Liberal Arts Degrees: Choosing a College and Career

Vassar College

A liberal arts degree is such a versatile degree, that it can prepare you for dozens of distinct careers from archaeologist to legislative researcher to United Nations staff. It may be difficult to believe, but this unique degree is nothing new and it has never really been considered an “experimental” or “alternative” degree. Liberal arts study has been around since ancient Greek and Roman times, but liberal arts colleges didn’t begin to multiply in North America until the early 1800s. In medieval European Universities, liberal arts covered seven subject areas including arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, grammar, logic, music, and rhetoric.

Today, there are more than 200 liberal arts colleges across the United States. These liberal arts degree programs promote the study of history, languages, literature, mathematics, philosophy, and science—subjects that form the basis of a general or “liberal” education. Many institutions describe the liberal arts curriculum as the study of three main branches of knowledge including: the social sciences, humanities (literature, language, philosophy, the fine arts, and history), and the physical and biological sciences. In addition to studying the three main branches of knowledge, liberal arts colleges allow students to focus on a particular major. Typical liberal arts majors include:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • History
  • Languages (French, German, Russian, Spanish)
  • Liberal Studies
  • Literature or other Humanities
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Social Sciences
  • Sociology

While the liberal arts curriculum is basically the same at all liberal arts colleges, these unique colleges come in all shapes and sizes. Liberal arts colleges may be secular, religiously affiliated, gender-specific, public or private, urban, rural, residential, independent or part of a larger college or university.

Job Interview

Graduates with a liberal arts degree are an attractive option for employers mainly employers feel that liberal arts graduates have developed the skills necessary to deal with today’s evolving career world. Employers also see a liberal arts graduate as an individual that has demonstrated the ability to learn and become successful in today’s working world. Liberal arts graduates have proven that they have the ability to uncover problems, find solutions, and implement them.

Although liberal arts degrees have benefits on a personal, community, and career level, this type of degree also has benefits on a financial level. Liberal arts graduates entering professional fields can expect starting salaries ranging from $38,620 (anthropologists and archaeologists) up to $80,560 (political scientists). Earnings increase significantly with  master of liberal arts degree (MLA).

If you are interested in obtaining a liberal arts degree, you should start by contacting one of the top schools for liberal arts. The following colleges ranked high on U.S. News & World Report’s National Liberal Arts Rankings for 2011.

For more information about the top liberal arts colleges and universities in the United States, visit U.S. News & World Report rankings for 2011 at

Jobs for Liberal Arts Graduates

  • Account executive trainee
  • Administrative assistant
  • Affirmative action officer
  • Anthropologist
  • Archeologist
  • Benefits manager
  • Caseworker
  • Caseworker
  • Choreographer
  • City manager
  • College recruiting specialist
  • Compensation manager
  • Compliance officer
  • Congressional relations officer
  • Congressional staff member
  • Consul
  • Copywriter
  • Cultural affairs officer
  • Customer relations officer
  • Customs agent
  • Customs inspector
  • Dancer
  • Economic development coordinator
  • Employee relations officer
  • Employment interviewer
  • Exporter
  • Foreign language teacher
  • Foreign service
  • Fund raising/development
  • Geographer
  • Historian
  • Immigration agent
  • Importer
  • Intelligence officer
  • Interpreter/translator
  • Investigator
  • Job analyst
  • Labor relations manager
  • Labor relations researcher
  • Legislative analyst
  • Legislative assistant (federal, state & local)
  • Legislative researcher
  • Lobbyist
  • Media buyer
  • Organizational development specialist
  • Personnel generalist recruiter
  • Politician
  • Press relations officer
  • Producer
  • Program analyst
  • Program information officer
  • Promoter
  • Public affairs officer
  • Public relations officer
  • Publicity assistant
  • Recruiter
  • Research assistant
  • Researcher
  • Researcher
  • Sales promoter
  • Sociologist
  • Speechwriter   
  • Stage manager
  • Training & education supervisor
  • Training specialist
  • Travel agent
  • United Nations staff

Should You Go to Work Sick?

Sick at Work

If you’re sick (and contagious) and come Monday morning you ask yourself “should I go to work sick?” the answer should always be “no.” Unfortunately, a shocking 72 percent of workers go to work when they’re sick and 53 percent of employees say they have gotten sick from a sick co-worker. Only 12 percent of respondents to the CareerBuilder survey stated that they became ill from sitting next to a sick person on public transportation during their commute.

Besides the fact that this is one of the most irresponsible things a worker can do concerning others’ health, it is one of the most irresponsible things he can do concerning his own health. In a recent OC Register article, CareerBuilder’s vice president of human resources offered her opinion about workers that show up to work sick.

