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In 2010, Steve Jobs famously mused that for technology to be truly brilliant, it must be coupled with artistry. “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough,” he said. “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.” Other tech CEOs across the country agree that liberal arts training--with its emphasis on creativity and critical thinking--is vital to the success of their business.


What are the Liberal Arts and Sciences?

Liberal Arts degrees provide the skills employers want

Transferable Skills and Cross-Cutting Capacities

Liberal Arts degrees lead to well-paying jobs

Liberal Arts degrees provide high educational value

Choosing a Liberal Arts Major

Enhance Your Liberal Arts Major:


Double Major








Field Courses


Study Abroad


Research, Creativity and Performance



The Liberal Arts and Sciences develop the whole person

Liberal Arts majors are successful in their careers and in their lives

Liberal Arts RIC Alumni

Well-known Liberal Arts Majors

For further information

Further reading




What are the Liberal Arts and Sciences?

Liberal Arts majors include the social sciences, sciences and humanities. Most majors are around 40 credits, making it possible for students to have a second major or a minor field.

A Liberal Arts and Sciences education provides students with both broad knowledge in a variety of areas of study, and in-depth knowledge in a specific field of interest. The majors develop students’ skills in problem-solving, critical and analytical thinking, research, quantitative reasoning, and oral and written communication.

Liberal Arts students are taught "... to become lifelong learners who are their own best teachers. We teach them to take intellectual risks and to think laterally—to understand how the humanities, the arts and the sciences inform, enrich and affect one another. By connecting diverse ideas and themes across academic disciplines, liberal-arts students learn to better reason and analyze, and to express their creativity and their ideas. They are capable of thinking and acting globally and locally."

Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College




Liberal Arts degrees provide the skills employers want

Employers value the kinds of skills that Liberal Arts degrees provide. These are transferable skills and cross-cutting capacities that can be applied in a variety of employment contexts. They are critical to have in a dynamic economic world in which people typically change employment several times.

A 2013 survey of employers by the Association of American Colleges & Universities and Hart Research Associates found the following:

  • Nearly all those surveyed (93%) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major."                                                                                                        

  • “80 percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, all college students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.”

  • "The majority of employers agree that having both field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of skills and knowledge is most important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success.  Few think that having field-specific knowledge and skills alone is what is most needed for individuals’ career success.”  

  • The survey also found that “74% of employers surveyed would recommend this kind of education to a young person they know as the best way to prepare for success in today’s global economy.”  

The skill-sets and content knowledge that were developed for the Arts and Sciences General Education are emphasized within all majors.  The abilities we have identified as important include:


1.       Written Communication

2.       Critical and Creative Thinking

3.       Research Fluency

4.       Oral Communication

5.       Collaborative Work

6.       Arts

7.       Civic Knowledge

8.       Ethical Reasoning

9.       Global Understanding

10.     Quantitative Literacy

11.     Scientific Literacy





Transferable skills and cross-cutting capacities


So, what does that really mean? How do the abilities that are developed in all Liberal Arts majors at Rhode Island College translate into skills employers are looking for?

  • Employers want people who are comfortable with subjectivity and ambiguity.  Often there are multiple solutions or approaches to solving a problem.  Many jobs require nuanced thinking: that which is not simply black and white and that which digs beneath the surface. 

  • Problem-solving and the ability to approach a problem from multiple and informed perspectives is desirable; understanding that most issues are multifaceted and multi-dimensional, requiring a broad knowledge base in additional to specialized training.  Employers value workers who have mastered a content base but who also have a breadth of knowledge, and who can put that knowledge to work in solving problems.

  • Employees must have excellent verbal communication abilities. They need to be able to clearly articulate their ideas and to be able to communicate effectively with co-workers and they people they serve. A good vocabulary, both expressive and logical thought, and rapport are important.

  • Active listening, or the ability to hear and fully understand another's ideas and opinions is necessary in effective communication.  An employee must be able to give thoughtful consideration to others, especially when there are differing opinions.

  • Employees must have excellent  written communication. They need to be able to spell and use correct grammar.  Employers want people who can write for different levels of understanding and for different purposes.   

  • Employees need to have excellent research skills. They need to be willing to dig to get accurate and meaningful data.  Data collection methods including surveys, interviewing, use of databases and observation are valued.  Archival research and online web-sourcing are useful tools.

  • Employers want people who have excellent analytical skills, people who can organize information and process complex data sets.  Both qualitative and quantitative analysis methods are important.

  • Ethical thinking and integrity are central to the well-being of any organization, ensuring the respect and reputation of its employees. Businesses often include integrity management to foster ethical behavior and personal integrity in the workplace.  These include responsibility to oneself as well as to the group, reliability and an internal moral compass.

