Human+ Skills for the Future of Work

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Some say that STEM skills are the most critical skills in the age of automation. Others think only the uniquely “human” skills of the liberal arts will survive.


We believe it’s both. The most valuable workers now, and in the future, are those who combine technical knowledge with human skills.


Rather than pit a college education against workforce training, we advocate integrating both in the learning process. Learn more in Robot Ready: Human+ Skills for the Future of Work

Key Findings


Human skills, like leadership, communication, and problem solving, are among the most in-demand skills in the labor market.


Human skills are applied differently across career fields and must be effectively translated in terms of their relevance and application within a given field.


Liberal art grads should add technical skills. There is considerable demand for workers who complement their human skills with basic technical skills like data analysis and digital fluency.


Human+ skills are at work in a variety of fields. Human skills help liberal arts grads thrive in many career areas, including marketing, public relations, technology, and sales.

“As technology continues to advance, the line between soft and hard skills is disappearing. What matters is whether a skill is ‘human’ or can be performed by machines,” says Michelle Weise, Ph.D., chief innovation officer at Strada Institute for the Future of Work, a new research and development lab within Strada Education Network. “Our analysis of liberal arts graduates offers all disciplines a case study on how to future-proof workers: obliterating the false choice between technical and liberal arts education, and providing graduates with the tools they need to more effectively translate their skills to the world of work.”


From their first job to their third job, liberal arts graduates commonly transition into high-skill, high-demand careers in marketing, advertising, public relations, management, and human resources and out of low-wage jobs in food preparation and customer service, for example.

Liberal arts grads then hit their stride later in their careers, experiencing rapid wage growth in their late 30s and early 40s—the fastest among majors. They have solid earnings and consistently outstrip certain career-oriented majors, but they don’t ever catch up to STEM majors in earnings.

Authors and Contributors

Michelle R. Weise, Ph. D.

Author Long Life Learning

Andrew Hanson

Director of Research
Strada Education Network

Rob Sentz

Chief Innovation Officer

Yustina Saleh, Ph. D.

Senior Vice President of Analytics

Strada Institute advances our understanding of the changing nature of work, so that we can design and create the learning ecosystem of the future.

As a labor market analytics company, Emsi uses data from a large number of sources to connect people, education, and work.


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