Good-paying jobs for generalists
Not sure how your undergrad degree will get you to your pot of gold? Find out what you can do with your liberal arts major.
Where are the good-paying jobs for people who don't have specialized degrees in fields such as medicine, engineering and law and who don't know how to do advanced coding in five different computer languages?
In other words, what kinds of jobs are out there that can be performed by the generalist—someone with a typical liberal arts degree in English, geography, history, or any one of the hundreds of other majors colleges and universities offer—and also earn you a good paycheck?
The best place to turn to see what's out there is the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It lists most, if not all, of the generally accepted job titles and the mean annual salaries accompanying them.
Salaries will be determined by your level of experience, specialty, and where in the country you work. For example, a director of project management salary in Raleigh, North Carolina, is 14% higher than the national median; a distribution center manager salary in Novi, Michigan, is 8% higher than the national median; and a sales support representative salary in Anaheim, California, is 4% higher than the national median.
The most interesting and, to some extent, most distressing fact the data reveals is that there really aren't an abundance of lucrative occupational categories for liberal arts majors. What career paths are best for you and your degree in medieval history? Well, you either get an advanced degree in it so you can teach the subject you're passionate about, or you take the plunge into the waters of an uncertain job pool.
According to the BLS, the most good-paying jobs compatible with a less-than-specialized major fall under:
- Real estate
- Business and finance
In real estate, salaries start at modest levels but can gradually build into a great income. The BLS reports that real estate brokers have a median salary of $50,730. People with all sorts of backgrounds end up in this field.
Find real estate jobs on Monster.
Hundreds of titles fall under the heading of "management" that don't necessarily require a degree in management. Of course, there are literally millions of managers in the workforce, and salaries vary greatly depending on the industry; the BLS reports that a fast-food restaurant manager makes $55,320 range, while a top-earning HR manager makes $116,720.
Find management jobs on Monster.
Business and finance
Careers in business and finance are also available to those with obscure liberal arts degrees, although you may face an uphill battle competing for jobs against those who have degrees in business, finance, and economics. Nonetheless, it's possible for a history major to land good-paying jobs as a financial advisor (median salary of $87,850, according to the BLS). Of course, you won't start at that kind of salary, but you can get there over time.
Sales jobs can pay anywhere from $25,000 annually to well into six figures, which probably makes sales the most high-risk, high-reward pursuit. It probably holds the potential to be the most lucrative occupation for the liberal arts major who has the right skill set.
Find sales jobs on Monster.
Other generalist occupations with strong earning potential include communications jobs. For example, PR specialists posted median salaries of $61,150, according to the BLS; executive secretaries earned a median of about $60,890, with the top 10 percent earning $91,330. Interestingly enough, one of the better-paying occupational areas doesn't require a degree at all. The BLS reports top earners in construction and building inspector jobs were making a median of $60,710.
Qualities to cultivate
So, with your brand-new degree in oceanography, what qualities will make you the most marketable for an entry-level real estate or sales position? Here's a partial listing of soft skills Don Straits, CEO of Corporate Warriors, suggests you develop:
- Compatibility with others
- Positive attitude
- Social skills/interests/involvement
- Communication skills
Liberal arts majors may be more numerous than dandelions on a spring lawn, but that doesn't mean your bachelor's degree is useless. It can mean, however, that making the transition from student to employee will involve brushing up on those soft skills. And it's safe to say that a college education will be a door opener, regardless of the occupational area you choose.
Need some help on your job search? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of good-paying jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads.