General Studies Degree

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Degree in General Studies

A degree in general studies confers upon a student standard knowledge in a broad range of subjects. Students pursuing a general education degree will study a wide variety of topics. The degree is often used by individuals unsure of what major to pursue and is obtained at the associate level. Bachelor and master degrees are also available, though their purpose is more career oriented. Associate level degrees in general education provide students with the course work and knowledge necessary to transfer to a four year institution, at which point a student will declare their major.

Why Earn a General Education Degree?

The reasons for a student to pursue a general education degree in college comes down to choice.  Your choice can be rooted in the desire to learn about the world through a broad-based education with a holistic-thinking methodology.  Likewise, you may be inspired to learn about disparate topics concurrently to keep your creative juices flowing.

Diving into organic chemistry followed by a philosophical debate in metacognition may be ideal for some students.  The unique worldview and critical thinking skills garnered in a general education degree program may help students thrive in a solar technology start-up or a public relations firm by plying a unique set of thinking skills.

What is Included in a General Studies Degree?

General education courses are geared to provide students with a wide variety of classes from several academic areas.  Rather than a narrowly defined specialization, general education courses are diverse.  The first two years of a general education degree program, you will take lower-level classes in areas like:

  • Creative Art – fine arts, speech, fine arts, creative writing
  • Humanities – literature, language, history, philosophy
  • Social Science – sociology, economics, political science, anthropology
  • Science – physics, chemistry, biology, environmental science

The most popular general education degree you will find at accredited colleges is the bachelor's degree.  A bachelor's degree can be found at most schools as either a Bachelor's of Science (BS) or a Bachelor's of Arts (BA).  The bachelor's degree in general studies provides a relevant, foundational education for students.

Courses will generally include a number of classes in humanities, hard sciences, social sciences, and art.  General education degree programs are not designed to train students for a specific career track unlike specialty degree programs like, cosmetology, welding, or nursing.   Rather, general studies helps build latent skills to help you think broadly, critically analyze situations, efficiently process information, and communicate effectively with others.

Is a General Studies Degree Relevant?

Taking decades of data from general education college graduates, researchers sought to determine the relevancy of a general education degree.  In short, the answer is YES a general studies degree has been proven to be quite relevant.  The most widely cited report to support this axiom was from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Data culled during the BLS' massive study provided concrete evidence of the value of a college degree.

The graph depicts a very strong correlation between job stability and income with education attainment.  In other words, the greater level of education attained by an individual the higher the income with less time spent unemployed.  Data from the BLS illustrates that a person with a bachelor degree makes 2 times someone with a high school diploma on average.

Further, that same individual with a bachelor's degree will be unemployed a factor of three times less.  Regardless of industry or sector in the economy, the fact remains that a college education pays for the upfront investment.  From a sheer statistical standpoint, general education degrees are conferred to in excess of 100,000 students every year in the U.S.

Online General Education College Degree

Online learning or distance learning is the fastest growing learning modality within higher education.  Given the quality, structure, flexibility, and independence offered via online learning, it is expected to outpace other degree types going forward.  Earning a general education degree online appears to be following in lockstep.

To put a finer point on the data, online general education degrees are the 8th most popular online degree conferred.   Students considering a general education degree may be motivated to take distance learning classes given the facts at hand.  To help you better understand online learning, you can search for online colleges and degrees with our school finder.  Alternatively, we have culled a robust list of online college degree resources to research in-depth.


Using General Studies to Become a Teacher

Individuals pursuing higher level degrees may do so with the interest of pursuing a career in teaching. Bachelor degrees in general education offer study in a broad range of topics, and can be useful for educators who wish to be flexible in their ability to teach classes. A bachelor of general education will typically lead into a master of general education, which may cover requirements of licensure in certain states for elementary and secondary educators.

Benefits of a General Studies Degree

If you are wondering why general studies degrees are valuable in the workplace, you should consider the facts.  General education degrees help students prepare for jobs from automotive manufacturing to a software start-up and everything in between.

According to the United States Department of Education, the percentage of students finding full-time employment within the first 12 of graduation increased across all general education specialties between 1975 through current. From an earnings standpoint, salaries from social sciences increased by 62% during this same reporting period versus an average of 26% growth for engineering majors.

Top Skills Learned in General Education

The depth and breadth of a general studies degree will help students make an immediate impact and contribute in unique ways in the workplace which is highly valued by employers across all industries.  Typical skills of a general education major include:

  • An adaptable and flexible mindset
  • Effective written communication & verbal communication skills
  • Attention to detail and critical thinking ability
  • Empathy for others
  • Balanced education in humanities, science, and the arts
  • Strong work ethic & commitment to team goals
  • Eager to learn & independent thinking
  • Multi-faceted problem-solving skills & analytic skills
  • Quality communication with people at all levels of an organization
  • Motivated, goal-oriented, and willing to take initiative

Difference Between General Studies, Liberal Arts, and Humanities Degrees

Do you know the difference between a general studies degree, a liberal arts degree, and a humanities degree?  The short answer is based on the curricular emphasis of the degree.  A more comprehensive answer for each type of degree is listed below.  Utilize this information to navigate your college choices effectively and optimize your skills in one of the following degree paths.

  • General Studies Degree can be offered in a variety of ways with some schools allowing students to pick and choose varying number of classes in science, art, and humanities while other schools offer structure classes in a more rigid manner.
  • Liberal Arts Degree is a degree type that includes a variety of academic disciplines into a singular degree.  Libera arts emphasizes an expansive breadth of study versus a narrowly focused degree track.  Essential academic elements of a liberal arts degree include classes in biological sciences, art, physical sciences, literature, social sciences, and humanities.
  • Humanities Degree is a program that allows students to study language, music, religion, art, literature, and philosophy.  Most frequently students will have minimal mandatory courses in physical sciences and biological sciences within a humanities degree program.

Employment Opportunities for General Studies Majors

Careers with a degree in general education can vary, as many entry level positions require a degree rather than a specific degree. For individuals unsure of where their pursuits lie, even a bachelor's degree in general education can be useful for pursuing multiple career options. Due to the nature of the degree, graduate programs in social sciences and liberal arts may also be available.

A graduate degree in education can result in administrative positions. A master of general education can be useful for an educator who wishes to make the jump from teacher to administration. Since administrative positions in public school systems typically require a master's degree in a related field, general education can substitute for educational administration degrees, demonstrating a desire to focus on educational issues rather than administrative ones.  Students interested in general education may also be interested in liberal arts or humanistic studies.

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