnist

Student Life | Student View

By Brittany Taylor

There is definitely a stigma attached to obtaining a bachelor of arts degree.

Being a BA student myself, I have experienced first-hand how the usefulness of the arts degree regularly gets called in to question.

Necessary skills?

Many people would argue that a major in arts or humanities doesn’t provide the necessary skills required for real-world jobs. They also tend to question the financial rewards of this type of degree.

Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente made some rather interesting comments relating to this topic in 2012. She said, “I hate to say this, but if your degree is in sociology, psych, art history or much else on the soft side, you are a dime a dozen.”

If someone successfully working in the arts discipline has these opinions toward arts degrees, the question stands, is there any value in pursuing an arts degree?

Teaching important skills

To think an arts degree doesn’t prepare students with the necessary skills for landing and acquiring a job following graduation is completely false. Arts degrees provide a number of valuable skills.

They provide students with strong communication skills, the ability to follow through with an argument and teach critical thinking skills, to name a few. Effective interpersonal communication skills and the ability to effectively communicate through writing are extremely important skills in the working world.

“Critical thinking allows us to quickly and efficiently analyze large chunks of information and then evaluate that information from an objective point of view.”

The ability to formulate an argument is also an important skill to have while seeking a job and while in the workplace. A BA provides graduates with the ability to justify and convince others of our thoughts and ideas.

Critical thinking skills may potentially be the most useful skills that an arts degree can teach students. Critical thinking allows us to quickly and efficiently analyze large chunks of information and then evaluate that information from an objective point of view.

Arts degree = Value

Arts degrees are unique in that they teach students much more than what is offered in the course. They teach students the basic knowledge that is associated with the course, but through every assignment and essay, students are learning to become quick-thinkers and problem-solvers.

This combination of knowledge and skill can present students with a variety of job opportunities — opportunities beyond the obvious ones. Although arts degrees may not offer the guaranteed financial stability that say, a career in medicine or engineering may offer, do not be discouraged.

“It’s simply that the job may be something you never considered before, given that arts degrees offer diverse opportunities for employment.”

It’s simply that the job may be something you never considered before, given that arts degrees offer diverse opportunities for employment. For example, last year Forbes published an article on the subject, The “Useless” Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket. In the article, they discuss Slack Technologies, a company with a market value of $2.8 billion whose co-founder and CEO just so happens to have an undergraduate degree as well as a master’s in philosophy. Stewart Butterfield credits much of his success to his background in philosophy.

In addition to thinking outside of the box in terms of your career choice, being passionate and driven about arts and humanities will optimize your chances of success.

A bachelor of arts degree is so much more than just a sheet of paper. It has an abundance of value in relation to the skills it provides and the knowledge it teaches that can, without a doubt, be applied in the working world.


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