  • Diversity can mean many things:  age, sex, ethnicity, physical or cognitive ability, education, socio-economic level, etc.  A Liberal Arts education prepares students to negotiate an increasingly diverse environment and, regardless of what profession one pursues, intercultural understanding and the ability to thrive in a diverse environment is necessary.

  • Liberal Arts majors are required to complete some group projects.  Collaboration is a highly desirable skills sought by employers.  It includes the ability to work with others, to respect another’s opinion, to listen to and acknowledge the feelings, perception, opinions, and ideas of others, to succeed to completing tasks to contribute to the larger goal, and to support group decisions even when members are not in total agreement.

  • Employers seek workers who love what they do and will keep at it until they get the job done.  They want employees who are willing to commit to long term goals, not immediate gratification.

  • Employers seek creativity and innovation, the ability to approach a problem in a novel way.

  • Because the world is ever and rapidly changing, employers are interested in hiring workers with a commitment to continued learning.  Liberal Arts education fosters a commitment to life-long scholarly engagement that will prepare majors to meet the unknown demands of the future; the ability to anticipate,  respond to, and manage change.

  • Applied knowledge is highly desirable; it is hands-on, real world experience.  Many Majors and Programs offer internships and Field Courses and all majors offer Independent Studies, Directed Studies and Directed readings courses in which students can hone these skills.

  • Employers and, let's face it, employees seek personal satisfaction in the workplace: it is fulfilling to be able to do what you love.  If you'll be spending 40 hours a week doing something, you'll get the most satisfaction in doing something meaningful to you, which can only translate into being a better employee.



Liberal Arts degrees lead to well-paying jobs

There is a common misperception that Liberal Arts degrees lead to low-paying jobs. On the contrary, recent data from shows that students graduating with an undergraduate Liberal Arts degree earn as much as, if not more than, those who obtained a degree in pre-professional majors.


For the most part, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors dominate the list of top-earning college majors, but that doesn't mean you can't make a good living if you aren't a computer whiz or future electrical engineer. Humanities majors can make a solid living, especially when we compare mid-career salaries. Philosophy majors have the highest mid-career salaries amongst the humanities majors - $84,000 after 10 years of experience. The critical thinking skills associated with humanities majors like global and international studies, English language and literature and history can lead to a lucrative career, but it may take more time for those graduates to settle into a career than somebody with a technical degree.



Liberal Arts degrees provide high educational value

A national study of student learning in college found that “students majoring in liberal arts fields do better on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) and show greater improvement [in critical reasoning skills] than students majoring in non-liberal-arts fields.” Scholars have also found that higher CLA scores are associated with higher employment rates. 




Choosing a Liberal Arts major

If you’re not sure which major to pursue, we have designed ‘exploratory majors’ to help you make this decision.

Exploring the Arts – leads to majors in Art, Music, Theatre, Dance, or Film Studies.

Exploring the Social and Behavioral Sciences – leads to majors in Africana Studies, Anthropology, Communication, Gender Studies, Geography, Justice Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Public Administration, or Sociology.

Exploring the Sciences/Math – leads to majors in Biology, Computer Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, or Health Sciences.

Exploring the Humanities – leads to majors in English, History, Modern Languages, or Philosophy.


Enhance Your Liberal Arts Major
Double Major

Most majors are around 40 credit hours and the General Education Program is 40 credit hours, and students must complete an additional 40 credit hours to graduate.  There are often courses in the general education can be used to fulfill major requirements.  With careful planning and working closely with a faculty advisor, students completing a double major can finish in the normative time. Undertaking a double major, especially when both majors are complimentary, expands your skill set. 

"Social science, humanities or art majors can increase their future earning potential with complementary STEM skills that make them more valuable to employers. For example, Industrial Designers are paid well (median income of $84,100) because they combine their artistic training with engineering skills. Similarly, Senior Technical Writers, who are usually English majors but may have technical skills like HTML, earn a median salary of $85,100."



It is possible to pair a Major with a Minor.  All of the Majors and Programs listed near the top of this page include a Minor.  Below are additional Minor options.  Most minors require 18-22 credit hours of course work.  Having a minor can allow you to build additional skills and knowledge in ways the complement your major.




All Liberal Arts and Science Majors offer Departmental Honors.  Departmental Honors offers students the opportunity to undertake an independent research, critical, or creative project on a topic of the student’s choice which is overseen by a professor of the student’s choice.  Students usually design their own projects that dovetail with faculty interests.  Although some students work quite independently on their projects, all Departmental Honors students receive close, one-on-one mentorship from faculty who are leaders in their areas of expertise. Normally, the project is carried out in the senior year, although it may commence earlier, and carries six to eight hours of independent study credit over two semesters.




