Liberal arts major= DEATH SENTENCE or NOT?

I've read countless posts and threads from various finance forums and listen to a lot of people talk.

Some say a liberal arts degree is okay. Some say its the equivalent of 1-ply toilet paper.

Someone will say Soros did Philosophy then someone else will say "he did it @ an IVY".

Some say you can supplement your degree with internships, extra courses and networking, the Varsity Career Service Consultants will say its pointless, your degree is the equivalent of 1-ply toilet paper".

What is the deal? Is a liberal arts grad Fucked! Or is it all relative?


It's too hard to answer a question like this because there are so many variables at play. What type of liberal arts degree are you planning on doing?

If you want to play it safe, you could do a double-major and combine it with something more useful to finance. Or you can just minor in the liberal arts discipline. Or just take some liberal arts classes for fun (without even majoring/minoring in it). Or you can just study the liberal arts stuff in your free-time.

I cringe whenever someone I know tells me his/her Communications major surpasses my "sellout" Finance major.

LOL, I don't blame you. Especially since communications is not even intellectually challenging. At least if someone is going to choose a liberal arts, study philosophy, math, physics, etc. Communications is probably among the worst choice someone could pick.


Talking mainly about IB here, but here you go.

Lib arts is just fine if it's from a good school and you can walk them through a DCF and have a demonstrated interest in finance. In my mind IB recruiters see the rankings like this:

1) Ivy leaguer (any major) with good banking internships - especially if Harvard or Stanford or Princeton 2) Ivy leaguer (economics/quant major), maybe no banking yet, but interested in business - especially if Wharton 3) Top 10-15 (this is usually as many 'targets' as a bank needs), quant/business focus - Michigan, etc. 4) Non-target, but has shown scrappiness and managed to get a banking internship (a handful of spots per analyst class for these - mainly to fill the gaps) - Illinois, other state schools, etc. 5) Non-target, no relevant experience (1/1,000,000 shot...) - you went to Drake/Iowa State etc. 6) Duke :)

The analyst classes at BBs are often completely full halfway through number 3. Many are full even before FT recruiting because all of their summer analysts are coming back for FT.

All this is to say, your major matters far less than the school you attended, and what you do with it. I was a category 4 but managed to break in to restructuring IB but I had to grind really hard for it (wish I had researched the phrase 'target school' while I was busy chasing girls and not studying for the SAT).


if you like it then you shoulda put a banana on it

Well I'm halfway across the world in africa. There are no Ivy Leagues over here. I go to one of the top 2 schools on the continent. But in terms of world standards, my varsity is in the 100's.

So I don't know.


Given proximity to NYC, I'd say Trinity is the best bet of the schools you mentioned. Quick LinkedIn search shows a good deal of Trinity alums working in IBD. Would even go as far as slotting it into the nebulous "semi-target" category (as in, you can get into IBD but it will just take a bit, emphasis on bit, of hustle).


Of course it's possible, even outside the T10 - although if you stray outside of T20, think it will be very difficult, but of course still not impossible

I went to a LAC (though not 1 that you have listed), and believe there were 30+ guys/girls from my class who went into banking, and most of them accepted traditional IB jobs in NY (but there are plenty of regional exceptions)

Fast fwd - if you attend one of these LACs, to land a banging gig, aside from the usual advice to get great grades, prepare, etc., I would recommend exploring alumni network when appropriate. Since these colleges are much smaller, they tend to have tight knit alumni networks. Don't schmooze, but instead would use it as an opportunity to learn about different positions, firms, cultures, trajectories, etc.

Hope that helps, good luck


Went to an LAC (not Amherst or Williams but top 10) and can comment. To be honest not all LACs are created equal especially when it comes to Finance. Schools like Amherst or Williams will place well regardless because of prestige, but there are a number of other highly ranked schools like Vassar and Grinell where the placement for finance is much weaker than at other similarly ranked schools(Middlebury, Trinity, Colgate, Hamilton etc).

What it comes down to is the general feel of the school and where the alumni currently work. I know that at the 4 schools I previously mentioned, the vibe of the schools tends to be a little more preppy as kids come from wealthier backgrounds in either urban areas, or wealthy suburbs. These wealthy kids are well connected, network into good jobs, and then are willing to help kids from their alma mater. It's unlikely you'll get OCR at these places, but the alumni connections are pretty strong and can help you get you interviews at most places you would want as well as great inside advice on how to prepare for interviews.

When I was recruiting for banking I had MDs and VPs take the time to meet with me 1 on 1 to chat and who forwarded my resume. We also had a few days where trips would be sponsored into the city to meet with alums in Finance.

Conversely, a school like Vassar is more artsy and hipster so its probably harder to find 1. Alums who work in banking 2. Support for getting into Finance. It's still probably not impossible, but I wouldn't go to Vassar if you know you're going to be dead set on banking.

