Why an Arts and Social Sciences Degree Matters

There is a need for graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Our alumni find jobs as lawyers and teachers, business executives and social entrepreneurs — and more. You'll find them in classrooms and corporate boardrooms, high tech startups and nonprofit initiatives and even more settings around the world.

The world of work is changing rapidly, and a job that students might learn today might not exist in ten years. The reverse is also true — SFU students are creating the jobs of tomorrow, from UX designers to social media mavens, sleep researchers to startup founders. Self-driving car companies need ethicists, and AI developers need people who can understand how humans interact with each other.

Top employers tell us that their most valuable staff can learn quickly, write and communicate well, and are able to think critically about nuanced problems. Our alumni tell us that their SFU degrees helped them develop all of those promotion-ready skills.

FASS offers a world of fascinating topics and the flexibility that allows students to change their minds as they progress through their degrees. We hope you'll join us.

Further Readings

Insider Higher Ed: The Myth of the English Major Barista
"Parents worried that their children will study English and end up as baristas should know that their sons and daughters are statistically more likely to end up as CEOs, doctors or accountants than behind the counter of a Starbucks."

Globe and Mail: Why Liberal Arts Degrees Are More Valuable than You Might Think
"Studying the humanities also equips one with skills useful for inter-cultural understanding and communication. Through studying and reading about the history, religion, culture, and philosophy of other countries, an individual is able to develop a heightened understanding of how different societies function, which can help in everything from small-talk to closing international sales deals."

Forbes: Surprise: Humanities Degrees Provide Great Return On Investment
"I pulled out information on bachelor’s degrees in art, drama, English, French, history, philosophy, and political science. ... these degrees all produce expected lifetime earning increments far in excess of the cost of college tuition, even at expensive private colleges."

The Atlantic: The Unexpected Value of the Liberal Arts
"Yet over time, liberal-arts graduates’ earnings often surge, especially for students pursuing advanced degrees. History majors often become well-paid lawyers or judges after completing law degrees, a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project has found. Many philosophy majors put their analytical and argumentative skills to work on Wall Street. International-relations majors thrive as overseas executives for big corporations, and so on."

The Atlantic: The Earning Power of Philosophy Majors
"We hear again and again that employers value creative problem solving and the ability to deal with ambiguity in their new hires, and I can't think of another major that would better prepare you with those skills than the study of philosophy. It's not terribly surprising to see those graduates doing well in the labor market. We've seen quite a few executives—CEOs, VPs of Strategy—who studied philosophy as their undergrad program,” says Lydia Frank, the senior editorial director at PayScale."

Hechinger Report: Business schools' new artsy edge
"Studying the liberal arts is perhaps more important than ever in helping businesspeople make better sense of situations that are not well-defined. The arts help students hone critical thinking and communication skills, which come in handy when dealing with complexity and ambiguity."

The Atlantic: How the Humanities Can Train Entrepreneurs
"Employers highly value what humanities majors learn in college, focus groups and surveys show. More than nine out of 10 say a job candidate’s capacity for thinking and communicating clearly and solving complex problems is more important than his or her major."

Microsoft: The Future Computed
"As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions. If AI is to reach its potential in serving humans, then every engineer will need to learn more about the liberal arts and every liberal arts major will need to learn more about engineering."

National Bureau of Economic Research: The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market
"Social skills are important in the modern labor market because computers are still very poor at simulating human interaction. Skill in social settings has evolved in humans over thousands of years. Human interaction in the workplace involves team production, with workers playing off of each other's strengths and adapting flexibly to changing circumstances. Such non-routine interaction is at the heart of the human advantage over machines."

Fast Company: Why This Tech CEO Keeps Hiring Humanities Majors
"At my company, as at many tech companies, developers only make up 15–25% of our workforce. While tech businesses are booming, many of the jobs waiting to be filled require broader skill sets than just great engineering chops. And in my experience anyway, the truly irreplaceable jobs—not just of the future but of the present—are the roles that intermingle arts and science. My employees with humanities backgrounds regularly show they’re willing to learn new skills and try new things."

Huffington Post: A Liberal Education: Preparation for Career Success, by A.G. Lafley, Procter & Gamble chairman, who retired in 2010 after 33 years with the company
"I know that the candidates who were the most attractive manager prospects were those with a well-exercised mind, leadership potential, and the passion to make a difference. These success factors can be cultivated in many ways, but all are best developed by taking courses in the liberal arts and sciences."

BBC: Social science graduates 'have best job prospects'
"Some 84.2% of social science graduates were employed three years after graduating, compared with 79% of arts and humanities graduates and 78% of graduates with science degrees, the figures suggest."

New York Times: Six Myths About Choosing a College Major
"... the competencies that liberal arts majors emphasize — writing, synthesis, problem solving — are sought after by employers. A 2017 study by David J. Deming, an associate professor of education and economics at Harvard, found jobs requiring both the so-called soft skills and thinking skills have seen the largest growth in employment and pay in the last three decades."

Psychology Today: Is a Philosophy Degree Useful?
"Philosophy majors are top performers on both the LSAT and the GRE. ... Philosophy majors are tied with mathematics majors for the highest percentage in salary increase from beginning to mid-career salary. This is not surprising to those of us who are philosophers, however, because the skills that a philosophy degree cultivates–critical thinking, excellence in written and oral communication, clarity of thought, careful analysis, and problem-solving skills–are precisely the skills that enable one to do well and advance in their chosen career."

Quartz: Philosophy just got its biggest-ever donation—from Wall Street
"Philosophy 'has made a huge difference both to my life outside business, in terms of adding a great degree of richness and knowledge, and to the actual decisions I’ve made in investing,' Miller, 67, told the New York Times (paywall). And he told Bloomberg that 'the habits of analysis that philosophy teaches—rigorous analytical techniques—are something that’s essential to investing.'"

Payscale.com: Why I Chose to Study English
"According to research teams at Duke and Harvard under the leadership of Vivek Wadhwa, only 37 percent of tech CEOs had a traditional STEM degree versus the 63 percent with degrees in philosophy, business, and other liberal arts fields. That 63 percent includes Anna Pickard, the editorial director of Slackbot, with a degree in theater from Britain’s Manchester Metropolitan University and Marcus Ryu, the CEO of Guidewire, with a B.A. in English from Oxford."

USA Today: Offbeat majors help CEOs think outside the box
"Blue Shield of California CEO Bruce Bodaken has a bachelor's and a master's degree in philosophy and once taught an introduction to ethics course: 'Philosophy teaches you to ask deeper questions, how to think through a tough problem,' Bodaken says."

Forbes: It's Not Liberal Arts And Literature Majors Who Are Most Underemployed
"'Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services' left far more people high and dry on job success. ... business and related majors produced a staggering 186,339 people with a degree and no corresponding college-level job. ... majors in 'Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities' left a scant 18,824 underemployed grads after five years. 'English Language and Literature/Letters' had just 16,422 similarly underemployed. And the major with the fewest underemployed graduates, according to the report, was 'Foreign Languages, Literature, and Linguistics.'"

Apple Keynote: Steve Jobs
"It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing."

Stanford: Steve Jobs 2005 Commencement Address (text)
"You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."

Infographic: The Humanities Matter!
This graphic summarizes the many benefits of a humanities degree.

Credit: Designed by the University College London (UCL) Centre for Digital Humanities in collaboration with 4Humanities.