Interdisciplinary Studies Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Info

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What will you learn in an interdisciplinary studies program? Read about interdisciplinary studies requirements, the pros and cons of an associate degree and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Associate and Bachelor's Degrees in Interdisciplinary Studies at a Glance

An interdisciplinary studies program usually allows a student to work with a faculty advisor in creating a degree program that both fulfills the requirements of the college for graduation and focuses on bringing multiple, and oftentimes varied, disciplines together to research a specific problem or area. Interdisciplinary studies programs tend to be more directed and focused than general studies programs, and at some institutions the individual program must be approved in advance by a committee or panel. Alternately, some interdisciplinary studies programs bring courses from several disciplines together in predefined pre-professional concentrations.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in focusing their associate program on a specific topic that is not part of an offered major, as well as those preparing to transfer to a 4-year program Individuals interested in focusing their bachelor's program on a specific topic that is not part of an existing major, or a major that combines multiple disciplines
Common Areas of Study ) - Humanities
- Arts
- Criminal justice
- Business
- Social sciences
- Information systems
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Committee approval of course of study
- Roughly 16 courses
- Possible capstone project
- Committee approval of course of study
- Roughly 32 courses, but some schools will accept previous educational experience
- Possible capstone project
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Yes Yes

Associate in Interdisciplinary Studies

An associate in interdisciplinary studies program is sometimes used by students to prepare for transfer to a bachelor's program by specifying the necessary courses needed for transfer into the 4-year program. The selected courses may sometimes be chosen from a broad range of general education subjects. .

Students may otherwise use interdisciplinary studies programs to combine courses from two or more disciplines to focus around a single area of study not covered by traditional college programs or majors. Some schools have interdisciplinary programs with specific concentrations already designed, and it is also possible that only certain disciplines may be included in a student-designed program. Possible career outcomes are determined by the type of program designed.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Within certain boundaries as defined by the school, students can take part in determining their own educational goals and areas of study.
  • By applying to an interdisciplinary studies program and following one of the pre-designed concentrations, students can take advantage of a wide range of courses focused within a particular area of study.
  • Some schools allow students to design their programs around the requirements of a 4-year program with the goal of finishing the associate program then transferring directly to the new program.

Cons

  • Unlike single-discipline degrees, career outcomes for students in self-designed interdisciplinary programs are more dependent on the student's own preparation and goal setting.
  • In some cases, students must have their programs approved.
  • Students looking only to earn an associate degree may find their options more limited compared to a bachelor's degree program.

Courses and Requirements

The courses required for earning an interdisciplinary studies degree vary from program to program, depending on the planned outcome and previous education of the student. Some programs may focus on a certain pre-professional area, such as social work or accounting, while others may be broader, with classes selected to fit specific educational goals. Students planning to transfer to 4-year programs may select courses in line with the requirements of the second program, allowing them to enter the bachelor's program without any difficulties.

Online Degree Options

While pursuing an associate degree in interdisciplinary studies completely online offers the flexibility of studying at home on one's own schedule, you are limited in developing your program to the only the courses available online. This may limit the breadth of the program you hoped to put together. To prepare for this, you can look at the course rotation schedule of the college so that you are aware from the beginning what courses will be available when. You may also be able to expand your program by taking some courses online and some in an on-campus classroom setrting.

Stand Out with This Degree

Getting ahead with an associate degree in interdisciplinary studies can be a matter of careful planning and conscientious work with a faculty advisor. The selections that you make will affect you more than anyone else involved in the process, and so you should take full responsibility for the selection of courses and aims of the self-designed program, while taking full advantage of the experience of the faculty advisor to know how specific classes will build on each other.

Additionally, when the goal of an associate degree in interdisciplinary studies is to transfer to a 4-year program, getting into contact with the registrar and even the department of interest at the new school should come during the process of program design.

Bachelor's in Interdisciplinary Studies

A bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies program provides more flexibility than programs offering traditional single-discipline degrees, whether by allowing the transfer of certain associate degree courses, by allowing the student to select courses focusing on a specific topic or by combining two majors without requiring all of the coursework of each.

Students enrolling in interdisciplinary studies degree programs may either select from curricula that have already been laid out or in some cases design their own programs. In selecting courses for the curriculum, students will work with an advisor and may have to seek approval for the program with a panel or committee.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Interdisciplinary degree programs can provide more flexibility and control to the student than a traditional program.
  • Some schools offer interdisciplinary studies programs that combine the strengths of multiple disciplines to create pre-professional degrees.
  • Some schools use interdisciplinary studies programs to incorporate previous coursework from other schools into a curriculum of study.

Cons

  • With even the most flexible programs, pre-professional planning can depend on the student's planning and understanding of requirements.
  • Students could possibly find themselves depending on an advisor who has a background in only one of the disciplines being incorporated.
  • Approval for the curriculum selected may need to come from the college, so the student must explain the reason for each chosen topic clearly.

Courses and Requirements

The courses you will need to take to earn an interdisciplinary studies bachelor's degree depend on the nature of the program. Some programs have very strict requirements that are pulled from multiple, yet specific disciplines, while others can be designed around each student's educational goals, allowing more flexibility in choosing courses. Some schools may offer both kinds of programs, but in both cases, keeping an eye on long-term goals and focusing on the core takeaways of the program can improve the educational experience.

Online Degree Options

Online interdisciplinary studies programs may tend to focus on pre-set courses; though the programs cross disciplines, they are still focused on specific outcomes and areas of knowledge. Alternately, these programs may be used to incorporate previous schooling while still leading to specific degree outcomes, depending on transferred coursework and knowledge to fill in educational requirements.

Stand Out with This Degree

As a student, designing your own program of study is a challenging and important task. Those looking to accentuate their knowledge to prospective employers or focus their possible career options can do so with the courses they choose. Courses should be selected for their contribution to the overall goal of your program. While in single-discipline programs those outcomes have already been determined, if you are designing your own curriculum, determining those outcomes and having a clear understanding of your program's goals will help you put together a program that can help you to stand out in the workplace.

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