According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employees with associate degrees earn a median wage of about $825 per week, which is more than their counterparts with no college experience. The broad curriculum offered in a liberal arts associate degree gives professionals an educational foundation to advance their careers and continue on to further study.

An associate degree in liberal arts incorporates a wide range of subject areas, including communication, fine arts, and social science to help you build critical-thinking and analytical skills. As a liberal arts student, you learn about general global issues, human interactions, and business principles that can apply to your personal and professional life. During your liberal arts associate program, you may find specific subjects and topics that lead you to continue on to a four-year degree.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts?

Whether you work full-time and hope to move your career forward or you recently graduated from high school and intend to enroll in college, a liberal arts associate degree makes a great first step. An associate degree in liberal arts includes core classes that build your general knowledge. Within this program, you also take elective classes to explore your own interests and tailor your degree to meet your personal goals.

While recent high school graduates may prefer on-campus associate liberal arts degree options, online alternatives can provide flexibility and convenience for working professionals. An associate program in liberal arts on campus provides more structure for students, with classes offered during the day. Online degrees may allow you to take coursework on your own around work and life responsibilities.

An associate degree in liberal arts helps you think critically and examine connections across diverse topics. You study the humanities, social and natural science, and language as you develop writing and communication skills. Liberal arts associate degrees give you the tools needed to work with others, interpret information, and make well-reasoned decisions.

While in the program, you can plan your next professional and personal steps. Many schools that offer associate programs in liberal arts provide easy transfer to four-year degrees through agreements with other schools.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Liberal Arts?

An associate degree in liberal arts prepares you for a career based in critical-thinking, information analysis, and organizational support. With advanced written and verbal communication skills, you can obtain a job in various professional sectors, pave the way to career growth, and open up opportunities for future study.

Administrative Assistant

These professionals provide clerical, communication, and procedural support for administrators and professionals. Administrative assistants manage schedules, maintain records, and keep track of supplies. They also must possess excellent organizational and interpersonal skills and show expertise in computers, spreadsheets, databases, and word processing software.

Median Annual Salary: $37,870*

Office Clerk

Office clerks perform clerical duties, answering phones and handling email correspondence both within the office and with outside clients and customers. These professionals also organize electronic and paper files, perform data entry, and use various types of office equipment. Office clerks are detail-oriented and must adapt to the needs of their employer and colleagues.

Median Annual Salary: $31,500*


Receptionists excel in interpersonal communication and information management, providing customer contact and support. They also work with others to schedule appointments and disseminate information. Receptionists adapt to the organization's needs and client base, handling stressful situations or sensitive information with integrity.

Median Annual Salary: $28,390*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose an Associate Program in Liberal Arts

As you consider liberal arts associate program options, you need to take several factors into consideration. Most associate programs last two years for full-time students. Part-time students in online liberal arts associate programs; however, often hold more scheduling flexibility than their full-time counterparts, especially for those unable to attend classes on campus. Program location and format also influence cost. Students enrolled in on-campus degrees at public colleges and universities pay in-state or out-of-state tuition, but many online institutions provide flat tuition rates.

Associate degrees in liberal arts also allow students to take elective classes to supplement the degree. If a potential school does not offer relevant elective classes that fit your career goals, you may want to explore another school that does. This can play a greater role in your decision if you plan to transfer to a specific bachelor's program after you complete your associate degree. Working professionals that want to earn a bachelor's degree in business, for example, need to keep business elective courses in mind when choosing an associate program.

Some associate programs offered by four-year schools may provide a more seamless transfer into a bachelor's degree with various transfer options and articulation agreements.

Associate in Liberal Arts Program Admissions

When you apply to a school that offers an associate degree in liberal arts, you need to adhere to admissions deadlines. Deadlines vary by school, and many online programs offer multiple admissions dates during an academic year. On-campus schools usually admit students twice a year: once in the fall and once in the spring.

Consider several schooling options when applying for admissions. Schools that offer associate degrees in liberal arts provide different course offerings, so apply to the programs that best meet your needs and interests. Keep in mind that many schools offer articulation agreements with four-year degrees and, if you want to continue on to a bachelor's degree, you may want to attend a school with that option. If transferring from another institution, check to see how many hours of previous coursework apply to your liberal arts associate degree.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Colleges and universities require you to submit formal applications for admission consideration. Applications include contact information and educational background details. Many schools offer online applications, but you can contact admissions offices for printed versions if needed.
  • Transcripts: Admission to an associate program requires high school and previous college transcripts. If you hold a GED, you need to submit documentation for that as well. You can get a high school transcript from the school's guidance counselor's office. Your previous institution's registrar's office provides you with college transcripts, often for a small fee.
  • Application Fee: Application fees range between $20 and $100 for college and university admission. Many schools offer application discounts or waivers for students that demonstrate financial need.

Educational Paths for Liberal Arts Associate Programs

An associate degree in liberal arts provides you with the foundational knowledge and study skills needed to advance to a four-year degree. Professionals with bachelor's degrees earned almost $500 more per week than those with associate degrees during the second economic quarter of 2018, according to the BLS. A liberal arts associate degree prepares you to continue on to more advanced study in an array of subjects, including communications, business, and education.

