Take It From One of the World’s Richest Men: A History Major is Worth It

Of course, it helps if you inherit the Seagram’s fortune, but Edgar Bronfman, Sr. believes that much of his success goes back to his decision to major in History:

Edgar M. Bronfman
Edgar M. Bronfman (in a 1989 photo) – Wikimedia

As college students begin to think about selecting their majors, they may be influenced by the many reports coming out this time of year that tell them which majors provide the highest post-college earning potential. Last month, PayScale released its 2013-2014 report, lauding math, science and business courses as the most profitable college majors.

My advice, however, is simple, but well-considered: Get a liberal arts degree. In my experience, a liberal arts degree is the most important factor in forming individuals into interesting and interested people who can determine their own paths through the future….

In my own life, after studying history at Williams College and McGill University, I spent my entire career in business, and was fortunate to experience success. Essential to my success, however, was the fact that I was engaged in the larger world around me as a curious person who wanted to learn. I did not rely only on business perspectives. In fact, it was a drive to understand and enjoy life — and be connected to something larger than myself in my love of reading, learning, and in my case, studying and learning about Judaism — that allows me, at 84, to see my life as fully rounded.

Bronfman (one of Forbes’ richest men in America) also emphasizes the liberal arts’ ability to cultivate essential skills like critical thinking (“The ability to think clearly and critically — to understand what people mean rather than what they say — cannot be monetized, and in life should not be undervalued”) and to form individuals who can keep up with a fast-changing economy:

…the work place of the future requires specialized skills that will need not only educated minds, but adaptable ones.

That adaptability is where a liberal arts degree comes in. There is nothing that makes the mind more elastic and expandable than discovering how the world works. Developing and rewarding curiosity will be where innovation finds its future.

You can find Bronfman’s complete essay at Inside Higher Ed. (And read how one of our own majors explained how his historical studies paved the way for a successful career in business.)

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