Study Liberal Arts: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate or bachelor's in liberal arts? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses in liberal arts programs.
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Liberal Arts Associate and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

A degree in liberal arts, also known as liberal studies, is often an inviting prospect because it allows students to study a wide variety of topics. It's a college degree that doesn't require a specific focus and can lead to a wide variety of career and education options. A liberal arts program improves your critical thinking and communication skills - skills that many employers search for in potential employees.

A liberal arts degree is not ideal for everyone. Many careers require a more focused degree. Likewise, you might be better served by a degree in a specific field if there is a particular graduate degree you would like to seek later, particularly if that degree is in the sciences.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who wish to seek an education but are unsure of what to focus on or those who want a broad education without limiting that education to a single specialty Bachelor's degree can qualify you for employment in many of the same ways as an associate degree
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Desktop publisher ($39,000)*
- Library assistant ($26,000)*
- Editor ($60,000)*
- Public relations specialist ($60,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full time 4 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements None beyond normal associate degree requirements None beyond normal bachelor's degree requirements
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (data as of 2011)

Associate in Liberal Arts

An associate in liberal arts program is designed to offer education in a wide variety of disciplines without focusing on any one area. Rather than becoming proficient in a field, you will learn to improve your abilities through a range of skills and knowledge. Because an associate degree in liberal arts includes many of the core courses for a variety of degrees, class size is likely to be large, which might limit the individual attention you might receive in smaller, more specialized classes. However, the credits acquired in this degree can be applied toward a bachelor's degree, allowing you to choose a focus and continue your education after you determine your interest area.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Offers versatility, allowing for a number of career and further education options
  • Allows you to improve your interpersonal communication and problem solving abilities
  • Provides greater career prospects than those with a high school diploma

Cons

  • Lower average salary for those with a liberal arts degree than for those with a more focused degree (some jobs, like respiratory specialist, requiring a specialized associate degree paid over double in 2010 compared to the salary paid by some jobs requiring only a general liberal arts degree)*
  • Lack of specialization means you won't gain proficiency in any one area
  • Could be applying for many of the same jobs as those with high school diplomas

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Courses required for this degree are spread across many fields. Though there will be certain requirements you must fill, such as English, mathematics, and physical science, your course list will largely be decided by you. To get exposure to a number of topics, you might choose to take widely diverse courses. Conversely, as you work through your education, you might wish to focus your electives in a particular area to prepare yourself for a career or higher degree.

Online Degree Options

There are many online options for liberal arts degrees. These range from hybrid to wholly online courses. Programs might be aimed at those with a need for more adaptable schedules. The coursework will depend on the individual college program, as well as the course in question. Some courses may require on-campus labs for completion.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

One option for liberal arts students to stand out is participation in extracurricular activities, particularly those offering experience in academia, the sciences, or career-related topics, as well as exposure to the latest technologies available. Your college might also offer work-study opportunities or internships in a number of fields, which could both count for credit and offer work experience. Finding such opportunities in career fields that interest you can improve your chances of finding employment after graduation.

Bachelor's in Liberal Arts

Like the associate degree, a bachelor's degree in liberal arts offers a wide range of potential courses. Because there are more credits needed for a bachelor's degree, you can further tailor your educational experience, making it as broad or narrow as you wish. Introductory classes are liable to be large, as they might be filled with liberal arts students as well as students from other disciplines. Higher-level courses might be smaller, as they are not necessarily required for a large number of programs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Potential for a wide range of careers
  • Can be used as a basis for a graduate degree in many fields
  • Foundation in a wide range of disciplines

Cons

  • Many employers that require a bachelor's degree prefer more focused education than offered by a liberal arts program
  • Average salary is significantly lower than for many careers with specialized bachelor's degrees (some jobs, like software developer, requiring a specialized bachelor's degree paid 50% more in 2010 compared to the salary paid by jobs requiring a bachelor's degree in liberal arts)*
  • Job search might require more diligence and effort to find appropriate careers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

As with the associate degree program, coursework for the bachelor's degree is broad, and you have a lot of room to customize the program for yourself. However, also like the associate degree program, you will likely have to take some standard core courses, such as English, math, and science. Additionally, your program might require a capstone course that is designed to test your ability to critically analyze and understand a given topic, which can vary depending on your program.

Online Degree Options

There are a number of online bachelor's degree programs. As with the associate degrees, many are aimed at those with a need for adaptable schedules, such as working adults. Programs might be partially on-campus, or can be offered wholly online. Some courses might require portions of the work to be done in-person, as well.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

As with the associate degree, some methods of getting ahead include extracurricular activities and internships that can provide you with technical skills and work experience. In a bachelor's degree program, you also have the option to choose to pursue a minor degree in a specific area, in addition to your liberal arts major. This can demonstrate to potential employers your interest in and dedication to that particular field, which can be important when most of your courses could be so diverse.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Liberal Arts
      • B.A. - History
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. General Studies - Liberal Arts
      • B.S. General Studies - History
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in History for Secondary Education (ITL)
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - in Professional and Liberal Studies
  • Washington, DC

    Georgetown University

  • Philadelphia, PA

    University of Pennsylvania

  • Cambridge, MA

    Harvard University

  • Notre Dame, IN

    University of Notre Dame

  • Online Programs Available
    10. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA / BS in Liberal Arts [Without Concentration]
      • BS in Liberal Arts (Professional and Technical Writing)
      • BA in Humanities (Fine Arts)
      • BA in Humanities (Literature)
      • BA in Humanities [Without Concentration]
      • BA / BS in History

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
  • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership

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Ashford University

  • B.A. - Liberal Arts
  • B.A. - History

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • B.S. General Studies - Liberal Arts
  • B.S. General Studies - History

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Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Arts in History for Secondary Education (ITL)

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Saint Joseph's University

  • BS - in Professional and Liberal Studies

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