How Interdisciplinary Studies Offers a Solid Foundation for Almost Every Career

Mar 13, 2022

Interdisciplinary studies comprise a fairly popular category in university education. However, they’re often somewhat misunderstood also. Over time, “interdisciplianary studies” has become a label that some use almost disparagingly to refer to subjects that don’t lead to career paths in fields like math, science, or engineering, where direct career paths are often apparent early on.

To that point, a perception has actually developed over the years that liberal arts or interdisciplinary studies majors are underemployed. This is largely based on a pure assumption that these fields of study simply don’t lead to lucrative careers; where another student might become a doctor or investment banker, a liberal studies major might become a teacher or struggling journalist, and so on. The reality though is that this field is more significant and more valuable than it’s sometimes given credit for. The data shows that it is not interdisciplinary studies majors who are most underemployed — and not by a wide margin. And when you look a little bit closer, it becomes clear that interdisciplinary studies can offer a solid foundation for a wide range of interesting career opportunities.

To understand how, you first have to consider what exactly a degree of this nature entails. Putting it simply, pursuing a interdisciplinary studies degree can involve subjects such as philosophy, literature, history, or even religion and natural sciences. But amongst these subjects, it also means personalizing your approach to focus on what interests you, and what fits your career aspirations. The idea is in part that through these studies, you will pick up soft skills such as: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills that can truly make you an asset in just about any line of work. These are skills that are always in demand, and if you can back them up with a degree and hard work, you may be surprised at the opportunities that come your way.

More specifically, opportunities stemming from an online liberal studies degree or a traditional one can include work in finance, IT, journalism, education, government, management, and public service, to name a handful of fields. Specific careers can range from “communications director” (for virtually any sort of company or entity), to “public relations director,” to “policy research and development specialist,” and so on. Some interdisciplinary studies students will even go on to become lawyers, or found their own companies. As you can see, the possibilities are wide-ranging. The simplest way to look at it is that the range of subjects involved in liberal or interdisciplinary studies, and the broad utility of the related skills lead to myriad of opportunities across industries.

So, why the discrepancy? Why do some assume the interdisciplinary studies path doesn’t lead to strong careers when the data and specifics say otherwise? It may ultimately come down to the difference between starting salaries and long-term careers. An article exploring the value of a liberal arts degree made the interesting observation that “first-job salaries tend to be lower” for liberal arts graduates than for, say, people with vocational degrees. However, the same piece went on to assert that “over time, liberal arts graduates’ earnings often surge.” This can be chalked up to numerous factors, including the fact that some pursue advanced degrees. But to some extent it speaks to value. Because of the actual skills taught to liberal arts students, these graduates are often able to offer value that goes beyond a degree or qualification. This ultimately leads to career (and salary) advancement.

Considering all of the above, it’s clear that interdisciplinary studies still makes for a strong foundation. The breadth of subjects involved and the significance of the skills students learn lead to interesting and fruitful careers across virtually limitless industries.

—Written by Anne Fairchild for William Peace University | peace.edu

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