“It’s important for employees to take care of their health and the health of others by staying at home if they aren’t feeling well,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Even if workers feel pressure to be at the office, they should talk to their managers about staying home if they are sick, or ask about other options such as working remotely. Most employers are flexible and understand that employees are more productive if they are feeling their best.”

Many employers offer paid sick days, so use them if you need to. If you are fresh out of sick days and you feel you absolutely must go to work, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize the chances of infecting your co-workers. However, Haefner still says, “if you are sick, stay home,” or just try telecommuting for the day.

 If you must go to work sick, you should:

-Work in an isolated area so you don’t spread your sickness.
-Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
-Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer throughout the day.

If you are around sick people at work, you should:

-Avoid shaking hands with people.
-Regularly clean your keyboard, phone, desk, etc.
-Skip meetings where you know attendees are sick.
-Use hand sanitizer often.
-Wash your hands often.

To review the CareerBuilder survey, click here.

Finding the Right Internship


An internship is an opportunity for students, and even individual’s that graduated from college years ago, to gain practical experience in any given field. Participating in an internship program is considered the fastest ways to get your foot in the door at today’s top firms—before graduating from college.

While many internships do not offer a salary, a select few do actually pay. Paid internships are typically offered in the technical field, medical, and government, to mane a few. Most unpaid internship programs typically offer course credit upon completion of an internship, but some colleges do not give academic credit for internships. However, these colleges are the exception, not the rule. Internships are either full or part-time and they are typically completed during the summer or during a regular semester.   

Internships are beneficial in several ways. In addition to playing a significant role in your university experience, an internship can help you learn more about your chosen career field or other career fields you might be interested in. An internship can help you:

  • Gain confidence in your abilities
  • Gain valuable experience to include on your resume
  • Learn more about what your future work environment will be like
  • Meet people in the industry and gain invaluable contacts
  • Obtain references that will boost your credibility when applying for other positions

When searching for an internship, you should be just as selective as you would be during your search for a paid full-time position. You should look for opportunities that match your career interests and skills. An internship should also enhance your academic program and work well with your current class schedule. In addition, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Can I afford to work an unpaid internship or do I need a paid internship to help with tuition costs?
  2. Do I want career-related experience or just work experience?
  3. How long is the commute?
  4. How many hours can I afford to work without interfering with my studies?
  5. Would I like the opportunity to travel?

Think about these questions ahead of time, this way you won’t be overwhelmed with too many choices. These questions should help narrow your list of internship opportunities considerably.


When it comes to timing your internship, it is important to understand that employers with the most competitive programs begin the selection process several months before the position will begin and others might begin the process even earlier. In fact, some programs have application deadlines at least a year (or more) in advance. Companies with summer internship programs typically begin looking for summer interns between January and late March. Internships for fall and spring are usually advertised late in the previous semester or very early in the current semester. Most students may intern anytime after their freshman year, but the majority of students intern in their junior or senior year, when they are already well into their major courses. This is a good idea, as the internship will serve as an excellent supplement to major course studies.

Getting Started with your Search for an Internship Program

Once you have decided that an internship program is for you, you should visit your school’s career services office. Your internship coordinator will have a list of current internship opportunities, a list of companies that offered internship opportunities in the past, and lists of students and alumni that have completed internships. These students and alumni are always more than willing to share their experiences with you.

If you attend a smaller college or university and it does not have an internship coordinator, your career services office will still be able to help you. You can also search for internship opportunities on your own by visiting the websites listed below. When applying for internships, it is important to follow the application instructions to the letter. Incomplete applications are usually discarded without further review. It is also important to pay close attention to deadlines. Internship programs rarely accept applications after the deadline.

Top Internship Websites
The Internship Series Online

The Princeton Review

Forbes Top Internships for 2010

Capital Fellows Program
Garmin International
General Electric
J.P. Morgan Investment Bank
Nickelodeon Animation Studios
Smithsonian Institution
Steppenwolf Theater Company

Physician Assistant Jobs on the Rise


Physician assistants are in high demand and the trend is expected to continue through 2018. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for physician assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations—to the tune of 39 percent from 2008-2018. The healthcare industry is experiencing tremendous growth overall, accounting for 26 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. today. But like many other occupations in the healthcare industry, such as registered nurses and occupational therapists, physician assistants are right at the top of the list for job growth. 

 Physician assistant jobs are also ranked high on the pay scale—even for first-year graduates. Although income varies by specialty, location, years of experience, and geographical location, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ 2008 Census Report, median income for first-year graduates was an impressive $74,470. A recent Forbes article discussing the ‘best master’s degrees for jobs’ told the story of one graduate who switched careers in 2006, graduated from a two-year physician assistant master’s program at Duke University in 2008, and found a job as a physician assistant that paid more than triple his old salary as a teacher.

