To college and university students searching for a major, there are potential benefits to both arts degrees and science degrees. Arts degrees provide students with a background in writing, communications and critical thinking about social issues which can lead to a wide variety of jobs in the public or private sector, or can be good preparatory work for a professional degree such as law. Science degrees offer an opportunity for hands-on laboratory work and a more direct career path, potentially one on the cutting-edge of advanced research.
In most universities, arts degrees are awarded for studying the humanities and the social sciences, like English literature, economics, geography, history, philosophy, political science, sociology and anthropology. At university, courses in these areas tend to be heavily oriented towards lecture-based class delivery and written assignments like book reviews and term papers. This sort of degree can be particularly enjoyable for people who like book-based research, writing, and debating controversial issues, including how different groups of people think about themselves and organize their societies.
Typically, there is no direct career path following from a particular arts major. Depending on a person’s interests and ambitions, this can be either a benefit or a drawback. The communication and analytical skills learned in an arts program can be excellent preparation for a wide variety of roles as analysts and managers in both the public and private sectors. People with arts degrees can succeed in all manner of careers, from authors to politicians. In addition, many people begin with an arts degree before moving on to some form of specialized professional training. Students often begin studying political science before moving on to law school, for instance.
Science degrees, in contrast, are awarded for programs which involve the careful study of the physical and life sciences, like physics, chemistry and biology. Many large universities have a variety of additional science departments, including computer science, neuroscience and geology. These programs usually give students the opportunity for laboratory-based, hands-on training as part of their coursework in addition to attending lectures. It can be particularly rewarding for people who are interested in careful and methodical research into how the natural world works, or, in the case of computer science and mathematics, how to capture and manipulate highly abstract mathematical concepts.
A science degree is not the same as a guaranteed job, but typically there are more direct paths from science degrees to careers than there are for arts degrees. Students who begin in science may go on to conduct advanced research in the area of their major, or train to become laboratory workers, pharmacists, computer programmers and so on. Students who begin with a general science degree may also go on to an advanced and specialized program like medicine. Indeed, many universities now have either formal or informal “pre-med” options for students who plan to apply to medical school after studying towards a science degree.
There are potential benefits to both arts degrees and science degrees, depending on the interests of the student and their hopes for careers after their schooling is completed. Both offer the opportunity for advanced study at the graduate level, as well as solid preparation for the job market. New college students should carefully weigh which potential benefits of arts degrees and science degrees matter most to them before making a decision about what coursework they will take.