Liberal Arts Degree

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What is Liberal Arts?

An education in liberal arts was originally designed to provide a comprehensive education in the areas of study necessary in the days of antiquity for a person to be considered free.  Today, a liberal arts curriculum is still focused on providing a balanced, well-rounded education.  Students enrolled in a liberal arts degree will take classes in social sciences, natural sciences, creative writing, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Liberal arts majors are sought after for various positions after earning their degree.  Employers find the skills and knowledge acquired in a liberal arts degree to translate well into the workplace.  From solving complex problems to integrating well into an existing team, the soft and technical skills of a liberal arts major can mesh well in a variety of industries.

Why Earn a Liberal Arts Degree?

Why you may consider earning a liberal arts degree is ultimately a personal choice.  It may come down to your desire to learn about others and the world around you in a holistic manner versus specializing.  For some students, it may come down to the inherent satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from learning about the arts or various philosophical viewpoints while others may thrive in a technology start-up by plying a learned set of integrative thinking skills learned in school.

A liberal arts degree can be earned as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) with classes in a wide range of subjects including math, philosophy, English, history, literature, art history, economics, and sociology.  Unlike specialty degrees like civil  engineering or registered nursing, a liberal arts education is not designed to train you for a specific career.  A liberal arts education helps provide students with a set of valuable, marketable skills to help:

  • Effectively process information
  • Communicate effectively with others
  • Think broadly about issues
  • Critically assess the piece-parts of a problem
  • Synthesize relevant information into a coherent whole

What is Included in a Liberal Arts Education?

Liberal arts education is intended to provide students with a wide variety of classes from a number of academic disciplines.  By analyzing differing groups from a variety of perspectives through time provides students with a unique prospective applicable in everyday life.  A liberal arts education also helps students understand a variety of belief systems and ideas that helped shape the world around us.  From physical changes in the environment to art and psychology to business methodologies, a liberal arts major will have exposure to human nature through a unique lens.

Rather than a narrowly defined specialization, liberal arts is diverse and wide.  In the first two years of a liberal arts degree program, students will invest time taking a number of introductory courses in:

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

After taking a set of introductory courses, most liberal arts programs allow students to link similar classes together to specialize in a particular academic discipline.  By investing more time in a core concentration the final two years of the program, students will have a much deeper set of skills in that area of concentration supported by the variety of other coursework.

Is a Liberal Arts Degree Relevant?

Given decades of data from liberal arts graduates, the answer is yes a liberal arts degree is highly relevant.  A BA or BS in Liberal Arts is valuable in and of itself for the reasons mentioned prior plus it teaches students a set of heuristics or ways to think about the world around them.  Liberal arts majors will be equipped with desirable skills needed by political offices and high tech firms such as: problem solving, effective communication, listening skills, knowledge of language, integrated thinking, critical reasoning, literacy, math, and an innate desire to learn about others.

The BLS published a report indicating a direct correlation between education attainment, income, and job stability.  The data shows individuals with a bachelor’s degree makes more than twice what an individual without a high school diploma and enjoys nearly three times the job stability.  This data supports the fact that education pays across all industries and all job types.  It is important to understand that liberal arts majors are the second most popular college degree in the United States at around 300,000 graduates per year.

Benefits of a Liberal Arts Degree

If you are wondering why liberal arts degrees are valuable in the workplace, you should consider the facts.  Liberal arts programs are in demand from software development firms to research firms to consulting agencies across the country.  According to the United States Department of Education, the percentage of students finding full-time employment within the first twelve months of graduation increased across all liberal arts specialties between 1975 through current data.  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.