 Shane Tysinger graduated in 2008, in the middle of a recession, but says there were jobs everywhere for students in his graduating class. Today he works in an Eden, N.C. clinic that focuses on family medicine. His salary has more than tripled from his days as a teacher. “I found the career I was meant to do,” says Tysinger.

In May 2008, the median annual wage for physician assistants was $81,320. The middle 50 percent earned between $68,210 and $97,070 and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,360. The top ten percent earned $110,240 per year.

To become a physician assistant, you must complete a training program at an accredited school of allied health, academic health center, medical school, or four-year college. A few accredited training programs are available at community colleges, through the military, and at hospitals. As of 2008, there were 142 education programs for physician assistants accredited or provisionally accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Eighty percent of these programs offered a master’s degree, 21 offered a bachelor’s degree, three awarded associate degrees, and five awarded a certificate.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

All States and the District of Columbia have legislation governing the practice of physician assistants. All jurisdictions require physician assistants to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and open only to graduates of accredited PA education programs.

100 hours of continuing medical education every two years is mandatory in order to order to remain certified, plus successful completion of a re-certification examination every six years. 

Yes, Colleges Still Have Money to Loan

Financial Aid_College

Even during tough economic times, colleges and universities have the means to tap into funds that have been reserved for a “rainy day.” Take Ohio State University, for example. Faced with the possibility of decreased enrollment due to lack of financial aid to many students, Ohio State University tapped into the school’s emergency fund back in 2008 to move roughly $1 million into a program that provides students with emergency short-term loans. The loan amounts ranged from $100 up to $1,000. OSU took it’s mission to help young people pursue their dreams and earn a degree a step further by guaranteeing that tuition would not be raised midway through the 2008-2009 school year. The university went on to promise that if tuition rose for the 2009-2010 school year, financial aid would increase in lockstep.

Ohio State University is not alone in its quest to provide financially strapped students with emergency University backed loans. Universities currently loan more than $1.5 billion out of the $66 billion in new federal student loans, to students. As of 2006, more than 157 participated in School as Lender (SAL) programs. Among the more than 157 participating SAL schools are:

  • Akron University
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • Des Moines University
  • DeVry University
  • Emory University
  • Loyola University of Chicago
  • New York Institute of Technology
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Palmer College of Chiropractic
  • Parker College of Chiropractic
  • Southern Methodist University
  • St. Louis University
  • Touro College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Phoenix
  • Walden University
  • Widener University in Pennsylvania


While roughly a third of schools use institutional funds to finance student loans, other schools partner with a commercial or nonprofit lending institution to establish a line of credit. Once the line of credit is established, the schools offer loans directly to graduate, law, and medical students, often placing themselves on the list of lenders the school recommends. The schools hold the loans for a certain period of time, typically two to three months after the money has been fully disbursed to the students/borrowers. During that time, the school collects interest, plus the government subsidies provided to lenders in the federally guaranteed student-loan program. The schools then sell the portfolio back to the banks for the agreed-upon premium.

 Status of the School as Lender Program

While many universities have money for loans from funds taken directly from their own savings, universities that have partnered with a commercial or nonprofit lending institution to establish a line of credit might be in trouble. For starters, schools acting as lenders are constantly being scrutinized in order to help protect students and borrowers against unscrupulous practices. And although $1.5 billion is a small slice of the more than $66 billion in new federal student loans, the federal government doesn’t want the SAL program to undercut federal student loan programs. Schools operating as lenders in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) should keep in mind that current federal regulations require guarantors to conduct reviews of certain schools that act as lenders. According to federal regulations 34CFR 682.401(c), guarantors must conduct program reviews of lenders that meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • The volume of FFELP loans made or held by the lender and guaranteed by the guarantor equaled at least 2 percent of the total loans guaranteed by that guarantor in the preceding year.
  • The lender is one of the 10-largest lenders of loans guaranteed by that guarantor in that year.
  • The lender’s FFELP volume was at least $10 million in the most-recent fiscal year.

Currently, SAL programs are still in place, but according to Part B, Section 436 of the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), the Senate amendment terminates authority for the school as lender program, effective June 30, 2012.

How to Tell When You’re About to Get Fired

 Youre Fired

A recent careers report just might save thousands of unsuspecting employees from the shock and humiliation that comes with getting fired or laid-off. It’s perfectly fine to play defense, especially in the workplace today, so whether you’re feeling a little paranoid about your benefits being cut or your company’s loyalty to its employees is questionable,the 8 signs listed below will help you beef up your defensive game—so you can stay ahead of the game.

