Should I Consider a Liberal Arts Degree?

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Updated: March 22, 2024, Reading time: 29 minutes

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liberal arts

“Liberal Arts” is one of the world’s oldest subjects. It goes back to the Ancient Greeks who believed that those who hold a degree in Liberal Arts are the only ones considered “educated.” But have you ever wondered what it was like to enroll in this field?

In today’s education system, what is a Liberal Arts education? There are several subjects today that belong in the broad scope of this program. Liberal Arts education is interdisciplinary; it covers topics within the humanities, social, formal, or natural science fields.

However, you can find differences in a specific subject in the Liberal Arts program at different schools. Nonetheless, the Liberal Arts field is accepted as covering the fields below:

The term “Liberal Arts education” is also used to study just one of the subjects mentioned above. For example, if you are studying for a BA in Philosophy, you may also be enrolled in Liberal Arts education.

But in general, “Liberal Arts education” refers to various degree programs that aim to elaborate a wider spectrum of skills and knowledge.

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Liberal Arts Education: A Brief History

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Back in classical antiquity, Liberal Arts used to be considered an important education for somebody active in civic life. During that time, as a Liberal Arts student, this would mean you have to participate in a public debate, defend yourself both on juries and in court, and even complete military service.

Originally, Liberal Arts only covered three major subjects: rhetoric, grammar, and logic; all three are collectively called the trivium.

Liberal Arts education flourished in medieval times. This then included four more subjects, namely geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music- collectively named the quadrivium. All in all, there were seven subjects in Liberal Arts during the medieval Liberal Arts curriculum.

Quadrivium was considerably tougher than the trivium and was used to groom students for more serious theology and philosophy study. A Liberal Arts education goal was simple: to produce ethical and virtuous, highly articulate, and knowledgeable in so many fields.

Today, the more modern Liberal Arts subjects give students the chance to focus on a large range of studies, although they still value the core aims of the traditional Liberal Arts curricula: to produce well-rounded individuals with enough knowledge in various subjects and mastery of different transferable skills.

Liberal Arts Degrees in the US

Most US colleges and universities today offer Liberal Arts degrees. There are hundreds of dedicated Liberal Arts colleges and universities in the US, with even more schools offering Liberal Arts programs alongside other options.

Although we can find universities today that offer a one-year associate degree, it’s still common for Liberal Arts degrees to be earned over a full-time study of four years.

You can earn a BSc or BA Certification and, from there, can progress to either a professional school or a graduate school. Some students also prefer to specialize by choosing a minor or major subject in a particular area. Common subjects to major in include communication, law, business, politics, and research.

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Liberal Arts Colleges

Between a dedicated Liberal Arts college and other colleges and universities in the US, you can find some notable differences. Most Liberal Arts colleges heavily rely on student participation.

These schools usually encourage a high-level interaction between students and teachers, along with proper mentorship and collaboration.

On the other hand, universities focus more on prioritizing research. These institutions usually have numerous staff members who dedicate themselves to teaching full-time rather than having a combination of research professors and graduate student teaching assistants.

Liberal Arts colleges are usually residential and small. They have smaller enrollees and class sizes and a low student-teacher ratio. The teachers here become mentors and, sometimes, even research partners with students.

Liberal Arts in Europe

The concept of Liberal Arts originally came from Europe. But in recent years, this subject has become less prevalent than in the US, especially now that Liberal Arts degrees are widely available there.

Today, less than half of the total European countries have Liberal Arts universities or colleges offering the Liberal Arts degree program. Countries include Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Estonia, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Slovakia, the UK, and Switzerland.

Liberal Arts Degree: Your Career Options

Most Liberal Arts students focus more on gaining as much knowledge as possible about things around them instead of selecting a career during the first year of their degree. This means they are opening more opportunities in key sectors across different industries.

Although some will need further education like a doctorate or a master’s degree, the more typical types of careers with having a Liberal Arts degree include:

Skills You Can Gain from a Degree in Liberal Arts

All over the globe, Liberal Arts education enthusiasts often question various curricula and educational formats of other degree programs because these programs emphasize heavily technical capabilities, forgetting the importance of learning the most basic but vital skills.

