The Advantages of Liberal Arts Education over Vocational Education


My name is Kuriakin Zeng and I am a liberal arts major at Harvard. You’ve probably been bombarded by news reports about how vocational education is the real path to finding a job. With a struggling economy and uncertain job market, it’s not surprising that vocational careers such as engineering or business are the ones being touted as keys to find good employment.

Conversely, the news has not been so kind for liberal arts majors. There’s this impression that getting a degree in Liberal Arts is not a path to secure high-paying employment. As a liberal arts major, I can tell you that such reports are misleading at best.

Let me first say that everyone is different. While many people are well suited to becoming a business executive or engineer, others have interests and talents in the liberal arts area. It’s been shown time and time again that people who pursue degrees and careers that they have little interest and talent in will wind up less happy and less productive.

So if your interest lies in becoming a liberal arts major, you can take comfort in knowing that you have options which can keep you gainfully employed.

There are several advantages to getting a degree in liberal arts, especially from well respected institutions such as Harvard University and the like. That said, any solid, reputable university will do. You simply have to utilize the advantages that they offer in getting the type of employment you want.

1. Flexibility

It’s quite common for people to switch jobs and even careers over the course of a lifetime. This means that if something should happen to your job, a liberal arts background is generally broader as it encompasses more education, allowing you to switch from one to another type of employment more readily than someone who is locked into a vocational education.

Put simply, an engineer is a more specialized profession than a journalist, who can bounce from radio, TV, public relations, freelance writing and the like. Speaking for myself, I’ve been able to switch to jobs in different fields from time to time as my liberal arts education helps me greatly to adapt to the changes.

2. Communication Skills 

Liberal arts emphasize the art of communication which is a primary factor that employers look for when hiring. Essentially, this means that you have more education in communicating with your bosses and fellow employees – a trait that improves work relations and reduces misunderstandings. Having the ability to communicate effectively can make the difference in job interviews and career advancement.

3. Research

Who says that all those time spent in the library was wasted? Seriously, the ability to do proper research is a valuable tool in helping you advance your degree to a Master’s or Doctorate. Furthermore, many companies seek out those who have developed research skills which can be of great value in developing new products, understanding the competition, revealing new information and the like.

These are just a few reasons why having a liberal arts major helps prepare you for the ever-changing world of employment. Both vocational and liberal arts majors offer substantial advantages, but if your heart lies in becoming a liberal arts major, then you should pursue that dream and enjoy the benefits that it brings.


Photo by Filippo.

Previous articlePractical Considerations to Study in Tokyo
Next articleMake Others Fall In Love With Your Curriculum Vitae
Kuriakin Zeng is a John Harvard Scholar Computer Science undergrad at Harvard. He is currently conducting research on SimplyPut, a natural language processing and crowd-sourcing project that aims to improve medical literacy. He holds a Diploma in Electrical Engineering from the Singapore Polytechnic. He is the first polytechnic students to have achieved distinctions in all his classes and has received many accolades for his work including the Lee Kuan Yew Award. He enjoys building things and hopes to invent things that can improve our living conditions. He has developed software for many organizations and start-ups. He himself also runs several start-ups in which he also serves as the CTO and advisory board member.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here