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Advantages & Disadvantages of a Liberal Arts Education

by Sarah L. Harrer, Demand Media

    Picking a college is a daunting task if you aren't sure what career path you want to follow after graduation. A liberal arts college provides opportunities in several fields, making students creative thinkers and problem solvers. This type of education promotes a well-rounded, diverse background and opens a student up to a world of careers without limiting them to one particular field. A university education, however, offers more high-tech equipment, high-profile professors and the ability for you to focus on your chosen field of study.

    Definition

    A liberal arts education provides all of the fundamentals necessary to survive in a changing workplace. You take core classes in fields like sociology, anthropology, mathematics and science to build a foundation that prepares you for life in the real world. This type of education is meant to build a well-rounded student who not only is an expert in her chosen field, but also an excellent critical thinker and competent writer.

    Class Size/Faculty Access

    The liberal arts education provides a smaller, more personalized approach for your college experience. Class sizes are relatively small, allowing students access to professors and giving them the ability to interact with each other more, both in and out of the classroom. In a larger research university, classes may have up to 500 students in a lecture hall, and you typically don't have a relationship with the professor. University professors are under pressure to keep up with research trends and gain grants and national accreditation for the university, which leaves less time for the personal mentoring of undergraduate students.

    Broad Versus Focused

    Students receiving a liberal arts education have to take a broad range of classes, requiring them to learn not only about the subjects in their majors, but also about writing, critical thinking and mathematics. A liberal arts student who is a biology major also is takes classes in public speaking, composition and philosophy, giving those students the ability to write more comprehensive lab reports and communicate their research to an audience in an organized manner. A university student focuses more on the major area of study, taking more science classes that relate to the profession or intended graduate program.

    Funding

    A major disadvantage of a liberal arts education is the lack of funding available for cutting edge equipment and research materials. For example, science students at liberal arts colleges don't have access to the same expensive microscopes or computers as students at a university.. The library at a liberal arts college may not have the vast selection of old and new materials available for research. Universities draw in nationally recognized field experts who can teach students from their real life experiences and who have research funding to continue their studies. Liberal arts colleges have professors who have a great passion for their chosen field, but they may not have the same credentials or outside connections.

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    About the Author

    Sarah L. Harrer has more than eight years of experience as an editor at Thomson Reuters. She has edited titles such as "Lindey on Entertainment, Publishing and the Arts," and written several continuing education manuals. Harrer's work has also been published in "The Pioneer" and "The Angle." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from St. John Fisher College.

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