By Grace Austin

Does a college major really matter? A recent report by The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) says no. It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success summarized the findings of a national survey of business and nonprofit leaders.

Some points from the survey’s findings:

• Nearly all employers surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
• Even more (95 percent) say they prioritize hiring college graduates with skills that will help them contribute to innovation in the workplace.
• About 95 percent of those surveyed also say it is important that those they hire demonstrate ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning.
• More than 75 percent of those surveyed say they want more emphasis on five key areas including: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.
• Eighty percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.

AAC&U is a national association concerned with the status of undergraduate liberal education. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises nearly 1,300 member institutions—including public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

From January 9-13, 2013, Hart Research Associates conducted an online survey among 318 employers whose organizations have at least twenty-five employees and report that one quarter or more of their new hires hold either an associate degree from a two-year college or a Bachelor’s degree from a four-year college. Respondents were executives at private sector and nonprofit organizations, including owners, CEOs, presidents, C-suite level executives, and vice presidents.

“This latest survey reveals that the drum beat just continues to get louder and louder that colleges must prepare students with a broad array of skills and knowledge. We must provide all students—not just the most privileged—with an engaged liberal education that gives them knowledge as well as practice in applying knowledge effectively and ethically in the real world,” says AAC&U Vice President for Policy and Public Engagement Debra Humphreys. “Too many people are misleading students by telling them that narrow workforce training is most important. This survey suggests that long-term success and the ability to be promoted depends on more than a major.”