1. Your company is sold
Tough times can mean lots of mergers and acquisitions — was your company bought out or taken over recently? Even if you’ve been told your job is safe, these kinds of corporate moves always mean the deck will be shuffled, so make sure you hold you cards firmly. Make a list of your accomplishments and contributions, and be ready to give a sales pitch on your worth to the company should you be called in by your boss or a consultant.

2. Pay or benefits are cut

3. Co-workers are fired
Pink slips are handed out all around you, but you’ve been told your job is safe. If layoffs have happened at your work, don’t be naive enough to think you couldn’t be next. Make sure you have your resume ready, and scope out the job market. The worst thing is to be laid off and unprepared, so be ready — just in case.

4. You’re left out of meetings

5. You don’t get along with your boss
This one may be obvious, but just in case: If you and your boss aren’t getting along, your job is in jeopardy. Think about it: When he or she is asked whom to give a pink slip, you’ll have a bull’s-eye on your back. If this is you, look for ways to move within your company. Not possible? Suck up to the boss a little. It may be hard, but it might just save your job.

6. You’re given a dead-end task

7. Your projects are stalled
Feel like all of your work is stopped in its tracks because no one seems to be interested? Watch your back: Having your projects stalled out on someone’s desk is like a big neon sign, announcing that you may be fired soon. Look for projects that you can get accomplished, to show you can contribute to the company’s objectives.

8. You see your job advertised

There are two things you can do if you suspect that you are about to get fired. You can do whatever it takes to stand out at work if you think your job can be saved or is worth saving, or you can start looking for a new job so you can do the walking on your own.

Green Jobs Growing

Green Jobs_II

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has two definitions for green jobs. A green job is one that produces goods or provides services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. Green jobs are also jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources. Green jobs can be found in industry sectors such as construction, natural resources and mining, public transportation, trade, transportation and utilities, manufacturing, public administration, education and health services, information, and professional and business services.

The number of establishments in these sectors is close to 2.2 million, which means, the number of opportunities for aspiring green collar workers is promising. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, which discusses a study by Next 10, a San Mateo, Calif.-based independent research organization, the opportunities for green jobs are greatest in certain parts of California.

The strongest growth in green jobs has been in the San Francisco Bay area, with 109% growth since 1995, the study said. The region is home to 28% of the jobs in the sector. Second in that statistic is the Sacramento area, where green jobs grew by 103%. In Los Angeles, green employment is up by just 20% since 1995, but it still comprises 23% of the sector’s jobs in the state.

As of 2010, there were more than 890,000 green jobs across the U.S. By 2015, this figure is expected to grow to nearly 1.4 million. This growth represents a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 9.2% between 2010-2015. It is important to note that these figures do not include the renewable energy and energy efficiency (RE&EE) industries, which represented 9 million jobs and $1,045 billion in U.S. revenue in 2007. The renewable energy industry grew three times as fast as the U.S. economy with 25%+ annual revenue growth in the solar thermal, photovoltaic, biodiesel, and ethanol sectors.

 If you are interested in a green collar job, read How to Land a Green Collar Job: 15 ways to rev up for a job that’s good for the environment, fills your wallet, and makes a difference by The American Solar Energy Society.

Four Ways To Make A Great Impression On Your Next Job Application

Too many young job seekers do not put enough thought and energy into preparing for a job interview. There are too many people currently looking for a job. You have to be memorable and standout from the crowd. If you have been struggling in job interview after job interview, there are a few things that you can do to help ensure that you will stand above the rest of the crowd on the next interview.

Four Ways To Stand Out Before Your Next Interview…

  • Spruce Up Your Resume. Many people have not looked at their resume in years, and others have thrown it together after learning about the job interview. Like many business owners who say that you have to spend money to make money, paying for a resume consultant to clean up your resume and cover letter can pay dividends when you are looking for a new job. A professional resume writer knows exactly what style, format, and language human resource experts are looking for in today’s market.
  • Do Your Research. Like a good investor, you should research the company you are interviewing with for a job. You should know what they do, who their competitors are, what they company does well, and what it may need to improve on. You should know a little something about the company that you want to work for before you set one foot in the interview room. Doing a quick search on Google, looking at the company’s website, and reading as many articles you can about the business and its industry will set you apart from the rest of the applicants.
  • Get Some Coaching. A golf pro does not go out to the course without a few lessons along the way. Even Tiger Woods has a golf coach. You should consider taking some lessons from an interview coach. An interview coach can help make sure that you are prepared for the questions that will be peppered at you, look presentable, have the proper poise, and are well spoken. Also, if you get nervous and are intimidated at speaking in a public setting such as an interview, you may want to consider practicing public speaking through organizations such as Toast Masters International.
  • Pay Off Your Debt. Many young college graduates just entering the workforce do not realize that their new employers often check their credit report before offering them a job. In fact, 47% of employers pull an applicant’s credit report before hiring a potential new employee. Even the United States military checks credit reports before issuing a security clearance to its service members. Paying off some debt before you apply to your dream job can help boost your credit score.
  • Finally, follow up your interview with a thank you note or call to the person who interviewed you. It is such a simple thing to do and so often overlooked. A personal touch such as this will show that you are very serious about landing the job and will set you apart from all of the other applicants.

