Studying Cultural Studies: Degrees at a Glance
Cultural studies is an umbrella term that encompasses a broad field rather than a specific major. These programs are designed to teach students to understand the differences in ethnicity, socioeconomic factors, gender and religion as shown through cultural values portrayed through literature, the media and popular culture. With a little additional training and education, a degree in the field can prepare you for careers in business management, human resources, criminal justice, homeland security, teaching, community work, religious-based occupations and journalism.
|Associate Degree||Bachelor's Degree|
|Who is this program for?||Individuals who want to learn about diversity and other cultures||Individuals interested in careers related to global issues, cultural politics and cultural pride|
|Common Career Paths (with approx. median annual salary)|| - Immigrant social service assistant ($29,000)*|
- Language interpreter ($44,000)*
- International travel agent ($34,000)*
|- Cultural activity specialist ($22,000)*|
- Museum technician ($38,000)*
- Foreign correspondent ($35,000)*
|Time to Completion||2 year full time||4 years full time|
|Common Graduation Requirements||- About 60 course credit hours|| - About 120 course credit hours |
- Final paper or project
|Prerequisites||- High school diploma or equivalent||- High school diploma or equivalent|
|Online Availability||Rare||Several blended programs|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Associate Degree in Cultural Studies
'Culture' includes many areas, including art, history, politics, literature, sociology and language. Therefore, the curriculum of a cultural studies associate degree programs covers all of these different areas.
The majority of associate degree programs in cultural studies encourage students to pick a specific field of study, such as American Sign Language, Arab studies or gender studies. If you have a particular career goal in mind, like being a language interpreter, then you should choose a cultural studies program that will train you to speak a specific language and understand the culture. If you're uncertain about your career goals, you may want to enroll in a general cultural studies program, such as cross-cultural studies or multicultural studies.
Pros and Cons
- You gain fundamental knowledge in several areas related to cultural studies, which may prepare you for a wide range of career opportunities
- If you specialize in a cultural studies language program, you could become a translator; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects positions for translators and interpreters between 2010 and 2020 to increase 42%*
- Programs teach you about communicating and understanding people, which are two major skills needed for most jobs*
- A significant amount of careers related to cultural studies require candidates to have a bachelor's degrees*
- You may need additional training and experience for some jobs*
- Courses may not be available online, which could prohibit you from working while studying
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Courses and Requirements
Cultural studies coursework includes classes in sociology and philosophy. Sociology classes may discuss issues about minorities. Philosophy courses may cover topics such as ethics and cultural ideology. Other fundamental classes may include cultural anthropology and cultural social behavior.
If you choose a specific ethnicity-focused cultural studies program, you take classes related to that ethnicity's history, literature, language, music and politics. Some programs may cover these topics in a comparative analysis, such as between America and the Middle East. Multicultural studies programs often study the history, literature and politics of many cultures.
Some programs require that students be fluent in a foreign language. Other programs contain study abroad requirements.
Online Degree Options
There are very few, if any, online associate degree programs in cultural studies. Several universities offer some general education courses online, which may allow you to complete some of your coursework without entering a classroom. Attending an in-person program allows you to participate in philosophical, social and ethical debates.
Stand Out with This Degree
To stand out with your degree, consider earning a vocational certificate while completing your degree. For instance, if you want to become an international travel agent, earning a vocational certificate in this field will teach you about booking reservations and making travel itineraries. By pairing your degree with a travel agent vocational certificate, you will possess the cultural knowledge and technical skills necessary to give potential clients exactly what they want in regards to vacation planning.
Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies
Most cultural studies bachelor's degree programs have an interdisciplinary structure in which students learn about different academic fields, such as literature, philosophy and sociology, relate to individual cultures. Many programs also allow students to concentrate in areas like environmental and cultural sustainability, music, film studies or social philosophy.
In these degree programs, students learn how globalization affects individual cultures. Students participate in discussions about communication between cultures, political conflicts and the influence of global media. Several programs work to prepare students for careers related to civic duty, international relations and political advocacy, while others may steer students toward careers in cultural conservation, journalism and education.
Pros and Cons
- Several universities offer fully online or blended online degree programs
- Careers related to cultural conservation and recreational activities are expected to increase 7-19% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS*
- Concentrations allow you to shape your degree to suit your career goals
- You may need a graduate or a law degree for careers related to criminal justice or international law*
- Professionals working at cultural institutions, like museums, may have lower job security due to funding issues*
- Not all cultural studies degree programs require students to complete internships; without some internship or related work experience, students may face heavier job competition*
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Common Courses and Requirements
These programs focus on Western cultures, including those in America, the United Kingdom and in Western Europe. Most programs also encourage you to start learning about non-Western cultures, such as African, Middle Eastern, South American, Asian and Native American. Common core classes in cultural studies programs may include:
- World history
- Ethnic literature
- Cultural media studies
Some programs may require students to complete a project such as a service-learning project, internship or career-mentor project. Many programs also require students to complete a final research paper or project related to a cultural studies concentration area. Most cultural studies programs also require students to complete at least one foreign language course.
Online Program Info
Fully online and hybrid bachelor's degree cultural studies programs are available. The curriculum of these programs are similar to their in-person counterparts.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
One way to get ahead with your degree is to become fluent in a foreign language. Your future career may involve traveling abroad or communicating with professionals in other countries. If you're able to speak other languages, you can communicate without speaking through an interpreter. This skill may make you more attractive to employers.