Liberal Arts Degree Program Information

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Liberal arts programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Some associate's programs in liberal arts or liberal studies specifically prepare students for transfer to 4-year bachelor's programs. Degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels may allow students to choose concentrations from a large pool of subjects, like literature, classic literature, art history, philosophy, languages, visual arts or women's studies. A high school diploma or GED or equivalent and ACT or SAT scores are usually required for associate's and bachelor's degrees; a bachelor's degree and GRE scores are typically required for a master's degree; and a post-graduate degree or certificate is usually required for a doctoral degree.

Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts

An associate's degree program in liberal arts can be completed in two years, and it introduces students to topics in philosophy, literature and, in some cases, psychology or sociology. Some associate's degree programs allow students to choose a concentration area, such as visual arts or art history. The goal of an associate's degree program in liberal arts is to introduce concepts such as critical thinking and logic. Students sharpen their critical thinking ability while writing essays on novels, works of art and films.

During the first year of enrollment, general education courses are taken. The second year focuses on various disciplines of the liberal arts. Some possible courses include:

  • English
  • Philosophy
  • Music
  • Art history
  • History
  • Psychology

Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts

Offering a more broad-based introduction to the field of liberal arts, a bachelor's degree programs allow students to work with advisers to create a program of study. A Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts program encourages students to see the connections between several disciplines and to develop their analytical abilities by completing research projects, papers and presentations.

Usually the first two years of a bachelor's program are spent studying general education courses, while the second two years are spent on a specific topic or course of study. Some B.A. degree programs in liberal arts may allow students to double major in a social sciences area and a liberal arts subject. Possible courses include:

  • Cultural anthropology
  • Art and visual culture
  • Western civilization
  • American literature of the 20th century
  • World religions
  • Introduction to women's studies

Master of Arts in Liberal Arts

A Master of Arts in Liberal Arts degree program requires the completion of a set of core courses that introduce students to the field of liberal arts and its importance to professional life, communities and individuals. After completion of the core courses, students design a program of study that suits their interests and professional goals. This area of study could focus on some aspect of modern art, philosophy or literature, but students are encouraged to take courses from many different departments.

Classes are split between core courses and a designed program of study. Typically, these elective courses are completed during the second year of enrollment. Some possible classes include:

  • Human community and technology
  • Resolution, conflict and change
  • Professional life and the liberal arts
  • Morality or philosophy
  • Faith and reason
  • Visual arts

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Liberal Arts

Ph.D. degree programs in liberal arts did not exist until recently. However, many universities now offer them to students who wish to pursue an interdisciplinary approach to some area of interest in the liberal arts or the social sciences. Much like other Ph.D. degree programs, a dissertation and its defense is required to complete the degree. Some common liberal arts Ph.D. degree concentrations include human sexuality, philosophy, African studies, women's studies and comparative literature.

Research in a specific facet of the liberal arts comprises most of a student's work in a Ph.D. degree program. A student's interest may potentially lead them to enroll in courses that seem unrelated to their interests. Some possible courses include:

  • Postcolonial African art
  • Histories of the African self
  • Phenomenology
  • Justice and love
  • Economics of life
  • Sexuality and religion

Popular Career Options

Career options for graduates of an associate's degree program in liberal arts are limited. Graduates are encouraged to pursue positions that utilize skills learned in a liberal arts associate's degree program. Possible career outcomes include:

  • Administrative assistant
  • Public relations assistant
  • Marketing assistant

A bachelor's degree program in the liberal arts does not train graduates for a specific career. Grads are encouraged by liberal studies departments to identify their skills and apply them to professional careers. Some possible career outcomes include:

  • Writer
  • Editor
  • Publisher
  • Marketer
  • Business consultant
  • Administrative assistant

Graduates of a master's degree program can teach at the community college level if they specialized in an area such as philosophy, film history or writing. However, many grads choose to apply knowledge learned in a master's program to their own professional careers. Some career outcomes include:

  • Community college instructor
  • Event planner
  • Entrepreneur
  • Underwriter
  • Fundraiser
  • Editor

Many graduates of a liberal arts Ph.D. degree program enter into teaching positions with colleges and universities. However, there are other career avenues a graduate may pursue. Common job titles include:

  • University professor
  • Publisher
  • Speechwriter
  • Human resource manager
  • Contract negotiator

Liberal arts degrees provide a good foundation for careers in a variety of settings and often demonstrate a candidate's skills and talents in writing, communicating, and critical thinking. Degree-holders often pursue careers including professors, publishers, fundraisers, editors, and other similar professions.

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