I did a liberal arts degree. It was English and history. And when I finished, I had no damn clue what to do with it. I guess I thought I might be a teacher, but I graduated into the worst teacher job market that ever existed.
So I ended up working as a landscaper, a waiter, and a bunch of other terrible jobs.
I was pretty sure that my liberal arts degree didn’t actually qualify me for anything, which is why I eventually went back and got a master’s degree and then a PhD. That didn’t help either.
But something has been happening in the last 10 to 15 years. Tech has been rising. And while you could have probably made the case 20 years ago that a liberal arts degree was valuable, there’s no doubt that a liberal arts degree can be the ticket to a ridiculously high-paying tech job if you play your cards right.
In this post, I want to walk you through 10 high-paying tech jobs for liberal arts grads. There’s something here for everyone. And let me tell you from experience, working in tech can be super fun. You can use your creativity, your personality, and your problem-solving skills to do great things.
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Thanks to builtin.com for the salary data you see here!
1. Content Strategist
Average Base Salary: $76,000 Freelance rate: $50-250/hr
We begin with the skill that started it all. Writing. Content writing is in super high demand. Tech companies need writers to write blog posts, emails, social media posts, and more. And, even though everybody thinks they can write, it’s damn hard to find good writers.
You see, great content writers don’t just write essays. They have to find ways to make content sing, so the audience stands up and takes notice. It also doesn’t hurt if they have some SEO chops, so that they know what type of content Google is looking for.
How to become a content writer
I’d love to tell you to just hang out a shingle as a freelancer or start applying for jobs, but here’s an unfortunate truth. Your liberal arts degree probably taught you a lot you can transfer, and I’m sure you learned to write, but it’s unlikely you can write content in a way that tech companies are looking for.
Academic writing, the kind you do in your classes, is structured, verbose, and f-ing boring.
Good content needs a voice. It needs energy. For most of us, the way we speak is closer to great content than the way we write.
You’ll need to practice unlearning what you learned in college. Write short, snappy things. Use contractions. Break the rules.
Above all, you need to understand the nuances of the platform you are writing for.
If you are writing for social media, you need to have an understanding of how individual social platforms work.
Really, the best way to get this experience is to start playing around. I think starting a blog has been the best education I could have ever had. I get to write, and I get to watch the analytics to see what works. You could also pitch to websites and blogs for writing opportunities, everybody needs content. This will give you a chance to create your portfolio.
The good news? Once you master this, you can make a lot of money.
Average Base Salary: $70,000 Freelance Rate: $50-$250/hr
Copywriting is a cousin to content writing. And if you can do both, you’ve got a pretty great skill set.
Copywriting is an art. If content writing is made to help people learn and fall in love with your brand, copywriting is the art of persuading them to buy.
We often think of bad copywriting, “But wait… there’s more!” It’s cringe-worthy and almost a joke.
But good copywriting is smooth like jazz. It makes you feel something, and you don’t even really know you are being sold to. People who can do this are masters and in very high demand.
How to become a copywriter
It’s unlikely you will be a great copywriter without studying the principles of copywriting. Just like a great chef needs to first understand the rules before they can bend them, a great copywriter needs to know their crafts inside and out.
Then they can do really great things. So take some courses. Here are a few you could start with if you have a skillshare membership:
- Copywriting For Beginners: How To Write Web Copy That Sells Without Being Cheesy
- Copywriting Basics for Successful Sales: Time-Tested Tactics that Prompt Action
3. Product Manager
Average Base Salary: $123,000
Product manager is one of the hottest jobs in tech. And liberal arts grads often have the combination of project management skills, people skills, and creative skills to be good at it.
Product managers have to be super flexible, and no two project managers have the same job. That’s because they basically just need to own the process of product creation, which might include a ton of different disciplines like overseeing teams running research and development, user experience, coding, and branding.
Basically, product managers are people who can get shit done. And to do that, they need to understand the entire lifecycle of a product and how to keep teams on target to finish on time and on budget.
