Students in a liberal arts program receive a well-rounded education that has historically been considered to have less earning potential than majors in other industry-specific programs. But while the overall average salary may still be lower than some other degree options, students graduating with liberal arts majors are entering into a workforce that is increasingly demanding these types of degrees. In fact, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), graduates with liberal arts and sciences or general studies degrees earned an average starting salary of $43,100. NACE specifically reported that graduates in the communications category earn an average salary of $43,145, and those in the education field earn a starting salary of $40,480. In the humanities and social sciences category, the average salary per year is $37,058. Some of the top paying positions for liberal arts graduates include graphic artists or designers, teachers, and editors or writers.
Visual Arts and Communications
Graphic artists and designers can earn from a range of $33,000 to $60,000 annually. Working with government agencies, design firms, publishing companies, and other business service companies, graphic artists and designers work on a variety of things from animation, print materials from brochures to magazines, and photographs. They might develop logos or other promotional and advertising material. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor estimated the average salary for graphic arts directors to be $80,630 and the average salary for multimedia artists at $58,510.
Teaching from Preschool to Career Training
The average annual salary for teachers ranges from $47,000 to $52,000. Salaries range by state and school district, and starting salaries average at between $33,000 and $35,000 across the United States. Teachers play an integral part in educating students at all ages, and graduates with a background in liberal arts are eligible for positions in a variety of educational settings, including positions at some community colleges requiring a bachelor’s degree in a specific academic discipline. In most states, additional certification is required for primary and secondary teachers as well.
Editing and Writing
A liberal arts degree in English or technical writing prepares students for a variety of careers in the writing field from authoring advertising copy to editing and proofreading corporate or government documents. The NACE estimates that experienced writers can earn an average salary of between $57,000 and $65,000 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, technical writers earn an average salary of $63,280 annually and editors earn an average of $51,470 annually. Other positions in the writing field average a salary of $55,420 annually.
Additional Careers and Information
Other interesting careers with average starting salaries over $30,000 include museum curator, museum technician, archivists, corporate trainers, interior and set designers, and film and video editors. Comprehensive lists of careers and average salaries for candidates with a liberal arts background can be found at NACE and the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The executive summary of the NACE Salary Survey can be reviewed here.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is located here.