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Choice Careers for Liberal Arts Graduates

By Marty Nemko

After I graduated from college with a liberal arts degree, I felt like an imposter—“I don’t know anything. Why should anyone want to hire me?

But now, having been career counselor to 2,400 people, I know that many wonderful options exist for liberal arts graduates. Of course, one career seeker’s ambrosia is another’s hemlock, but here are quick hits on careers that many liberal arts graduates find rewarding.

Student affairs administrator. This career has nothing to do with steamy dorm room flings. Student affairs administrators coordinate the non-academic part of student life: from orientation to graduation. They may supervise fraternities, coordinate residence hall programs and intramural sports. College campuses are great places to work: beautiful, stimulating, plus, the workload usually lightens dramatically between semesters and during the summers. For more info: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators:

Grant proposal writer. These practical dreamers convince government agencies and foundations to bankroll their ideas for improving the world. It’s a great career for creative types who want to make a difference. For more info: The Grantmanship Center:

Political campaign manager. Everyone who runs for office, from school board member to president of the United States needs a campaign manager. They research opinions and voting patterns, help develop the candidate’s themes, plan fundraisers, coordinate direct mail and Web site, hire staff, train volunteers, excite the media, and even help design the campaign button. It’s an exciting job: You’re in charge of a winner-take all contest that can make a difference. For more info: Catherine Shaw’s book, The Campaign Manager.

Journalist. The pen indeed is mightier than the sword, especially now. The media has enormous influence over how we think, act, and who we vote for. The job market is tough but if you write well and quickly and have a nose for digging up information, you should be able to land a job, at least in a small-circulation print or Web publication. To build chances for obtaining a better paying job, consider specializing in an area likely to remain of compelling interest, for example: education, China, ethnic issues, terrorism, the environment, the Middle East, health, or technology. For more info: Society of Professional Journalists:

Mediator. A landlord refuses to return a tenant’s security deposit. A divorcing couple is fighting over who should get what. An employee is claiming racial discrimination, which her boss vehemently denies. To avoid expensive litigation, ever more disputants are turning to mediators. For more info:

Fundraiser. These are of three types. Cultivators stage events such as galas and celebrity auctions to warm up potential donors and bring in a few bucks. Prospect researchers create dossiers of warmed-up fat cats, which harvesters then use in building a relationship with them so they fork over ever larger donations. For more info: Association of Fundraising Professionals:

Advice I’d Give My Child. Try to sell your liberal arts degree as a plus: it taught you the crucial job skills of thinking, writing, and oral communication. Sometimes, as with you, it’s true.

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