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Labor Studies Degree Programs

Learn about bachelor's degree programs in labor studies. Get information about the admission requirements, course descriptions and possible careers, as well as how to choose the right program for you.

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Overview Bachelor's Degree Programs in Labor Studies

Labor studies is an interdisciplinary field that deals with workers, the workplace and workers' organizations. Bachelor's degree programs in labor studies typically stretch across multiple departments to teach students to think critically about these issues in the context of economics, social science, politics and history. Labor studies programs prepare students to assume a leadership role in the workplace or their community and help strengthen the workforce. If this interests you as a potential career path, read on for detailed information about labor studies bachelor's degree programs.

Admission Requirements for Labor Studies Programs

To be eligible for labor studies programs you need to have completed high school or a GED program. Schools typically ask for transcripts, letters of recommendation and a complete application, and you may need to submit SAT or ACT scores as well. Otherwise, there is not any specific prerequisite coursework you need to complete before applying to a labor studies program. Some admissions committees may ask for an essay expressing your interest in labor relations as part of the application process.

Labor Studies Program Coursework

Labor studies includes coursework from all corners of a school's liberal arts department. Some courses typical of a labor studies program are described below.

American Labor History

This course navigates the full length of the labor movement in the US, from colonial times to modern day. The labor movement is the struggle of people to achieve fair working conditions of all types: economic, social and political. Labor history also includes the history of the formation of unions and how that has shaped the development of the country.

Unions and Organization

Workforce organization and collective bargaining are examined from all angles in this course. Topics might include a survey of unions across the country: how they're represented, how they are involved in politics and how they approach negotiation. This course could also delve into the legal and economic impact that unions have and how governments and corporations manage interaction with unions.

Labor and the Economy

Labor economics is an analysis of labor as a resource. This course as part of an interdisciplinary program isn't likely to be based in mathematics, but rather look at theories of economics that can be applied to labor studies. Examples of these include supply and demand, individual and institutional effects of unemployment, income distribution and inequality.

Labor Law

This course could cover the relationship between law and labor in any number of ways. It might be an overarching survey of current labor laws and employment laws regarding employee protection, enforcement of collective agreement, or contracting, among others. It could be a legal history of the labor movement, discussing which policies were implemented at which times over the past centuries. It could also be a broader look at the driving societal and economic forces behind current or historical labor laws.

Workplace Dynamics and Leadership

While labor studies are often broadly applied to whole societies, it is also possible to zoom in to examine how specific institutions apply labor policies and principles. This course focuses on just that. You can expect to study the fair and unfair treatment of workers, issues of occupational health and safety, and different types of leadership styles. Topics of industrial psychology are also introduced, such as worker motivation, recruitment and training.

Labor and Politics

This course focuses on the past, current, and future relationship of organized unions and the American government. Topics of discussion include the influences on union decisions of political participation and the evolution of political goals in regards to labor over time. This course also looks at how all levels of government affect labor-management interactions.

How to Choose a Labor Studies Program

Labor studies programs may be offered as either Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Both are interdisciplinary and cover the same topics, but differ subtly in the angle in which they accomplish this. BS programs could be more analysis focused, and require more general education in economics, social science or mathematics. BA programs are likely to focus slightly more on culture or history, so be sure to choose the degree that best fits your interests. You should also look into whether programs prefer to focus on employment studies and relations, or broader societal labor studies, as this difference could affect the types of careers you are best prepared to pursue upon graduation.

Career Options with a Labor Studies Degree

Labor studies programs prepare you for any number of careers focusing on workers' and unions' rights. One option is to become a labor relations specialist, which is essentially a liaison between workers or unions and a company's management. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for these professionals was $62,310 in 2016. The number of jobs is expected to decline 8% in this field from 2016-2026 due to fewer workers being union members, but those with a bachelor's degree should have the best prospects of finding of position. Other careers to consider are listed below.

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