Why It’s Okay to be a Non-STEM Major

By Cresonia Hsieh

Freshman, Journalism Major

It seems to be the trend in America to emphasize the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors and devalue the significance of non-STEM/ humanities majors. These sentiments are being felt especially among Florida post-secondary institutions because of Governor Rick Scott’s recent proposal to raise the tuition of non-STEM majors while reducing the tuition of STEM majors.

NonStem Majors-stockphoto.com

Though majoring in STEM is certainly a well-regarded and fine concentration to pursue, students also need to know that it is okay to pursue their dreams – even if it means pursuing a liberal arts major. Here’s why:

You are smart.

According to a study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 95 percent of employers say a “candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.” All of these skills are taught in the humanities.

As a liberal arts major, you can read and write well. Your comprehension skills allow you not only to understand others, but also to communicate with others well. You understand a lot about the world and about humanity in a way that many others do not. These skill sets allow you to relate and empathize in a manner that many companies value.

You will join the leagues of many successful people.

Regardless of what parents or peers tell you, a report from Business Insider notes that many successful leaders in business and technology studied a non-STEM major in college. This list includes, but is not limited to: former Massachusetts governor, presidential nominee, and businessman Mitt Romney (English); Michael Eisner of Disney (English and Theater); Peter Thiel of PayPal (Philosophy); Ken Chenault of American Express (History); Ted Turner of CNN (History); and former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano (History).

Businesses and graduate schools will want you.

Companies highly value a person who can persuade, comprehend, communicate, and think critically. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, values reading so much so that he begins all senior executive meetings by sitting in total silence for thirty minutes just to read memos. Bracken Darrel, CEO of Logitech, told one business magazine, “I love hiring English majors!” Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, is also quoted with saying, “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.”

Even prestigious business schools are realizing the worth of a non-STEM major. In Stanford University’s School of Business, humanities majors made up a whopping forty-six percent of 2012-2013 incoming class enrollment.

You are irreplaceable.

Humanities-minded people are the hardest to replace. By studying art, history, literature, philosophy, and other fields in the liberal arts, you can interact, connect, and emphasize with people in a way that a computer can never do. These are invaluable skills that are difficult to outsource since liberal arts-minded people can relate to the local consumer. Additionally, their expertise allows them to think creatively, analytically, and deeply in ways that others cannot.

A company’s main target is the human consumer so logically, being able to understand your fellow human is critical to the success of a business. The Washington Post writes this of humanities majors in an application to David Foster Wallace’s writings: “His world of intricate, neurotic detail and societal critique says more about living as a young man in the 1990s than most market research graphs. But more importantly: The same skills involved in being a subtle reader of a text are involved in deeply understanding Chinese or Argentinian consumers of cars, soap or computers.”

Your future prospects aren’t that grim.

According to the 2013 study of college majors, unemployment, and earnings by Georgetown University, liberal arts majors are not too bad off with an average unemployment of 9.0 percent. Recent graduates in liberal arts actually fare better than computer and mathematics majors who have an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.

In devaluing the worth of a liberal arts education by raising tuition for non-STEM majors, people cheapen the worth of a student majoring in a non-STEM field, underrate the value in critical thinking and communication skills, and give off a false impression that STEM majors are on the only path to success. Though society desperately needs brilliant biologists, engineers, and doctors, their successes should not be at the cost of soon-to-be lawyers, educators, journalists, or other professions.

Students should feel free to choose any major they want. They should have the freedom to study what they are interested in, pursue a career that excel in, and live the life they want. For all the reasons stated above, it really is okay to be who you are, even if it means being a non-STEM major.


