How to figure out what career path to pursue if you have a liberal arts degree

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Liberal arts degrees are a great preparation for a great many careers.

Not having a prescribed set of careers you must pursue can be both a tremendous freedom and a bit of a headache.

Without that equation of “x degree = y career,” how do you figure out which career is for you?

There are two ways to get started: you can start with the degree and/or you can start with you.

Start with the degree

What career paths often follow this degree?

  • What have past grads done with that degree? Speak with people in your department (staff and faculty) and see if you can find out what previous students in your field have gone on to do. Check to see if your department invites any alumni back for career panels so that you can hear graduates’ career stories and ask questions.
  • Consult “careers by discipline” lists. There are lots of books and lists of “What to do with a degree in …” For example, many university career centres will have books with titles like “Great Jobs for Liberal Arts Majors,” “Careers in Psychology” and “Great Jobs for Biology Majors.”

Start with you

What are you interested in, and what career paths relate to that? You can ask yourself some questions to start narrowing down what types of careers might be things that you could find satisfying.

  • What are my interests?
  • What type of environment would I like to work in?
  • What are some of the kinds of work I’ve always been attracted to?
  • What are some things I know I really don’t want to do?

The wonderful thing about your career path is that you get to construct it. There is a lot of flexibility and space for creativity. But it can be hard to get started without some information about what is out there, and what might be a good fit for you.

If you’d like a helping hand along the way as you research and contemplate your options, I’d highly recommend checking out what your career centre has to offer. Speaking with a career counsellor can help you get focused. They can help you explore yourself and what makes you tick (they’ll often refer to this as “self-assessment”), and point you to resources based on your interests – saving you lots of time by focusing your research.

Best wishes!

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About the author

Cathy Keates is a career counsellor and trainer who has worked with university students and graduates for the past decade, helping them to strategically create careers they will love. She has worked as a career counsellor at Queen's University and was the associate director of the career centre at York University. Convinced that we can all create lives based on authenticity and integrity, she is the author of the new job search book Not for Sale! and shares her thoughts about finding work without losing yourself on her blog, Transform Your Job Search.