"Mini-Guide" to a Liberal Arts Degree
Looking to finish the college degree that you started long ago? If you are considering a liberal arts degree to fulfill a personal goal, jumpstart job opportunities, or even change careers altogether, you are in the right place. We are here to help.
It's natural to be excited and nervous about the idea of earning a liberal arts degree over the Internet. Since we know you have lots of questions about going back to school online, we have written this quick, easy-to-read "Mini-Guide to a Liberal Arts Degree" to help give you all the facts and information that you need learn about the liberal arts and to make the right choice for you.
1 What is the study of the liberal arts?
"The liberal arts and sciences major provides you with a well-rounded education in the sciences, humanities, mathematics, and languages. This generalist background prepares you for a wide range of endeavors rather than for a specific career."
— College Board Book of Majors, 2nd edition
"According to the 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, 'The term humanities includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.'"
— National Endowment for the Humanities
"The term liberal arts came to mean studies that are intended to provide general knowledge and intellectual skills, rather than more specialized occupational, scientific, or artistic skills. In modern academia, the Arts are usually grouped with or a subset of the Humanities. Some subjects in the Humanities are history, linguistics, literature, and philosophy."
— Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, "Liberal Arts"
"The humanities provide a kind of cross training for the mind that can prepare you for more specialized studies and career development later. Knowing how to know may be one of the most sough-after abilities in the workplace of the future. Many humanities students go on to advanced degrees and pursue careers in law, medicine, business, and teaching. Some humanities, such as liberal arts, allow students to find themselves academically."
— The Princeton Review Online
2 Is a liberal arts degree right for me?
Think about a liberal arts degree if:
- You enjoy discussing ideas and debating with others.
- You love the History Channel.
- People turn to you if they need help doing research, both formal and informal.
- You are interested in how the natural and social sciences relate to each other.
- You consider yourself a "jack of all trades."
- You simply love to learn.
- You can easily spend hours in a Barnes & Noble or local bookstore.
- You are also thinking about eventually going on for more advanced study.
- You may have a knack for foreign languages.
- You want a well-rounded education without having to focus on any single profession.
- You have a keen awareness and appreciation of different types of music and art.
- You like reading classic and contemporary literature, philosophy, or historical biographies.
- You are known for having a critical eye and ear.
- You are able to see the "big picture."
3 What other degrees besides a liberal arts degree should I consider?
If you're not sure about pursuing a degree in the liberal arts or humanities, consider these fields of study instead:
Know how the human mind processes and retains information and how different stages of development can affect those systems. Understand what methods and interactive tools are most engaging for every grade and subject.
Focus on how lesson planning and activities can be tailored for different learning styles and at different stages of development. Specialize in disciplines, such as reading or mathematics.
Delve into the current and historical events of domestic and international affairs and how government, economics and culture collide and interact.
Observe the human experience in a new way: explore how the mind copes with everyday stimuli, and how trauma affects human behavior.
Examine intricacies of human relationships how people relate to each other and how that pertains society as a whole.
4 What concentrations exist for liberal arts degrees?
Many colleges and universities will allow you to choose a specialization — a focused area of study within a Liberal Arts or Humanities degree.
Arts and Culture
Understand expression through the visual arts and explore its importance culturally and historically; know how to view different works of art and learn about the ways that artists use various media, as well as their implications.
Couple artistic theory and applied practice while considering the impact of personal expression on the greater community and society; specialize in the planning, developing, and education of many specializations of the visual arts including theater, art criticism and art history.
History and Culture
Focus your studies on Western or non-Western culture in order to appreciate and understand the complexities of a society and its place in and impact upon global history.
Learn about human development from a spiritual and emotional perspective. Draw from academic disciplines such as psychology and fields of therapy to have a deeper understanding of morality, decision-making, spirituality, and the human experience.
Music and Education
Specialize in music history and musicology to develop an educational program to teach students at every level the core skills necessary to succeed academically, as well as in applied music theory and practice.
Women's Studies/Gender Studies
Delve into the cultural, historical and political roles that women have played in both Western society and worldwide. Discuss the feminist movement that emerged in the twentieth century, how different societies view the roles and contributions of man and woman, and how they are valued.
Writing, Literature, and Culture
Develop reading comprehension and appreciation by learning to understand and critique classic and contemporary literature from writers worldwide. Strengthen your own writing capabilities and be able to write for a variety of audiences.
5 What are some courses in a liberal arts degree?
While the exact curriculum requirements will vary among schools, here is a partial list of some of the courses you might take as a liberal arts or humanities student:
- African-American Experience
- American Studies
- Art History: Renaissance to Modern Art
- Classical Mythology
- Comparative Eastern Religions
- Contemporary Literature
- Cultural Anthropology
- Ethics and Values
- Expository Writing
- Gender and Women's Studies
- History and Philosophy of Science
- Introduction to Philosophy
- Logic and Critical Reasoning
- Mathematics for the Liberal Arts
- Modern Political Thought
- Music History
- Principles of Macroeconomics
- Principles of Microeconomics
- Western Civilization I
6 What skills will I learn in a liberal arts degree?
When you have completed your online liberal arts degree, you will likely have gained many of the following skills and competencies:
- Ability to effortlessly use the scientific method
- Ability to read with comprehension, then to analyze, interpret and judge different types of written material
- Ability to work successfully independently, as well as in a team environment
- Aesthetic appreciation for the visual and musical arts
- Appreciation of technology within the overall context of communication and information, culture and society
- Broad knowledge of great art, literature, music, history, science, and technology and an appreciation for their contributions to contemporary society
- Broad understanding of ideas and concepts from a range of fields
- Competency in making decisions that maximize both individual and the collective good
- Excellent information literacy skills
- Familiarity with the physical and biological aspects of the world and the universe
- Strong appreciation for various global cultures and beliefs and understanding of differences and similarities among societies and cultures, both at home and abroad
- Strong written and oral presentation skills
- The ability to conduct research and organize material effectively
- The ability to pose meaningful questions that advance understanding and knowledge
- Well-honed analytical and critical reasoning abilities
7 What can I do with a liberal arts degree?
Search the Sunday classifieds and you are not likely to find a posting for a Liberal Artist. A study of the O*Net dictionary of job titles will yield occupations from accountant to zoologist, but will ultimately produce the same confounding result. Nevertheless a liberal arts degree program is very practical. There is a strong case for pursuing an education for education's sake — and studying what interests you — as opposed to trying to predict the future job market. Market-based degrees that are "hot" today, may not be tomorrow. Liberal arts majors do not narrow their focus to one field of study, or receive specialized training for a specific job after college. Instead they get to choose from a broad range of course work in disciplines as varied as philosophy, sociology and foreign language. The result is a well-rounded job candidate able to think critically and creatively. Hold a liberal arts degree and you are not only marketable, but in demand.
"Liberal arts majors can do most anything they want to do," says Pat Hunn, academic advisor for Liberal Studies at California State University, Chico. "Our experience has been that most [employers] want bright, well-rounded college graduates whom they can train."
"We look for transferable skills rather than a specific major," agrees Tracy Jones Jackson, Human Resources Director for Sleep Train, a company with 850 employees. "Liberal arts majors are flexible."
Critical thinking and problem-solving are just two skills that make liberal arts majors attractive job candidates.
"Especially in the insurance industry, we actively sought liberal arts majors," Jackson, who also worked for Apple Computers and State Farm Insurance, adds. "It is highly regulated. There is [extensive] training and there are tests to pass. You need to be able to read and absorb a lot of information and discern what is important."
Jackson goes on to characterize liberal arts majors as "highly promotable." Because they don't have expertise in just one field, "they are open to work in different capacities."
Traditionally, a liberal arts degree has been associated with careers in education, the clergy, and law. Today it is readily accepted in the business world. It pays to study what interests you. A bachelor's degree in Medieval History and Philosophy wouldn't generally seem to forecast success. But Carly Fiorina went on to head Hewlett-Packard for six years, a company of 150,000 employees with $86 billion in revenue. Former Disney head, Michael Eisner, studied Literature and Theater.
Employers value the basics of a solid education. "Good verbal and written communication skills are a must," says Sheri Ditzel, Client Service Manager for Kelly Services. Its clients seek candidates for temporary and permanent positions in various fields including IT, legal, and engineering, in addition to office support. She adds, "project management skills are also key."
A liberal arts or humanities program nurtures all of those skills, and that is why employers are willing to invest. As new-hires take advantage of work-related training and gain experience, the link between their skills and their salaries will become stronger. Years down the line, there is plenty of opportunity for parity to be achieved.
8 What kind of employers hire liberal arts degree holders?
As an interdisciplinary major focusing upon critical-thinking skills and reasoning, individual and cultural diversity, speaking and writing skills, liberal arts and humanities majors enjoy an incredibly wide variety of job opportunities and are needed in a variety of industries, such as:
- Advertising agencies and PR firms
- Art galleries and art museums
- Banks, financial institutions, and investment firms
- Broadcast media companies
- Colleges and universities
- Cultural heritage organizations, museums, historical sites
- Educational publishers
- Federal, state and local government organizations
- K-12 public and private schools
- Law firms
- Newspapers, magazines, and other media companies
- Nonprofit organizations
- Political campaigns
- Public interest research groups
- Publishing companies
- Social service organizations
- Two-year and technical schools
9 What careers will I qualify for with a liberal arts degree?
Here is a sampling of jobs you for which you may be qualified with a degree in liberal arts or humanities. Use this for inspiration, remembering that this may represents some, but certainly not all, of the careers you can consider.
Possible Job Titles for Liberal Arts Degree Holders
- Advertising Account Executive
- Business Systems Analyst
- Claims Examiner
- Communications Specialist
- Community Educator/Advocate
- Development Assistant
- Editorial Assistant
- Employee Relations Specialist
- Financial Analyst
- Gallery Assistant
- Grant Writer
- Human Resource Specialist
- Industrial Designer
- Management Consultant
- Marketing Representative
- Museum Coordinator
- Office Administrator
- Production Assistant
- Project Assistant
- Public Relations Specialist
- Research Analyst
- Sales Assistant
- Social Worker
- Technical Writer
- Urban Planner
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