Most Liberal Arts majors provide internships and other applied learning opportunities to help students translate classroom learning to real world applications. These experiences have a strong appeal for employers and students are encouraged to pursue them.  Examples of Internship programs offered at Rhode Island College include (but are not limited to):

The Lippitt House Museum

Literacy Volunteers of East Bay

Elizabeth Buffum Chace House

Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island

Rhode Island Coalition against Domestic Violence

RI State Internship Program

The faculty advisors can assist with finding an internship.  The Career Development Center also has community contacts and hosts Internship Showcase Events.



Field Courses

Political Science: London Course

Anthropology:  Field courses in Cultural, Archaeological, Biological and Linguistics


Study Abroad

Rhode Island College students, no matter what their majors, may study abroad for course credit at institutions in other countries. They may study for a semester, an academic year, the summer, or during the early spring term.

While studying abroad, students do not pay RIC tuition and may apply their financial aid to program costs, including tuition, at the host institution and toward travel expenses.

The choice of program and specific location depend upon the student’s interests. The Study Abroad Office provides information about the study abroad process, assists students with their applications, and facilitates transfer of credits.

Rhode Island College is affiliated with seven study abroad program providers that offer discounted tuition for RIC students: Academic Programs International, the American Institute for Foreign Study, the Center for International Studies, The Education Abroad Network, CAPA International Education, GlobaLinks Learning Abroad, and SIT Study Abroad. All of these providers can be found on the Web. However, students are not limited to these affiliates and may study with many other programs and universities around the world. Also, individual faculty members may lead RIC courses abroad from time to time.

For more information contact the Study Abroad Office


Research, Creativity and Performance

All Majors and Programs in the Liberal Arts offer opportunities for students to conduct their own research projects or creativity and performance in the fine arts.  Students select a faculty mentor with whom they will work and enroll in an Independent Study or Directed Study course. 



The Liberal Arts and Sciences develop the whole person

Technical knowledge is important, but it’s not enough. The Liberal Arts ask deeper questions about the nature of the individual, society, and our physical world. Students learn not only how to do things but also why we do them. This kind of thinking is essential for leadership in business, government, education and other fields.

This approach can also lead to a more fulfilling life. A 2014 Gallup poll found higher job satisfaction in people who majored in the social sciences, sciences, and arts and humanities than those who majored in business.



Liberal Arts majors are successful in their careers and in their lives

Liberal Arts RIC Alumni

  • Viola Davis, actress in movies including The Help, Doubt, and the television show, How to get Away With Murder; Theater Arts major

  • Desiree Ciambrone, Professor of Sociology, Rhode Island College; Sociology Major

  • Quenby Hughes, Associate Professor History, Rhode Island College; History Major

  • Alan Fung, Mayor of Cranston, RI; Political Science Major

  • James Langevin, U.S. Representative for Rhode Island's 2nd congressional district; Political Science Major

  • David Noble, Deputy Chief of Staff, NASA; Communications Major

  • Michael A Montecalvo, News Anchor/Reporter, WPRI; Communications Major

  • Peter Boyer, composer; Music Major

  • Lisa Perry, Autumn Olive (fiber arts and clothing up-cycling); Anthropology Major



Well-known Liberal Arts Majors

  • Mitt Romney, Bain Capital CEO and English major; Brigham Young University

  • Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice, English major; Holy Cross College

  • Hank Paulson, Former Treasury Secretary and English major; Dartmouth College

  • Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate in medicine and English major; Amherst College

  • Ted Turner, CNN founder; Classics major; Brown University

  • Peter Thiel, CEO of PayPal,  20th century Philosophy major; Stanford University

  • Carl Icahn, activist investor, Philosophy major; Princeton University

  • Carly Fiorina, Ex-HP CEO and medieval History and Philosophy major; Stanford University

  • Ken Chenault, CEO at American Express, History major; Bowdoin College

  • Robin Williams, Comedian and Actor; Sociology Major

  • Michelle Obama, First Lady and Lawyer; Sociology Major

  • Reverend Martin Luther King; Sociology major

  • Richard Anderson, CEO at Delta; Political Science major at the University of Houston

  • Michael Crichton, author; Anthropology Major; Harvard

  • Glenn Close, actress; Anthropology major

  • Francis Perkins, social reformer and former Secretary of Labor, Chemistry and Physics major; Mount Holyoke College



For further information

Brochure on Majoring in the Liberal Arts

Contact the chairperson of any of the above Majors or Programs

Call the office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at (401) 456-8107



Further Reading


Why Top Tech CEOs Want Employees With Liberal Arts Degrees       


Liberal Arts Grads Win Long-Term


New Report Documents That Liberal Arts Disciplines Prepare Graduates for Long-Term Professional Success


Bachelor's Degrees by Salary Potential 


Liberal Arts Degrees and Their Value in the Employment Market



It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success: Overview and Key Findings



AACU Hart Associates report on employer survey:



Wall Street Journal table of median salaries:



Methodology overview that led to WSJ table:







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