Whatever your field is, look for ways to leverage your own skill set into product management. If you have a life science degree, you might look for biotech startups–especially if you have an advanced degree.
If you’re creative, you might be interested in managing a new photo-sharing app. There are enough products out there for everybody!
How to become a product manager
Some product managers get hired right out of school! But chances are, you might need to grow your chops before moving on to a product manager role. Look for other roles in marketing, development, or UX that will help me get a taste of how does product management works.
Look for opportunities to work alongside a product manager and try to learn from them. It may take a couple of years to reach product manager status, but since you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year at top companies, it might be worth the climb!
4. User Experience Designer
Average Base Salary: $92,000
User experience research, commonly known as UX, is the process of figuring out how customers use your product or service, and how to make that experience better.
People who run User Experience testing and design do a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research–either mastering how to use data to test what users want or else doing in-depth interviews and exploration 1:1 or with small groups of users.
This means that great UX designers could come from any liberal arts background, whether you love people or data, there’s probably a place for you.
How to get into UX
There are a lot of general UX courses out there, but most of the UX designers I know say that courses are okay for building knowledge, but that they probably aren’t going to impress an employer.
A lot of people get hired into UX from out of school too, so there’s a good chance your education is fine. If you want to get into UX focus instead on networking with people in design roles.
And, if you’re going to teach yourself some skills, teach yourself the hard skills that will help you be successful in UX.
If you have a Skillshare account, there are some great UX courses there! For example, User Experience Design Essentials – Adobe XD UI UX Design
I also did an interview with Alaina Talboy, PhD, who talked about her journey from a Cognitive Neuroscience PhD to Design Researcher at Microsoft. Check it out here!
5. Creative Director
Average Base Salary: $142,000
You might have been a creative type, maybe studying art in your liberal arts degree. If you’ve got an eye for art and design, you might be a good fit for one of the many creative roles out there. Here I’ll talk about creative directors.
Creative directors oversee the entire creative strategy of a new product or even a new brand. They make sure there’s a cohesive vision and work to unify the visuals, copy, and design to present a beautiful finished product. Creative directors often need soft skills too, to bring people together, listen to them, and create a successful brand together!
How to become a creative director
Full disclosure, you might not become a creative director until you get a few years in the industry. It takes some chops, so you might have to start in a graphic design or another creative role.
Once you can build your portfolio and experience, you can move up into these more senior roles. Do make sure you network with creative directors and find out how their careers have gone and build your hard skills in graphic design.
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6. Front-End Developer
Average Base Salary: $105,240 Freelance:$40-150/hr
A front-end developer is a person who builds what you see on a website or an app. While developing isn’t a career many liberal arts grads think about, it can actually fit really well. For people on the science and math sides, coding has a lot of carry-overs.
But even people who are artsy are often surprised that they love developing once they pick it up–the practice of creating something amazing visually with code.
How to become a Front-End Developer
You’re going to have to learn some languages: and your French literature course might not help (or hey, maybe it will! If you can learn foreign languages you can learn to code).
Try a boot camp to learn CSS or HTML first–which are the two most common styling languages for front-end developers. Some of these courses offer certificates, and while that’s not nothing, what’s even more convincing for potential employers is a portfolio of stuff you’ve built.
So as you go, make sure you get your hands dirty building some projects!
7. Software Engineer
Average Base Salary: $120,000
Front end = coding stuff users see. Back-end = coding stuff people don’t see.
There’s a lot of tech words that get thrown around: front-end developer, back-end developer, full-stack developer (that’s both), software engineer, back-end engineer.
The lipstick of the product is the front end. The guts of how it works is the back end. And it takes different languages to make it function. If you’re going to be a back-end developer, you gotta learn some languages too. You’ll add things like Python, PhP, or Ruby to your arsenal.
Software engineers are people who oversee the whole thing, understanding the big picture goals of whatever is being created. They might oversee full-stack developers, but also understand where a particular project sits in the bigger scope of a company’s goals and offerings.
