Undergraduate degree programs in liberal studies are available both as associate's degrees, offered through community colleges and online, and also as bachelor's programs, offered at colleges and universities. These undergraduate programs introduce students to a variety of subjects and potential career interests. Master's degree programs are available and include thesis and non-thesis options. Coursework in all programs is wide-ranging and often includes subjects in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. In some programs, students may choose concentrations, especially at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Options for specific fields of study may include economics, anthropology, literature, psychology, or visual arts.
Students must have a high school diploma to enter an associate's degree program. It takes two years to complete an associate's program. A bachelor's degree program requires students to hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. It takes 4 years to complete a bachelor's degree program. A master's degree program requires students to have a bachelor's degree, and takes about 2 years to complete.
Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies (AALS)
An associate's degree program in liberal studies is similar to the first two years of a bachelor's degree program in that it is focused on general education courses. AALS programs introduce students to all areas of the arts and sciences and help them explore career and educational interests. These programs can prepare students for further education in bachelor's degree programs or other associate's degree programs. There are usually no special prerequisites needed to apply to an AALS program, but students may need to take a placement test to assess their reading, writing, and math skills before enrolling in courses. Once enrolled, students are able to select from a wide variety of course offerings in a range of different subjects including:
- English composition
- Natural science
Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies
Bachelor's degree programs in liberal studies build on a core curriculum in the arts and sciences and generally require that students choose concentrations in a specific area of study, such as humanities or social science. Students develop their writing and reasoning skills throughout the program. Some programs are designed for non-traditional adult students and may require the completion of pre-admission courses rather than high school transcripts and SAT scores. Required courses build upon the foundational courses taken as prerequisites or in an AALS program and may include the following:
- Foreign language
- Women's studies
- Political science
- Expository writing
- Quantitative reasoning
Master's Degree in Liberal Studies
Master's degree programs in liberal studies are often designed for working professionals and offer part-time, evening schedules. Some programs may require the completion of undergraduate coursework in social science and humanities. Some programs also require writing samples based on assigned topics, as well as letters of recommendation. Enrolled students may be required to choose an area of concentration in addition to taking core liberal arts courses and electives. Some programs offer thesis and non-thesis options, while others culminate in a capstone project based on research in the student's area of interest. Coursework includes courses in humanities, natural and social science, and examines the different methods of inquiry among the three disciplines. Specific course topics might include the following:
- Creative non-fiction
- Human rights
- Graduate research foundations
- American film
- Business and society
Popular Career Options
Because of their broad knowledge bases, graduates of liberal studies programs can work in many different fields. Liberal studies programs often help students develop communication, research and critical thinking skills, which can be useful in many job settings. Depending on their area of specialization and degree level, graduates can find employment as one of the following:
- Public relations specialists
- Technical writers
- Human resources specialists
Career Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of public relations specialists would grow 6% between 2014 and 2024, which is an average growth rate. Public relations specialists earned a mean annual wage of $65,830 in May 2015. The BLS expected employment of human resources specialists to grow 5% over the same time period, and it reported that human resources specialists earned a mean annual salary of $63,710 in May 2015. Overall employment of writers and authors was expected to grow only 2% over the 2014-2024 decade, which is slower than average. The BLS stated that technical writers earned a mean annual salary of $73,350 in May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Individuals who wish to further their liberal studies education beyond the master's degree level have the option to pursue a Doctor of Liberal Studies degree. However, these programs are relatively rare. To earn the degree, students will need to pass comprehensive exams and defend a doctoral thesis in addition to completing required liberal studies coursework.
Associate's, master's and doctoral degrees in liberal studies can help you hone your communications, research, and critical-thinking skills. Degrees in liberal studies will help you be competent and competitive in the job market and provide you with career options in a variety of fields including technical writers and human resources specialists.