Enrolling in a Liberal Arts degree means learning a vast range of sought-after skills:

Popular Careers in Liberal Arts

Along with proper training, almost all degrees in Liberal Arts will lead to various careers in education. With the right qualifications, graduates can share their passion with others.

Plus, Liberal Arts degrees are also suitable for further studies, most importantly, in law. Most majors in this degree also have that passion for giving back and connecting to people. Thus, many graduates pursue careers in public service and politics.

These are just some of the most common options for Liberal Arts degree holders. Still, you can find graduates in practically all professions and industries.

Graduates of this degree have quick critical thinking skills, and they can adapt and solve problems easily, making them in demand both in STEM and business fields. You can also find Liberal Arts graduates in other areas like sales, marketing, strategy, or relationship-driven work like account management and customer relations.

Liberal Arts degree holders have distinct research and reading skills. They can easily digest even the most complex information, a critical advantage, especially if one needs to speed up technical subjects. Even if you don’t have any formal technical background, being a Liberal Arts degree graduate can help you go far.

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Liberal Arts Degree: The Jobs You Can Obtain

It’s relatively easy to look for careers if you hold a Liberal Arts degree.

Whether in the government, business, healthcare, or education, Liberal Arts graduates have transferable skills that let them stay ahead of the career-hunting game! Here are some of the majors and careers you can consider.


When you have a communications degree, you will obtain key skills to help you in specific industries like public relations, journalism, advertising, and more.

Coursework in graphic design and public speaking can help prepare for future work, whether to deliver presentations, make reports or publications, or convey messages via digital media.

Examples of jobs in the field of communications include:

READ: The Top Online Colleges for Bachelor’s in Graphic Design


Students who specialize in the English language and literature have to take several social science, history, and literary theories. These courses are designed to gear them for future jobs as historians, writers, or museum curators. English majors heavily concentrate on journalism and creative writing to focus on storytelling in news, nonfiction, fiction, poetry, or screenwriting.

This major also gears you for careers in public relations, film, journalism, advertising, and theater, just to name a few.

Jobs in this field include:

READ: The Best Online Bachelor’s in English/Writing Degree Colleges


The key to simplifying important historical events and gearing up for the future is to understand the past. History students draw upon their solid analytical and research skills and work as historical interpreters, a curator, or policy advisors. History majors always work in politics, but a good preparatory course is history if you wish to enter law school.

Jobs in this field include:

READ: The Top Best Online Colleges For A Bachelor’s In History


Psychology is the study of the mind. It focuses on human behaviors and how you apply concepts to organizational and social issues that globally affect everyone. Psychologists are in demand in market research, human resources, and social services.

Jobs in this field include:

READ: The Free Online Psychology Courses


The sociology coursework focuses on social behavior and how people act in groups. This includes religion, history, social science research, and geography, just to name a few. In sociology, you can gain a vast understanding of the economic and political issues of society.

This also helps you understand how people must work together so they can solve a problem. Sociology graduates can play a role in various fields like public health, criminal justice, and social services.

Jobs include the following:

READ: The Best Online Sociology Bachelor’s Degree Colleges

Best Colleges Offering Online Liberal Arts Programs

The California State University, Long Beach

Best Colleges Offering Online Liberal Arts Programs 1

Long Beach, California

The California State University, Long Beach, is notable for its hybrid Liberal Arts degree programs specifically designed for busy professionals pursuing higher education. This is a 66-credit program that includes global citizenship, communications, and diverse cultures.

Students attend their classes online and in person, and they work in small groups together with their fellow enrollees. These courses usually take place once a week and every other Saturday. Students in this CSULB program can complete the bachelor’s degree within two years.

Upon enrollment, you must have at least 72 credits of transferable post-secondary coursework, and your GPA should not go below 2.0.