Given the breadth and depth of a liberal arts degree, students will be ready to contribute to the workplace in a variety of ways that are valued by employers across all industries.  Typical attributes and skills of a liberal arts major include the following list of characteristics:

  1. Quality communication with people at all levels of an organization
  2. Motivated, goal-oriented, and willing to take initiative
  3. Robust work ethic and commitment to team goals
  4. Attention to detail and critical thinking ability
  5. Empathy for others and valuing team member's points of view
  6. Balanced education in humanities, science, and social sciences
  7. Multi-faceted problem-solving skills and analytic skills
  8. Eager learning mentality and independent thinking ability
  9. An adaptable, flexibility mindset necessary in team settings
  10. Effective written communication and verbal communication skills

Top Online Liberal Arts Degrees

The fastest growing segment within higher education is the online learning or distance learning modality.  Given the structure, flexibility, independence, and quality of degrees offered, online learning is expected to continue to outpace other types of degree programs for the foreseeable future.

Earning a liberal arts degree online will be no different.   In fact, online liberal arts degree programs are one of the five most popular online degree programs in the United States.   If you are considering earning a liberal arts degree online this year, take the time to read our resources for online students and utilize our proprietary online degree matching tool to find the best school for you in seconds.

Difference Between Liberal Arts, General Studies, and Humanities Degrees

The difference between a liberal arts degree, a general studies degree, and a humanities degree comes down to the emphasis each place on particular academic subjects.  We have summarized each below to help you quickly understand each type of degree in order to compare and contrast using your priorities as a baseline.

  • Liberal Arts Degree is the type of college degree that combines various academic disciplines emphasizing a wide breadth of study instead of a narrowly focused type of study. The basics of a liberal arts program will typically include studies in: art, biological science, social science, humanities, physical science, and literature.
  • General Studies Degree can come 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 structure classes in a more rigid manner.
  • Humanities Degree is a degree path that emphasizes studies in literature, language, music, art, religion, and philosophy over studies in physical science or biological science found in a liberal arts degree.

Educational Requirements in Liberal Arts

A liberal arts degree provides a course of education that allows students to experience a cross section of academia. The degree is notable in that it educates students in the process of learning. The various skills provided include writing, research, analytic thinking, and speech. Unlike most degrees that prepare an individual to pursue a career in a particular field, a liberal arts degree provides a broad base of knowledge that can be appealing to potential employers as well as more focused graduate programs. Coursework in liberal arts is varied; some students will seek to specialize, while others may take in the broad spectrum of knowledge the degree covers. Such programs will include various science and humanities courses to fill out the curriculum.

Classes that may be offered include:

  • Contemporary Literature
  • Archaeology
  • Logic and Critical Reasoning
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Political Science
  • Modern Political Thought
  • Creative Writing & English Composition
  • Comparative Religion
  • Ethics
  • Principles of Economics

Employment Opportunities for Liberal Arts Graduates

Someone pursuing a career with a liberal arts degree will be selling the skills he or she has acquired rather than a specific major. Often times those who have obtained a degree in liberal arts will find themselves working in a field that is far removed from their area of concentration.

It is important to note that master's programs also tend to prefer those who have obtained a degree in liberal arts, mostly due to the research and writing skills that must be developed in order to graduate.  Recent articles by the Wall Street Journal tout the myriad benefits of earning a liberal arts degree in an era of specialization given the way students are taught and how they solve problems.

Liberal Arts Colleges Near Me

Alabama Michigan
California Minnesota
Colorado New York
Georgia North Carolina
Illinois Ohio
Indiana Oregon
Iowa Pennsylvania
Kentucky South Carolina
Maine Tennessee
Maryland Texas
Massachusetts Virginia


Career Outlook and Related Fields

As the positions and opportunities for a liberal arts major are numerous and varied, the average salary will depend on the position acquired.  To learn more about the average salary for your state and/or region, simply visit the BLS to discover median income averages and employment history data.

Some positions available to a liberal arts degree holder include:

  • Writer
  • Artist
  • Copywriter
  • Paralegal
  • Librarian
  • Teacher
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Human Resource Specialist
  • Photographer
  • Production Assistant

A liberal arts degree is designed to help students discover their interests while developing skills that are necessary for maintaining a successful career.  A liberal arts degree holder must demonstrate confidence in his or her abilities and how they apply to a potential job. If you are interested in a liberal arts degree, you may wish to consider a degree in humanistic studies or general studies.

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