The value of liberal arts: quick facts

The liberal arts are evolving and vital to Canada’s future. They fuel the imagination that drives innovation and prosperity. They provide a well-rounded workforce with the skills needed to navigate a rapidly changing labour market.

The competitive advantages the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected, and mature. Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are and negotiating multiple priorities as she makes useful decisions without angst. Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion. All of these attributes are choices, not talents, and all of them are available to you.

An abundance of career options

Liberal arts graduates pursue many different career paths. For example,
almost 40,000 employed Canadians have a bachelor’s degree in history.
Of that group, 18 percent work in management occupations and 23 percent work in business, finance and administrative positions.

Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011
Young man wearing suit and tie and standing front of camera

55% of the world’s professional leaders are social sciences and humanities grads


The social sciences and humanities together make up more than half
of bachelor’s degrees among current professional leaders with higher
education qualifications, across 30 countries and all sectors. Younger leaders (under 45 years) are more likely to hold a degree in social sciences or the humanities.

British Council, Educational Pathways of Leaders: an international comparison, 2015

Well prepared and well paid

Full-time workers with degrees in geography earn, on average, above
$72,000 annually – similar to earnings of grads with degrees in biological and biomedical sciences from Canadian universities.

Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011

Significant income growth over time

New research shows that the average earnings of social sciences bachelor’s graduates start at around $40,000 immediately after graduation but within 13 years almost double to just under $80,000 – similar to average earnings for math and natural science graduates at the same point in their careers.

Ross Finnie, “How much do university graduates earn?”, Education Policy Research Initiative, 2014

A balanced workforce for a prosperous economy

A 2015 expert panel concluded that future innovation and productivity
growth will require a workforce with a balance of both STEM (Science,
Technology, Engineering and Math) and non-STEM skills, such as those acquired and used in the humanities, arts and social sciences. Leadership, creativity, adaptability and entrepreneurial ability can help maximize STEM skills and allow Canadians to effectively compete within the everchanging global marketplace.

Council of Canadian Academies, Some Assembly Required: STEM Skills and Canada’s Economic Productivity, 2015

Skills for success

According to a study of Canada’s largest employers, when evaluating entry-level hires employers value soft skills over technical knowledge. The soft skills most often listed as desirable by employers include relationship-building, communication and problem-solving skills, analytical and leadership abilities – attributes developed and honed through studies in the social sciences and humanities.

Business Council of Canada and Aon Hewitt, Developing Canada’s future workforce: a survey of large private-sector employers, 2016

You have to understand economics and psychology or statistics and physics (and) bring them together. You need some people who are holistic thinkers and have liberal arts backgrounds and some who are deep functional experts. Building that balance is hard, but that’s where you end up building great societies, great organizations

Universities Canada