    Ride the Retail Wave While you Wait for Dream Job


    Ok, so a retail job isn’t what you had in mind after graduating with a degree in accounting, but you have to make ends meet while you wait for Deloitte & Touche to call. Fortunately, according to, you won’t have to look for a temporary job for too long if you look to the retail Industry. Right now, retailers are in search of 400,000 employees to fill both full and part-time positions. These retail positions just are not just available at clothing stores. Retail is a broad term that covers the selling of just about any type of good or commodity. This means, retail job seekers will find positions in places ranging from Macy’s to Whole Foods to wax museums to automobile dealerships. 

    If you’re interested in a long-term retail career, you’re in luck because this trend is expected to continue. Retail careers are among the top thirty occupations with the largest employment growth for 2008-18. The following are projection figures (in thousands):

    Employment 2008: 4,489
    Employment 2018: 4,864
    Change: 8.4%

    Regarding salary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that:

    Median hourly wages of wage-and-salary retail salespersons, including commissions, were $9.86 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $8.26 and $13.35 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.37, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $19.14 an hour. Many beginning or inexperienced workers earn the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but many States set minimum wages higher than the Federal minimum. In areas where employers have difficulty attracting and retaining workers, wages tend to be higher than the legislated minimum.

    Compensation systems can vary by type of establishment and merchandise sold. Salespersons receive hourly wages, commissions, or a combination of the two. Under a commission system, salespersons receive a percentage of the sales they make. This system offers sales workers the opportunity to increase their earnings considerably, but they may find that their earnings depend strongly on their ability to sell their product and on the ups and downs of the economy.

    Benefits may be limited in smaller stores, but benefits in large establishments usually are considerable. In addition, nearly all salespersons are able to buy their store’s merchandise at a discount, with the savings depending on the type of merchandise. Also, to bolster revenue, employers may use incentive programs such as awards, bonuses, and profit-sharing plans to the sales staff.

    To break into the retail industry, experience helps, but most employers are willing to train the right person on-the-job. To begin your job search, visit

    100,000 IT Jobs Gained in 2010

    Information Technology

    When it came to employment, the IT industry ended 2010 with a bang by adding 3,500 jobs in December. This represents the 13th consecutive monthly increase for IT employment.

    According to a monthly index of IT jobs developed and published by TechServe Alliance, a collaboration of IT services firms, clients, consultants and suppliers, in December, IT employment stood at 3,911,900  jobs; reflecting incremental growth of 0.1 percent. Along with December’s positive news were upward revisions of both October’s and November’s IT employment numbers. On a year-over-year basis, IT employment was up 2.6 percent, approximately 100,000 jobs, compared to only a 0.9 percent increase in total non-farm employment.

    Mark Roberts, CEO of TechServe Alliance mentions that the industry has not yet gained all of the jobs back that were lost during the economic downturn, but gaining 100,000 IT jobs in 2010 is “most welcome news.” This is also great news for graduates and anyone entering college with their eye on establishing a career in the IT industry.

    So what does it take to get your foot in the door at one of the nation’s top IT firms? A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most IT positions, no matter where you apply. For management positions, most employers require a graduate degree, specifically an MBA with a technology focus. Common majors for undergraduates include management information systems (MIS), computer science, or information science. Job experience through an internship or other IT position is also required.

    While IT employment is expected to grow overall, some career fields within the IT industry are expected to grow faster than others. For example, employment for “computer and information systems managers” is expected to grow by 17 percent for the 2008-2018 decade while employment for “computer software engineers and computer programmers” is expected to grow by an impressive 21 percent. Even better is “computer network, systems, and database administrators” at 23 percent.

    IT salaries are at an all-time high as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. IT professionals can expect to earn an average median salary of anywhere from $69,740 on the low end, up to $112,210+ per year on the high end.

    Image Credit

    Information Technology Services of Cabarrus County, NC

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