Liberal arts graduates: ‘Workplaces value generalists with diverse skills’

Alumni of liberal arts programmes at Ashoka University, Symbiosis, Bennett University said their training helped them fit into roles that demand creativity in problem-solving

Liberal arts graduates say their multidisciplinary education, has helped them fit comfortably into jobs and roles(Representational/ Wikimedia Commons)Liberal arts graduates say their multidisciplinary education, has helped them fit comfortably into jobs and roles(Representational/ Wikimedia Commons)

Aeshwarya Tiwari | July 6, 2024 | 05:05 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Krithika Balaji earned a four-year undergraduate degree at the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, studying there from 2011 to 2015, majoring in business studies and minoring in psychology. She is now the assistant director for academics at the IC3 Institute. “The liberal arts programme was ideal for me, as it allowed me to study with purpose and align my education with my personal values, long-term plans, qualities, and skill set,” said Balaji.

Another liberal arts alumna, Sushita Pal, graduated from Bennett University and has carved a niche for herself in social media and copywriting. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts, majoring in English and minoring in political science. She is currently working with creative agency O Factor Communications. She said, “I feel proud of the fact that my multidisciplinary education helped me cope better with this demanding job. We studied an array of subjects to pick our majors and minors from, and these two subjects have always been of interest to me,” she added.

Sona Solgy, an associate account executive at a communications agency in Delhi, was part of Ashoka University’s Young India Fellowship programme, a one-year postgraduate diploma in liberal arts. Solgy said, “I chose to study liberal arts because of its interdisciplinary nature and emphasis on holistic education. My experience at Ashoka was remarkable, especially since the subjects taught were intersectional and socially conscious, fostering a comprehensive understanding of the world.” She graduated from Stella Martin College, Chennai.

Liberal arts graduates say their multidisciplinary education, which allowed them to pursue subjects and courses they were genuinely interested in, has helped them fit comfortably into jobs and roles that demand creative thinking, communication skills and versatility. While placement cells might struggle to match their highly interdisciplinary academic background with specific job roles, once they find jobs, liberal arts students are able to adjust quickly, solve problems efficiently and handle a wide range of responsibilities together.

Also read‘Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts encourages you to think, evolve, excel’: Director

Liberal arts: Unique learning

Balaji’s journey at Symbiosis was marked by the freedom to explore diverse subjects, ranging from environmental awareness to cyber law. This exploration helped her discover her strengths in business studies and psychology. She explained, “The liberal arts programme format was incredible for me because I firmly believe you need to study with a sense of purpose, understanding why you are studying what you’re studying and how it aligns with your personal values.”

The flexibility and breadth of courses allowed her to understand the interconnectedness of various disciplines, a sentiment echoed by other alumni. Her efforts to set up the career cell and initiate international exchange programmes during her college days provided a hands-on, practical experience.

Pal found her time at Bennett University similarly enriching. She found the interdisciplinary approach of the liberal arts programme crucial in shaping her career. Studying a wide array of subjects, including economics and marketing, prepared her for her role as a social media manager.

“We had management and BBA courses, journalism and media courses, and sometimes even law or computer science/coding courses… Sitting in such diverse classes taught us not to study things in isolation… This approach helped us apply ourselves in many other fields, career-wise,” she explained.

Liberal arts: Interdisciplinarity, skills

Balaji attributes her ability to transition smoothly into curriculum design and partnership management roles to the skills she honed in college. “In college, I had to engage with various organisations as well as various higher education institutions for setting up MOUs and managing the interview and placement processes. These skills translated into helping me in the partnerships function that I carry out in my current work.” The liberal arts model’s emphasis on activities and projects “is a huge differentiator in the workplace”, she said.

Pal agreed. “I have an attitude that leans towards problem-solving, so the rest of the skills came to me quite naturally…Overall, these skills helped me adapt to my workplace quickly and contributed to making brand strategies for marketing and streamlining work,” she added.

Pal had started with an internship secured through campus placements but found the permanent job on her own. Having worked on social media for the clubs at the university helped as did her courses on marketing and advertising.

Dakshyani Rayamajhi, a graduate of GD Goenka University, works at Zomato as a customer care associate. “We had applied to many places to get a job, such as Maruti Suzuki, but I couldn’t make it. Then Zomato came, and I opted for it,” she said. “There are opportunities, but you have to make sure [you know] what is best for you and think ahead.”

None of the graduates said they faced any scepticism about liberal arts from their employers. Pal pointed out that in creative fields, having work samples to show and a robust portfolio can be more impactful than traditional qualifications.

Balaji added that modern workplaces value generalists who can adapt to various functions and drive growth through innovative solutions. “I did not face any scepticism from potential employers about the value of my degree. In fact, I would say the opposite happened because several opportunities in small and medium enterprises that are at early growth stages require people with this interdisciplinary skill set and mindset to contribute to the overall functioning of their organisation.”

Also read‘Rising demand for talents with cross-disciplinary exposures’: Liberal arts universities alliance

Salary packages

Barring a few exceptions, liberal arts graduates typically receive pay packages similar to those of traditional undergraduate students. “This really depends on multiple factors. In my experience, the degree and campus placement are just sub-factors. When we graduated, most people started with an average salary of Rs 25,000 to Rs 35,000. This was in 2015. Interestingly, it’s almost the same as what an engineer would make,” she said.

Dakshyani Rayamajhi said that the average salary through campus placements was in the Rs 3.5-4 lakh per annum range.

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