As a Liberal Arts Major, Do Not Forget the Hard Skills

When applying for jobs or graduate schools, or even for your interest, the following eight hard skills can set you apart from the pack in the resume and interview department.

By Al Dickenson — December 7, 2022

As a Liberal Arts Major, Do Not Forget the Hard Skills

What hard skills have you mastered?

Regardless of your career path, the term "hard skills" will likely arise in the job description and interview if you are interested. As liberal arts majors, hard skills are not something we tend to gravitate towards. Degrees in English, music, philosophy, psychology, education, and history rely on critical thinking, writing, analysis, presentation skills, and quantitative measurements.

However, individuals with those degrees receive many positions which require more hard skills than soft ones and more quantitative abilities than qualitative ones. When applying for jobs or graduate schools, or even for your interest, the following eight hard skills can set you apart from the pack in the resume and interview department.

Survey Design and Software:

Though some college degrees may require some work in surveys, most do not. Courses in communication and psychology will likely require some sourcing of outside data for analysis. A philosophy major will unlikely need to design a survey in class. In the working world, however, if that philosophy major wishes to work in public relations, policy, lobbying firms, or politics, surveying your clients and constituents could prove useful in making a bigger impact on their lives and servicing their needs more effectively.

Quantitative Analysis:

Most positions require some level of quantitative reasoning. Often these tasks are completed by a computer automatically, but I am sure we have all been in a situation where the computer does not properly complete the task. This is where you step in as a quantitative reasoner. In a bind, having the ability to place numbers together cohesively and thoughtfully may prove useful. Perhaps you are researching data gathered from a recent survey your organization offered, or perhaps you are studying 18th-century Georgian farmers and want the average land they farmed. Whatever the case, your willingness to step in and piece digits together may give you a leg up in the interview and practical situations.

Web Design:

Websites are things we use every day. Who designs all of them? People like you! Learning web design platforms, like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or others, sets you apart from other applicants. It will also give you a better appreciation of the items you use daily. Marketers, journalists, PR/ policy firms, social media users, product, project, and supply chain managers all use CMSs (Content Management Systems) in their daily work.

These professions draw applicants from various fields, including business and advertising, English majors, and communication majors. As a music major, perhaps a position in a music library or database may interest you. If you desire to navigate the sources better you have on hand, having a basic understanding of web design and administration can assist you greatly in your professional and personal journey. If you can take a basic web design and creation class, seriously consider it.


Canva is any college student's best friend. There are a few free online tools out there that can match the versatility and usefulness of Canva. From designing presentations to laying out posters, crafting email campaigns to organizing your numerical analysis, there is not much that Canva cannot do to help you. Its near universal name recognition and fairly intuitive web platform makes it a top priority for those interested in any public-facing product design, be they album covers or newspapers.

Microsoft Office:

By now, most of us are probably familiar with Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. These are tools that permeate most aspects of our professional and personal lives. However, what do you know about Microsoft Publisher? Or Access? Many people may never have even heard about some of these products. But with Microsoft's offer to allow anyone with a “.edu” email address to acquire these programs for free, it may be worth taking a little extra time and learning a bit about them. Publisher is similar to Canva, and Access is a database administration software. Combined with several other Microsoft programs, users can become certified. Bottom line: an additional certification never hurts anyone in their career path.

Adobe Creative Suite:

Most people have opened PDFs before and are likely to have done so through Adobe Acrobat. The Adobe Creative Suite offers a host of other programs which can be useful to liberal arts majors. If your focus is communication, English, or PR, learning some graphic design skills in InDesign may be beneficial to get your message across to the audience. If your goal is to photograph historic sites or animals in their natural habitat, baseline knowledge in Photoshop could prove useful. Film majors, music majors, and other arts-minded individuals may discover the usefulness of programs like AfterEffects and Soundbooth. Explore both Microsoft and Adobe Suites. You never know what part of your intended profession may benefit from learning their methods.


If ever you plan on working on a product or project that is public-facing, in all likelihood, you will encounter SalesForce. This program is the backbone of many marketing and sales teams, as it is a vital customer relations management system (CRM). While perhaps more geared toward business students, many English or communication majors work in marketing or similar fields. Having the knowledge and ability to use one of the foremost tools of the trade can undoubtedly help you make an impact on your next role.

Social Media for Professional Purposes:

Chances are you've used a social media platform before. Posting about life events, gatherings, and social occasions is perfectly normal in today's world and even to be expected by some. However, have you ever taken the time to use social media in a professional context? Again, anytime you want to work in a public-facing environment, social media will definitely come into play.

This is not to say you need to start treating your Instagram account as a place of professional-only content should go (but you should always keep your posted content across social media appropriate). Next time you log on to Facebook or LinkedIn, take a moment to study the analytics of your feed or posts. Set a goal about how much content you will post in a week or a month, then study its reach, engagement, and impact. The knowledge you gather from these simple exercises can be beneficial because even if the data is not particularly relevant or useful, the core competencies you attain will be.

Hard skills as a liberal arts major do not need to be hard or scary for you to learn. Mastery of these skills is likewise not required (though that couldn't hurt either). The point is to set yourself apart from only having soft skills in your back pocket. As liberal arts majors, we all pride ourselves on being able to step into many realms of the mind and thinking processes, to be a Renaissance man (or woman), a polymath. Learning a skill or two from the above list, or one of your choosing, you can walk into a graduate school or job interview with confidence in your ability to debate 18th-century poetic classics from across the pond while demonstrating your prowess in the design-based world in which we live.

Al Dickenson

Al Dickenson

Al Dickenson graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College with bachelor’s degrees in history, communication, and English. He currently serves as an editor for an international equine practitioners’ magazine in and around Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his hometown, where he lives with his wife.
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