Student Voices: Preparing for Employment, Post-Graduation | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Preparing for Employment, Post-Graduation | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Preparing for Employment, Post-Graduation

Duncan McCrostie discovers that an arts degree gives you many skills for the workforce

Halfway through my first year, I was at a crossroads: I was considering either applying to the Alberta School of Business to work towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree or continuing my studies in economics and political science as an Arts student. I was drawn to the “technical” skills that a B. Comm. degree affords you: basic accounting and finance skills as well as coveted Excel skills, amongst other things. In the end, I decided against this path because my academic interests were still very broad and I felt as though I would not be able to satisfy these interests within the regimented course load of a BComm degree.

Continuing in the Faculty of Arts over the next three years would prove to be a positive academic experience for me – I have been able to take classes ranging from cultural studies of Italian popular music to post-colonial literature to Yugoslavian history. However, at various points throughout those three years, I sometimes became concerned about what “skills” I was learning in my degree that would help me find employment post-graduation. My perceived lack of professional skills was one of the reasons I joined Arts Work Experience – I believed co-op experience would bolster my “skill-less” resumé.

An arts degree does not leave you professionally skill-less in the slightest. 

As I have since discovered, an arts degree does not leave you professionally skill-less in the slightest. Through my work term with AWE, I have been able to see definite linkages between my Arts education and the professional world.

In my opinion, written communication and research are two of the most significant skill sets an arts degree brings to the professional world. There are countless jobs that require one to take a very large amount of information and distil it down to communicate it accurately.

I also believe that a degree in Arts, because of the breadth of classes, gives students a broad knowledge of many topics and fields – something that a focused technical degree does not. This broad knowledge is a tremendously applicable professional skill set because, even though it may not seem like it, a solid knowledge of political factors, social factors and historical factors are important professional skills that help give business an accurate picture of an industry or market. A broad knowledge also allows Arts students to look at problems within a workplace from multiple angles, and sometimes with a more creative perspective.

A broad knowledge allows Arts students to look at problems from multiple angles.

There are also a large number of jobs that require those skills WITH an ability to work with quantitative data. Quantitative skills may sound scary, but they are an important skill set to have. When looking at the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements, many students dread the credits required from the Faculty of Science*. However, these requirements give you an opportunity to take classes like calculus and statistics, which may sound awful, but give you practical quantitative knowledge to leverage when a job requires some quantitative qualifications. Even if numbers are not your forte, they are the language of business — so it is a good idea to at least be able to work with them without sweating (too much).

Work experience is a great way to put many of your Arts-based skills to use and an opportunity to develop your academic skills into professional skills. Work experience does not necessarily have to come from a co-op program – many four-month summer positions are open to any students that meet the posting’s qualifications. That being said, co-op programs like AWE offer many benefits such as assistance in crafting resumés and cover letters, as well as interview practice! 


*Editor’s Note: The Faculty of Arts BA degree requirements have been revised and will take effect in fall 2018. Please visit our BA Renewal website for more information.


Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.

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About Duncan McCrostie

Duncan McCrostie

Duncan is between his third and fourth year at the University of Alberta, enrolled as an economics and political science double major. He is also enrolled in the Arts Work Experience (AWE) program and is in the midst of a work term at the Employment and Social Development Canada as a junior economic analyst in Toronto. Outside of work and school, Duncan enjoys watching football, playing hockey and reading. Fun Fact: This summer Duncan studied at the London School of Economics in London, U.K. for three weeks, and afterwards traveled through southern Spain for another two weeks (his bio pic is from Granada, Spain!).