I think LACs are a great background for finance, you just need to put a little more legwork in than kids from undergrad business schools. Keep your grades up(major doesn't really matter tbh), teach yourself some finance on the side, network early and often, and start getting finance internships as soon as you can.

If you do the above and go to a top LAC you'll be right in line for a BB IBD internship come junior year.


Well I will most likely be able to get into Trinity. You include that in your post as good LAC to get into banking. It's not in the Top 20, but it's in NESCAC, so I feel like that gives it prestiege. If it was down to Babson or Trinity, would Trinity be better off in the long run?

edit: also according to the USNWR top 20 LACs, the one I could probably get into the most is Grinnell, as long as I apply ED. I have a tiny chance at Wesleyan and maybe Bates, but definitely wouldn't bet on them. As you stated, Grinnell and the equivalents seem more artsy focused to be able to get to the banks. Probably doesn't help when your classmates are protesting the companies you are trying to get jobs at. So, is trinity the best of all these? As stated if I apply ED to Trinity, I'm pretty certain I'd get in. Similar for Babson, I guess


Sorry just saw the part where you said you couldn't get into a top LAC. If you fall out of the top 20 or so then I'd probably just do Babson. A low ranked liberal arts school will make things tougher. With that being said, go where you fit best. You might not want to do finance in a few years. Make sure to consider everything before deciding on a college.


Honestly if it comes down to Trinity vs Babson, I'd make sure to visit both and just decide which one is a better fit. Both schools will have a different feel to them and you'll be able to become successful from either. Trinity has a very NESCAC'y feel, and by that I mean its pretty preppy/fratty. Some people will be comfortable with that and if you are it will be a good fit. I also know of many kids(especially minorities) who feel somewhat alienated because of this, which makes assimilating tougher. I also wouldn't got to Trinity if you're just trying to go to a "prestigious" school. Trinity gets beat on as one of the least academic NESCAC schools, and the general stigma associated with Trinity is that its a school for dumber wealthy kids who couldn't get into other NESCACs. Do I think this is true? Not entirely, but if you're trying to name drop Trinity as an equal to Williams/Amherst you're going to be disappointed.

While I don't know as much about Babson, it will be a bigger school with a more public university feel. You'll get to be in Boston and you'll be taking more Finance oriented classes, but you'll probably find a little more competition for Finance jobs. There will be plenty of kids who are driven to find jobs in banking/finance so you'll have to work to stand out a little more. Tons of kids will be gunning for jobs/internships so if you're willing to grind it out then this might be a better fit. I'm pretty sure Babson has an investment fund that they let a select group of students manage, which helps with feeding into Finance. Conversely, at Trinity if you major in Econ, get decent grades, and are in a frat that has connections, you could probably coast a little more and just make sure to network well.

Last thing I'd consider is money. I was fortunate to go to my LAC and graduate with very little debt. I'm in a solid job now and I look back fondly on my time at college; however, if I hadn't had my tuition mostly funded, I probably wouldn't have done a LAC, especially if you're not going to a top school. 60k a year is a lot for a school that won't really prepare you for any job.

So basically my tl:dr on this is

1) If you're preppy/fratty/wealthy/ or are just fine with hanging out with kids like this for the next four years, then Trinity should be where you focus your efforts. It will be a lot of fun, the network will be strong, and I think a liberal arts degree is most useful than people give it credit for.

2) If you don't fit the profile above, don't like partying and broing out, and are deadset on Finance for your career, then Babson is probably better. You'll be able to take finance classes, work hard all the time, and fight your way into a good finance job on the east coast.

This is all just my opinion though. Go with what feels right and don't base everything entirely on what you want to do after school. Definitely take it into consideration, but you'll have plenty of opportunities to change over the next 4-5 years.


Thanks for all your help.

In regards to the whole preppy thing, I am actually a minority myself with a name that comes off as blatantly Hispanic. That is one thing I have heard about Trinity. I've heard it's very hard for minorities to assimilate into the preppy cliques, which has concerned me. I consider myself to be of preppy style, but I don't really want to join a frat. Do you actually consider this a significant portion in getting into Finance from Trinity? I haven't visited them in person, but Trinity's campus looks a lot nicer than Babson's. I think I really need to visit though and decide for myself. The frat thing at Trinity does concern me, although the Trinity frat percentage is only 18%.


Can't speak from experience as I didn't go to Trinity and don't know the school dynamics, but I can give you my best guesses. I don't think being in a frat will be a huge part of getting into Finance, but it might have a decent influence on your social life. I wasn't in a Frat in my school and still made it into Finance just by networking. I talked to plenty of guys who used to be in frats and I didn't think it was too big of a deal.