Software engineers are big picture thinkers, and that’s what might make liberal arts grads perfect–once they can learn the languages and get some experience under their belt.
How to become a Software Engineer
If your education didn’t include anything relating to software engineering, you are probably looking at coding bootcamps, teaching yourself, and working your way up.
You could get additional certifications like AWS, and work on your leadership and project management skills. Most software engineers still need to have full-stack knowledge, so again, learning to code will be vital!
8. SEO Specialist
Average Base Salary: $53,000 Freelance: $40-250/hr
An SEO specialist is someone who knows the ins and outs of search engine optimization–that is, helping a site rank high on Google when someone searches.
Since companies want to rank high, it’s an in-demand role right now. SEO specialists usually focus on one of two things: the technical side of SEO (site speed, cleaning up dead links, security, etc.), and the content itself (including keywords, structured writing for search engines, etc.).
There’s a weird discrepancy between salaried and freelance SEO specialists, and I think it’s probably because virtually every company with a website needs some SEO, but very only big companies will have SEOs on staff.
Many companies will only hire SEOs for a few hours each week or month to keep their website ranking, so SEOs who choose to freelance may make quite a bit more.
How to become an SEO Specialist
You need to learn the art of SEO, which isn’t particularly hard. It just takes a bit of knowledge of how webpages are structured and how Google works.
You might also familiarize yourself with SEO tools like ahrefs or Moz. When I started SEO, I took a course on Skillshare Introduction to SEO: Tactics and Strategy for Entrepreneurs, and that got me going.
It helps if you have a website to play around on as you learn so you can see what’s working and what doesn’t–which is one more reason you should start a blog!
9. Digital Marketing Manager
Average Base Salary: $85,000
Digital marketing managers grow the customer base and help get eyes on a company’s product or service. The role of digital marketing and acquiring customers online is growing each year, and if you can master the art of attracting attention you might be ready for a career in digital marketing.
Digital marketing can take a lot of different forms. You might go from implementing SEO strategies to planning a TikTok takeover, from Facebook ads to website funnels to email sequences.
There’s a lot to know, and the digital marketing landscape changes daily, but it’s a perfect career for creative people who love to tell stories and communicate.
How to become a Digital Marketing Manager
If you want to become a digital marketing manager, you’ll need to learn digital marketing. There are lots of resources and courses you can turn to in order to grow your skill set, which you’ll find everywhere from YouTube to HubSpot to Skillshare.
Build a portfolio of your work, or even create your own website to learn some skills. And if you have trouble landing a role as a digital marketing manager, consider a different job to put you on the path: ie. a social media marketer or ads specialist.
10. Data Scientist
Average Base Salary: $123,400
Our online world is producing millions of pieces of data every day, and data science is a quickly-growing space that helps companies make sense of all this data. Data isn’t just the stuff that gets collected and stored on a server somewhere, it’s the stuff of life to help businesses grow.
Good data analysis has the power to give companies insights into how their product works, how they could sell more, new markets they haven’t thought about yet, and more.
That means that data scientists are in high demand, in fields across the map, from SAS companies to biotech startups to government. Everyone has data they need to understand.
How to become a data scientist
Your liberal arts degree might have given you some of the theoretical foundations and the soft skills to become a data scientist. But there’s a good chance you’ll need to upskill into specific areas.
This would include learning a programming language like Python or R if you haven’t, both of which are common in data science, to help you learn to code and analyze data. You probably also need algorithms and stats. There’s a great (and free) guide here on Github.
You might also work on a portfolio to demonstrate skills like data analysis or data visualization. (You could host your work for free on Github.) Of course, you might consider other data analysis or programming jobs to give you “paid training” in the skills you need to move towards being a data scientist.
So these are my 10 high-paying tech jobs for liberal arts grads! If you’re just finishing your degree, I hope these give you an idea for where to start! I’ve been playing around with content and digital marketing for years now, and it’s been the best place to use the skills I gained from my liberal arts undergrad. Good luck!