3 thoughts on “Why It’s Okay to be a Non-STEM Major

  1. 1.If you want to learn about sociology or history, there is the internet.
    2.Many of the examples provided are of men of over-privileged backgrounds who went to Ivy League institutions.
    3. “Finding yourself” in college is just not worth $20000+ a year.
    4. When the government puts input (subsidized education) into a system that generates about 0-50% output to society (honestly LA majors do not contribute much to society as much as computers and technology do, for example Khan Academy or an improved system could basically teach a kid everything he/she needs, human capital is going to be crowded out entirely in education), there is no use for them and so they are unemployed.
    5. Many LA majors who have found jobs have found them in an era where a BA in Lib. arts. was good enough. Now it is not and you need experience in practical subjects.
    6. Communication skills can easily be attained by real world experience without setting a foot into academia.
    7. My waiter at a local G-ville restaraunt was a UF History major.
    8. Humanities in type are not practical in any way, this is why are worth nothing and are not marketable, yet they do have a certain type of intrinsic value that can be used to allow people to know cool things, like syntactical disparities among romance languages…but aside from the sarcasm, there are some cool things in liberal arts, just nothing to dedicate 4+ years of your life to unless you are going to business (a good one) or law school (even then many lawyers are unemployed which is why we have such a rush towards medicine). If LA majors were a legitimate investment, you would see many foreigners in universities studying them, but you don’t because they are not profitable…and why study a LA degree if you are going to work in an unrelated field…that is basically an attempt to go where the money is…and if you’re going to that, you might as well go STEM.
    9. I am not entirely against LA majors, but it is a disservice to the ones using college as an investment to let them invest their money or their parents’ money into something that likely will not pay off, especially to the students of poorer backgrounds. LA majors make great double majors if planned correctly.
    10. Sorry for the rant. (:>)

  2. 1) The same goes for Math, Biology, Chemistry, etc. I had a terrible teacher in high school for AP Calculus, so I thought myself math via YouTube and Khan Academy. Actually, if one was interested in learning STEM-related subjects, he could just became an autodidact and learn in that manner. Your point fails because the same goes for anything in life, you can teach yourself. This is not just exclusive to LA majors.
    2) I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove. These men forged their way through life and became prominent, successful men regardless. Arguably, their liberal arts background aided them in critical thinking and problem solving. I cannot say the same for the many others.
    3) I never said that being an LA major implies “finding yourself”. If you read, you would know that. However, college is an exploratory time for everyone. Potential doctors figure out if a career in the medical field is for them, just as much as a soon-to-be lawyers decide that law school is for them. “Finding yourself” is not exclusive to just LA majors. It is inclusive to all.
    4) You sir, are just incorrect. Many LA majors teach students the skills that allow them to continue forward in their education (i.e. reading, writing, etc). These students may end up in the workforce and thus contribute everything to GDP. LA people teach others to read, respect history, and communicate with people – our world cannot function without these qualities. Furthermore, LA majors are responsible for informing people about the world through news, making public policy, and translating words between people groups. They are indispensable. Conversely, even Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry are now losing their employability. They are on the Daily Beast’s most useless majors actually (http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2011/04/27/20-most-useless-degrees.html#slide9). Are they not STEM majors too?
    5) I don’t know what you mean. There are still jobs in government, academia, media, and even business. There was, are, and will always be jobs in those categories.
    6) Yes, but can they read? Public speak well? Persuade when making business deals or debating in court? Write and publish their scientific research? I think not.
    7) I know engineering and statistic majors who have been out of school for two years and have yet to acquire a job. Your point?
    8) Perhaps you should work on your comprehension skills. I wrote that half of Stanford’s MBA incoming class is made of humanity majors. Amazon and Logitech favor humanities majors.
    9) It is not a disservice. Humanities/Liberal Arts majors teach students about the world, how to communicate with people, and decipher the complex intricacies of data. Liberal Arts majors may go on and pursue graduate school in business, academia, law, and especially medicine (http://www.butler.edu/science-technology/why-sts/medical-schools-like-sts/) . Why? Because liberal arts teaches everything and does not isolate the mind into only thinking about one area of education.
    10) You are excused.

  3. Hi Cresonia

    Your article was a therapeutic read! Every day I struggle to justify my International History degree to others.

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