Yup I think visiting the campus is a great idea and really gives you an idea of how the school feels. If possible, try to do an overnight visit at each school, go to some classes, talk to as many people as possible, and just really get a feel for the school. If Trinity feels right then you should go with your gut. There were plenty of minorities on my campus that fit in very well and had no issues, some who took years to become comfortable and some who never really identified with the student body at all.

It might also be a good idea to reach out to the president of the Latino/BLSU and see if they have any perspective on it. Good luck and I hope everything works out well.


Liberal arts degrees are fine if you're going to a top school. But for someone going to a school ranked, say, 80 on US News, why would you hire someone from there with an English major? Cool, they spent 4 years thinking outside the box. The person they're actually going to get hired by needs someone to sell something, crunch numbers, or something similar.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee

I understand that point, but the same could also be said about a STEM major. Perhaps the person with a technical degree would be marginally better off in finding a job, but if you go to (e.g.) a shit state school and get through an engineering program with a 2.4 GPA, you'll still be hard pressed to find a job.

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought which they seldom use.

I think liberal arts is a great education and would have considered it myself if I had someone else paying my way. But when you have to spend your own money or take on debt you better make sure you'll get a return on that investment. Too many people get 6 figures in debt to study something that wont command a salary high enough to repay the debt incurred.

And at the end of the day you can always be a liberal arts major on your own time. I wanted to study history and instead just read about it all the time. Still received a marketable degree and kept my hobby/passion on the side.


All else being equal, it is arguable that any amount of education you receive in college in nearly any field could actually be learned on your own time. E.g. Will Hunting would be the epitome of this argument, and yeah I know it's not real, but you get my point.

Having recently graduated, I can honestly say that of all of my classes, Intro to Lit was one of the most difficult. Of course Calculus was quite difficult, as math does not come naturally to me but my finance classes were essentially a cake walk. The amount of knowledge that I gained from my actual finance classes has only marginally improved my professional competency, and most of what I have learned that is relevant for this field has been during internships or on the job.

I mean, has anyone actually read Keats or Kafka and understood them? IMO, it takes much more critical thinking to digest that material than it does to learn a DCF.

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought which they seldom use.

Do both. I have a liberal arts degree and looking back I would have finished the computer science major as well (I was originally a programmer). Several of my current bosses double majored in liberal arts and business/STEM. You need to be good at numbers AND written/verbal critical thinking. It frankly annoys me when people argue one against another. When I see geeky engineers bitching about being stuck in IT roles, or liberal arts majors not having access to core processing roles, I laugh because these two groups looked often down on each other in college.

There should also be a clarification between "liberal arts degree" and "liberal arts major". A 4 year degree is by definition liberal arts. You can have any concentration, but still complete diverse basic competencies. A liberal arts major just describes the concentration. The distinction has to be made. I am strongly in favor of as many people as possible getting a liberal arts degree, even if it's from a cheap community college....but I don't think everyone should be a liberal arts major.

Actually, I believe that our primary and secondary educational systems could be upgraded to the point that everyone could be college level work in high school. The current educational system was designed a century ago and is badly in need of's a great system, just needs an upgrade.

I think people are beginning to figure this out....

Get busy living

I agree that all things can be learned on your own, but when you are interviewing it is nice to have a piece of paper showing you know accounting and finance. I mean you can read Kafka and check out some wiki write ups and get an idea on the underpinnings of his writing and then have a conversation on it. You don't need to bust out your transcripts and point to your A in Lit class to prove it.

I don't know. If I was rich I would have studied a ton of shit. Unfortunately I needed to get a job. If you are going to Oklahoma State and racking up debt for a sociology degree you really need to re-evaluate your decision.


Is there a shortage of people pursuing STEM degrees? Sometimes it sounds like young people are "leaving" STEM for Lib arts. Maybe it is just a case of more people attending college so more people getting lib arts degrees?


I'm a liberal arts major who minored in a business field, so I am a bit biased. You need enough business knowledge to get you through the technical aspects of an interview. Once you start working, I think you need to be interesting and have good communication and critical thinking skills. You can get that from a lot of places, but a liberal arts degree is one of the best.


You also need something to get you in the door. At most places that comes down to major, school, sometimes extracurriculars, and maybe GPA. And I'm talking in general btw, not WS-specific.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee

I am at LAC and sometimes I feel it's like an extended high school. Growing up in a country with decent high school education that really expects a lot from you I have to say taking all those art/psychology/religion/science classes that are super basic (and you can't even take higher level without prerequisite level 1 classes) while in college is a total waste of time. I hate the thought that I pay more than $50,000 for such easy classes that don't push me at all. No finance majors and no business school really sucks when it comes to OCR so if someone in high school asks me I would discourage them from going this route. After American high school it might be a good choice to create a more rounded individual, but if someone went to a top notch high school in the US or abroad LAC is a waste of money. Other than that many people have no clue about reality of getting jobs after graduation because they go to grad schools. Overall don't go to LAC if you want to work in finance. It can hurt your skills. You will take bunch of no-brainer classes that don't even push you to work hard.