California State University, Northbridge

Best Colleges Offering Online Liberal Arts Programs 2

Northbridge, California

The Tseng College of California State University, Northbridge, offers an online Liberal Arts program for those returning college individuals who wish to complete their education. This is a 60-credit program that uses a cohort structure, allowing each student to take similar classes with similar peers.

The program’s curriculum includes a course on third-world cities that explores the cultural, political, and economic influences that shape African and Caribbean communities and other parts of the globe.

Upon enrollment, you must have at least 60 transfer credits and a GPA of 2.0 (minimum). Your transcript of record should also indicate your grades in analytical writing, critical thinking, math courses, and oral communication.

The program’s graduation rate is 85%, and all students enrolled online pay the same tuition, regardless of the state they are in.

Arizona State University

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Scottsdale, Arizona

The online Liberal Arts program of ASU Online offers more than two dozen subject areas across the humanities and social sciences. The program is for students who wish to complete their bachelor’s degree and wish to pursue various disciplines for their major.

ASU Online has 40 total classes, with 120 credits, each class lasting 7.5 weeks. Students can have all these courses online and learn via an asynchronous schedule with no specified log-in time.

This program also offers flexibility in the classes that a student wishes to take. One of the more popular courses—cultural diversity in the US, explains and details the different cultures that have influenced American communities and society.

California State University, Chico

Best Colleges Offering Online Liberal Arts Programs 4

Chico, California

 The bachelor’s in Liberal Arts program of the California State University, Chico, was primarily created to serve students who have plans of teaching elementary school because all its programs are derived from various subject areas.

This program also allows the students to gain ample experience in working with children in a K-8 setting.

Included in the program are courses in sociology, liberal studies, social science, and religious studies. Students can freely choose as many classes as they want.

University of Illinois Springfield

UIS Logo

Springfield, Illinois

The online Liberal Arts degree of UIS is for people who want to pursue their undergraduate degree. Although all the courses are available online, enrollees have the option to go for an in-person experience at UIS’s Springfield campus.

The program features 48 credits of upper-division courses, with students allowed to choose a variety of subjects. The entire program can be completed in 2-3 years.

While Illinois residents pay less than non-residents, UIS still offers discounted tuition fees to distance learners. UIS also offers credit for prior education like service learning, internships, job experience, or the military.

University of Iowa

University of Iowa

Iowa City, Iowa

University of Iowa’s online degree in Liberal Arts emphasizes communication skills and leadership. When you enroll, you can choose from different areas of concentration in writing and the arts, community, family, social support, global studies, organizational studies, and health and human studies.

Students are required to complete 120 credits before they can graduate. Sixty credits can be transferred from a two-year post-secondary institution.

You should have at least 24 credits of college coursework for transferees and have a minimum 2.0 GPA. They also accept enrollees with an associate degree.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Camden Campus

Best Colleges Offering Online Liberal Arts Programs

Camden, New Jersey

Rutgers-Camden’s Liberal Arts degree is for those who have an AAS degree from an accredited school. As a student, you can customize your studies based on your career goals and interests.

You can choose from courses in the arts, music, history, English, social sciences, and literature. While this is an online class, the school allows in-person experiences at different campuses all across New Jersey.

When you enroll in the program, you should provide transcripts from the schools you previously attended. Those who live at nearby community colleges can take advantage of a dual-degree program so they can earn a bachelor’s and master’s in liberal studies simultaneously.

Northeastern University

Best Colleges Offering Online Liberal Arts Programs

Boston, Massachusetts

The Liberal Arts degree completion program of Northeastern University features an experimental learning method wherein each student is taught the skills and knowledge required to survive in different fields of work. This 48-credit program includes courses in humanities, English, social sciences, science, and mathematics.

Students are to complete a three-credit capstone. They must conduct independent research aligned with their chosen curriculum path. All the courses are done online, and they feature an asynchronous structure.

Prospective students can apply once they submit their official college transcripts, and the programs start in the fall, summer, or spring. Their main campus is located in Boston.

