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Liberal arts majors take first career steps

The stress of the job hunt was relieved rather early in the process for Emory University senior Nikhil Raghuveera. The philosophy and political science double major found employment in the fall of 2013 at an economics consulting firm in Boston.

"The philosophy major is not as commonly known for going straight into the job market," he says. "I have a lot of friends who are philosophy majors, and a lot of them went into graduate school. So, it is a bit different, but what I found was if you really do apply yourself, it is possible" to find a job.

Raghuveera received his job offer after working an internship — an increasingly strong trend for businesses and students alike, says Eileen Buecher, associate director of the Emory Career Center.

"We've seen a strong increase in companies recruiting for internships for students in their junior years, and more students also are realizing the importance of networking and gaining experience while they're in college," she says.  "For many of our students, that is materializing into job offers months before they even graduate."

In addition, recruiters are expanding their outreach to second-year students for sophomore year experiences that prepare them for the application process and experience of junior year internships in their organizations, she says.

The Career Center conducts an annual survey of liberal arts majors to capture where they're headed at the time their graduation. The 2013 survey of graduating seniors in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences shows 85 percent had definite plans in place before graduation, either in the form graduate school or employment.

The 2014 survey is underway, and Buecher says companies are heavily recruiting students from all liberal arts majors.  "I will have to wait until the data is all in, but I've really felt a shift in the economy this year, based in part on the breadth and depth in the variety of companies that are recruiting, and the volume of alumni who are reaching out to get positions filled," she says.

For employers, some say they look for liberal arts majors because of the numerous skills they bring to any position.

"They can think critically," says Justin Leemis with Triage Consulting Group, a hospital revenue consulting firm. "They have a well-rounded background…They’re analytical, well-spoken."

A liberal arts degree "is a lot more general than just, for example, public health or an M.D. or a J.D.," says Glorimar Maldonado, a senior advisor at the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. "The world is their oyster."

Raghuveera says there are ample opportunities for liberal arts majors entering the job market. The key is putting in the work and finding connections between your academic life and what you want to do after graduation.

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