@ krauser - you've pretty much pinpointed one of the current macro problems with the post secondary education system. More people are going to college than any other era and more and more STEM jobs are vacant. Creating incentives to take up programming in lieu or in addition to poly sci would help colleges, students, and the general economy. I'm not sure why the gov't has been more willing to take in huge numbers of foreigners (see: China) to train and employ in these fields while copping out of promoting it at home with the "we don't want to tell you how to run your lives" bullcrap. Kids already sit in front of computers, getting them involved in programming at an early age isn't hard.

Just a side note for those who think blue collar workers don't benefit from college: I was talking to some union carpenters while bartending last week and they told me about kids who had college degrees entering the union. For low level work, there wasn't much of a difference, but the kids had a way better grasp of the more complicated projects and functioned above the level of mere worker bee.

Personally, I think upgrading the educational system could realistically be upgraded to the point where everyone left high school with an associate dgree level of education. Then colleges could shorten their programs for many majors. I do not like the European system of assigning people to professional schools right out of secondary school, as it is too rigid and who the hell knows what they want to do when they're 17? I also do not have a problem with people working in fields they didn't study. So what if a psych/engineerin degree ends up in a bank, or an bio major goes into sales? If I'm paying for my education, I'll use it how I damn well please. If the gov't or anyone else wants to pick up the tab, then I'll pay them some mind.

Get busy living

Who would you rather sit and talk to over lunch? Someone who reads about the world or a propeller head?

Trick question, you're all bankers so you don't get back to work - value doesn't create itself.


Eh, people who extol the virtues of "reading about the world" are generally pretty douchy. I'll pick the guy who's funny and likes sports.


I went to a non-target and majored in a liberal arts field and it was a complete waste of time, albeit at the time I had no interest in finance. I finally got to where I want to be but it took a while, deservedly so, convicing people that I could do/had a real interest in the work. If finance is the end goal, I'd major in finance/econ and minor in whatever field youre interested in provided it doesnt pull down your gpa.


Most schools have it as a LibArts major, some have it under business. Most people see it as a LibArts major.

The difference is, it's a respected degree in business. I think this has to do with it being business-related and the closest thing to a business degree at top schools like Harvard/Princeton/etc. Lots of people who went to top schools and then went into business have econ majors, so it's a well-worn course of study.

Also, it's quantitative, unlike Eng/His/etc

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer "Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee

I've thought about this quite a bit because I was a STEM major but I absolutely HATED STEM work and totally suck at it (but still graduated with a 3.6 #gradeinflation).

Ironically, I could have taken English and Philosophy in college and I think I would be able to do my job (in a CS field no less, I basically taught myself since the CS courses at my college could be pretty esoteric and abstract and were not in practical languages (who uses C++ anymore?)). But I could never have sold it to anyone.

Because companies don't make long term commitments to anyone and people no longer make long term commitments to their employers, basically we're all contractors slinging a product: our labor. STEM helps you sell that out of college.

Major in whatever you want. Just make sure you have something to sling when you graduate that isn't crack rocks.


I've thought about this quite a bit because I was a STEM major but I absolutely HATED STEM work and totally suck at it (but still graduated with a 3.6 #gradeinflation).

Ironically, I could have taken English and Philosophy in college and I think I would be able to do my job (in a CS field no less, I basically taught myself since the CS courses at my college could be pretty esoteric and abstract and were not in practical languages (who uses C++ anymore?)). But I could never have sold it to anyone.

Because companies don't make long term commitments to anyone and people no longer make long term commitments to their employers, basically we're all contractors slinging a product: our labor. STEM helps you sell that out of college.

Major in whatever you want. Just make sure you have something to sling when you graduate that isn't crack rocks.

Really agree with this sentiment. I took a few "STEM" classes and the only one I found enjoyable (and it's completely useless), was Calc I & II because we learned them in a "classical" sense (pencil paper only).

Also, on philosophy, it can be a very hard major. Remember taking a phil class on logic and had to learn logic proofs for intro level. Analytical philosophy is just a whole different level of thinking.

Anyways, just remembered an interesting comment; is it true that IB analysts in UK typically study the classics in UG? I heard from a kid that I interned with awhile ago that went to school there that many of the kids in finance had done classics majors(like Latin, philosophy, etc). Does anyone else know anything about this?

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought which they seldom use.

Go to a school that allows students to have a "liberal arts" curriculum (i.e. they're not forced to only/mostly take classes in their department) to pick up all those soft skills/culture/mindset while majoring in STEM. Problem solved. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, but took still classes in economics, finance, sociology, philosophy, religion, music theory, and two foreign languages.

You can do this at pretty much all the top schools in the U.S.