Harvard University

Best Colleges Offering Online Liberal Arts Programs

Cambridge, Massachusetts

This is Harvard University’s Extension school that offers both online and on-campus Liberal Arts courses. The programs are designed specifically for professionals who want to complete their degrees while still working full-time day jobs.

Harvard’s Liberal Arts programs are open to adults over 30 years old who have already completed 1-2 years of post-secondary coursework.

Most of the learnings are online-based. However, students are required to complete at least 16 credits on campus. There are also three-week and weekend class options available. Graduates are also allowed to join the school’s annual commencement ceremony.

Accreditation Types for Liberal Arts Institutions

There are two major types of accreditation to check when you choose your college: regional and national. Regional accreditation applies to the whole school. The US is divided into six regions, with each region being handled by a different accreditation body.

The six accrediting agencies at NASC (Northwest), MSA (Middle States), NCA (North Central), NEASC (New England), WASC (western), and SACS (southern). These 6 are highly respectable accrediting bodies, and courses offered in the schools they accredit are generally transferable.

The program-level accreditation is for Liberal Arts colleges from the American Academy for Liberal Education. AALE ensures that the quality of education by those recognized programs and schools should meet certain standards.

Choosing Your Liberal Arts Program

Before you choose a Liberal Arts program, keep in mind that there are several important factors you need to consider. All degrees in Liberal Arts offer something unique: whether you’re in for an internship placement program or you want to go for a specific area of concentration.

It’s best to choose a program that you know will best fit your overall educational needs. If you see yourself in a specialized area of your field, then make sure to enroll in a program that provides you with all the necessary credentials and training.

Time is another major consideration. How long are you willing to be in school? Students will normally need 120 credits to graduate, and this can be completed within four years for full-time students.

Conversely, some schools offer accelerated programs, thus enabling you to complete your required credits in less time.

If you enroll part-time, naturally, this will extend the duration of your program. This is often perfect for time-constraint people like students with children or working professionals. The duration of the program, being a part-time student, will largely depend on the number of credits you can have per semester.

However, in certain cases where courses are offered on a specified schedule, you may have to wait longer than expected since some courses are offered based on course scheduling.

Whether you are a part-time or a full-time student, you can also take advantage of the online Liberal Arts degree option so you can save more time and money.

Degree Programs for Liberal Arts

An associate degree in the Liberal Arts (AA/AS) is for students who plan to transfer to the 4-year programs. Associate degrees usually consist of a core area of study and the basic knowledge students will have in the first two years of a usual college.

Bachelor’s degree (BA/BS) students will have majors in different subjects such as religion, philosophy, history, psychology, mathematics, and English.

Here, you will start to take those specialized, upper-division courses to gear you toward your career in your chosen field and even for further graduate study.

This is where you get your higher credentials (MA/MS/MLS) in graduate school. Students go to graduate school for several reasons: to earn a better salary, to improve their career status, to become experts in a more competitive and specialized field, or even to prepare for a teaching career.

Students at the graduate level are more driven, self-motivated, and committed than those in undergraduate studies because graduate studies tend to be more challenging and demanding.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest degree a Liberal Arts degree holder can have. While the Ph.D. title can be applied across different disciplines, it is desirable for those who wish to teach and do research.

This is the usual standard for employment as a university or college professor. This is the most challenging and most specialized Liberal Arts degree and can take anywhere between 3 and 7 years of post-graduate work to complete.

Popular: Liberal Arts Program in English

Of the many courses under the Liberal Arts program, the most popular choice among students of English. If you love the written word and English literature, an English program is your best option, just like many incoming college students.

However, you must find out what exactly it is that you will study (and learn) in English under the Liberal Arts program. Below are 5-course types that you must expect to take.

General Education Courses. Since English is a Liberal Arts subject, it makes sense that the degree program will require its students to be well-rounded with general education.

Subjects from sciences, arts, humanities, and social science are given. Expect also to have at least one course in mathematics, laboratory science, or social science. However, the required general education may vary from school to school.

Writing. When you are enrolled in a Liberal Arts program in English, a big part of what you will learn is how to write effectively, according to a US News and World Report.