Bachelor's Degree in Communication

A bachelor's in communication builds on the foundations of an associate program in liberal arts by giving students advanced coursework on interpersonal and organizational communication, visual and oral mediums, and techniques for transmitting messages among individuals and groups. A bachelor's in communication may include an emphasis on mass media and marketing.

Bachelor's Degree in Business

Business bachelor's degrees include coursework on accounting, economics, communication, marketing, and management. With an associate degree in liberal arts, students can transition to a business program that focuses on business and organizational decision-making, information and data analysis, and project design and management.

Bachelor's Degree in Education

Most bachelor's degrees in education prepare students to become teachers in elementary, middle, and high school settings, though several programs emphasize adult learning and corporate instruction. Future educators thrive in a bachelor of education program with the communication, analysis, and critical-thinking skills acquired through an associate degree in liberal arts.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate Program in Liberal Arts?

Coursework and requirements for an associate program in liberal arts differ by school, but some aspects remain consistent. Many programs offer discipline emphases within the general curriculum, while others focus on the comprehensive nature of the liberal arts degree. Programs may also allow you to transfer credits from other institutions, changing your specific degree path.

Courses in an Associate Program in Liberal Arts

Many of the curricula for associate degrees in liberal arts are similar. By studying behavioral and social science, you gain an understanding of humanity and the world in which we live. Coursework in language, history, natural science, and fine arts provides perspectives and applications of each discipline while giving you the tools to write and communicate effectively.

English Composition

English composition classes teach students the elements of narrative, analytical, and persuasive writing. Composition also stresses research, documentation, and the basics of essay construction. Students develop essay topics, construct thesis statements, compose and revise numerous writing assignments, and hone their written communication skills.

Public Speaking

Public speaking classes give students the opportunity to present information verbally to a group. Students present persuasive, informative, and impromptu presentations while learning about audience reception and delivery techniques. Public speaking emphasizes articulation, body language, and voice projection in addition to speech structure, organization, and clarity.

Introduction to Sociology

Introduction to sociology classes provide students with theories of sociology and how to apply them to individuals, groups, and situations. Students learn about social behavior, group dynamics, and individual decision-making in the context of personal and global influences. Introductory sociology coursework also gives students the tools to examine their own feelings and behavior.

Historical Perspectives and Applications

These classes provide information on historical dates, events, and people that include trends throughout history. Students learn how to read, research, and write about history, often through a specific action or change emphasized in the course.

Basic Computer and Technological Skills

Computer and technological skills coursework introduces students to computer terminology, software, digital learning, and information technology applications. Students learn word processing, spreadsheet maintenance, and database usage to keep, manage, and access electronic information. Coursework includes experiential learning, often in a computer lab setting.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Liberal Arts?

With 60-62 credit hours, an associate degrees in liberal arts lasts about two years for full-time students. Students enrolled part time may take up to three or four years to complete a degree, though students with transfer credits can complete an associate degree much more quickly.

There are some synchronous courses within a liberal arts associate degree that can extend the program for part-time students. Programs with multiple levels of English composition or sequential science classes require students to complete classes in order, for example. If a school only offers a course during one term, a part-time student risks missing the chance to take it. By working with advisers, you can avoid these types of delays.

Full-time students may pay less for their degrees as well. Many schools offer tuition based on credit hours, with a cap at 12 hours. By taking more than 12 credits, tuition often changes to paying per term, giving students incentive to take more credit hours, because this is often cheaper than paying per credit.

How Much Is an Associate in Liberal Arts?

The cost of an associate degree in liberal arts varies depending on location, transfer credits, and student status. If an affordable in-state program does not exist in your area, you may need to find a school out-of-state. Online institutions may or may not factor in location for tuition, with many schools offering flat-rate tuition to all students. Associate degrees in liberal arts include 60-62 credit hours of coursework. Students can pay between $180 and $350 per credit hour for a total degree cost of around $22,000.

When you take classes on campus, you must consider additional costs, such as housing, commuting, parking, and meal plans. Facility fees and other charges that on-campus students pay may not factor into online coursework costs. Online programs offer the convenience of attending class and doing school work from home, eliminating potential cost-of-living expenses associated with on-campus programs.

Financial aid opportunities offered through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, give students access to loans, scholarships, and grants at the federal, state, and university levels. For aid consideration, students should submit a FAFSA application as early as possible. Many schools offer other financial aid programs, including assistance for adult learners, military veterans, and first-generation college students. You should contact the financial aid office at each of your potential schools for information on program eligibility.

Professional Organizations in Liberal Arts

Joining a professional organization as a liberal arts student opens up opportunities for job resources, networking connections, and interest-related resources. Liberal arts students benefit from attending annual conferences and accessing online career services. Members can also find bachelor's degree and certificate programs that relate to their academic and professional goals through organizational involvement.

American Society of Administrative Professionals

ASAP brings together administrative professionals from around the world to discuss their role and responsibilities within the field. Membership to ASAP is free, with members gaining access to event discounts, industry updates, webinars and trainings, and organization publications.

International Association of Administrative Professionals

IAAP connects office and administrative professionals and provides resources to help them excel in the field. Student and professional members to IAAP gain networking opportunities, continuing education resources, and access to the IAAP Certified Administrative Professional program.

National Association of Professional Receptionists

NAPR seeks to advance the position, value, and credibility of professional receptionists through employee certifications, events, and employer assistance. Members gain certification credit, receive discounts to events, and can build chapters within the association.