Classes in technical editing, rhetoric, grammar, and composition are just some subjects that will teach students how to convey their ideas and thoughts in a persuasive and well-organized way.

A lot of English programs offer studies in creative writing. However, most writing courses for English majors focus more on communicating effectively using written words instead of honing your skills in poetry or fiction.

Foreign Language. The courses you take in the liberal arts in English program will revolve around writing English. Still, part of studying in the program is learning a foreign language. In schools with a language requirement in their program, their main reason is not just about your learning a foreign language as a subject.

Rather, it has to do something about a student becoming more well-rounded with a comprehensive education. Since most of the schools that require a few foreign language credits are just after your competency, it’s best not to take more than a handful of courses in a foreign language. Just a few ones will suffice.

Literature. This is another major subject that will take a huge part in your being in a Liberal Arts program in English. In most cases, the required core courses are a combination of literature and writing classes. In the US, those who study English majors study written works by both British and American writers.

During your literature class, expect lots of reading of different literature types, including short stories, poems, plays, or novels. You might even read century-old literature or modern-day readings. In a lit class, you are expected to analyze and create well-informed reports and reviews about the literature you’re studying.

A Minor or Concentration. If you’re still thinking about what to do with having an English degree, it’s best to pursue a minor or concentration. For instance, if you’re into technical writing, you can enroll in engineering or computers.

Or, if you wish to work in public relations or advertising, earn a minor in business. When you develop marketable skills, these can complement the versatile English degree that you are working to achieve.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should You Get a Liberal Arts Degree?

If you are contemplating whether getting a Liberal Arts degree is a good choice or not, below are some of the benefits of earning it.

Choosing a degree in Liberal Arts will help you do well in a fast-paced world that normally needs people to develop creative solutions to deal with future challenges.

Although Liberal Arts degrees are suitable for different roles, these majors often have minimal clear-cut roads to a perfect career as compared with other graduates. Still, the benefits of pursuing a Liberal Arts degree are endless.

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Do Employers Prefer Liberal Arts Degree Holders?

Forbes contributing editor George Anders published a book called “You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts,” and he asserts that there are five key qualities companies look for in a potential employee:

  1. The eagerness to handle uncharted areas
  2. The ability to deal with challenging problems
  3. Well-honed analytic methods
  4. Awareness of group dynamics
  5. The ability to persuade and inspire others.

Accordingly, this huge disconnection between public rhetoric claims that “you need to choose the STEM route, and nothing else” and the new interesting job openings for people holding Liberal Arts degrees.

Anders said that liberal arts graduates are actually the hidden strength of the economy, and sadly, nobody talks nor writes about that.

Is An Online Liberal Arts Degree Worth Considering?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers has reported that those with Liberal Arts degrees, on average, earn more than $50,000 a year. Because the number of students enrolled in a Liberal Arts program is growing, obtaining the course can now be done online.

There are dozens of bachelor’s level liberal arts degrees that can be found online. Because these programs don’t need hands-on training and are knowledge-based, you can complete the program 100% online (Although some schools will still require an on-campus class once in a while).

Online programs are good options for adult students with busy lives. Since online classes are very flexible, it is easier for students to fit their classes around their schedules.

There’s no difference between an online and a campus-based program in terms of requirements, although there are instances when online students are required to attend some sessions like an orientation.

The main difference is human interaction. Both classes get the same materials, and students take the same exams, write the same papers, and graduate with the same degree. However, there are advantages and downsides to the method.

Online courses will need more self-motivation than on-campus classes since you don’t have some people to help you with the lectures. On the other hand, on-campus courses are less convenient and flexible because students are expected to follow a rigid schedule.

Should You Go for a Liberal Arts degree?

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It’s only you who know what is best for your life. Explore all your opportunities, and this includes enrolling in a Liberal Arts education.

Talk to counselors at your school. Speak with friends. Read up on the developments and trends that might help influence your decisions.

A Liberal Arts degree is generally valuable in itself. However, this will also teach you many abilities and skills that are usually required in a contemporary workplace.

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