When pursuing a bachelor's degree, college students face many challenges, including tuition and housing costs. These hurdles may be daunting to some students, but earning a bachelor's degree in the liberal arts today benefits your future career and can increase your earning potential. In fact, graduates with a liberal arts degree make an average salary of $59,000 per year, which is $11,000 more than individuals with a high school diploma or GED. Furthermore, scholarships, grants, and hybrid or online degree options make earning a liberal arts degree easier than ever before.
A strong liberal arts bachelor's degree program provides essential tools for developing the ability to produce original thoughts and arguments and engage critically with complex issues facing our world today. While pursuing a degree in the liberal arts may seem less concrete than a law degree, for example, a carefully selected degree program that fits your needs teaches you how to engage with issues in your field on their terms.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts?
Many students elect to complete their bachelor's degrees on campus. The on-campus experience includes living in dorms or nearby campus and attending live lectures. On-campus life benefits socially active students who wish to be around their classmates and develop a community through school activities and campus events. On-campus degrees often attract recent high school graduates. Some colleges and universities have separate adult housing quarters, designated for students older than the "traditional" on-campus student.
Whether taking classes on campus, online, or through a hybrid format, students who earn a liberal arts bachelor's degree acquire skills in the humanities, social sciences, creative arts, and sciences. A liberal arts degree provides you with general employability skills, such as effective writing and speaking, critical thinking, problem solving, and information literacy. Your unique application of these skills makes you a valuable employee in across multiple career fields.
While attending a liberal arts school, you have unique opportunities to network and build relationships with your peers. Your classmates are valuable connections, both socially and professionally, and are the future influencers and significant players in your field. Being on campus and working with these individuals helps you establish those personal and business relationships that pay off substantially in future. Your colleagues become a supportive network after you leave campus and can even help you locate internships and jobs when you enter the competitive job market.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts?
Students who pursue a liberal arts degree come from a wide variety of backgrounds, personalities, and interests. The diverse major options and electives may be one of the reasons you choose to attend a liberal arts bachelor's degree program. Despite what their title may imply, liberal arts degrees are not directionless, art-based programs. Liberal arts graduates work in fields as disparate as advertising, linguistics, law enforcement, and education.
- Executive Assistant
These professionals provide administrative assistance to executives in various roles at companies and corporations. In addition to clerical work and some secretarial duties, executive assistants may also conduct market research, train new employees, and coordinate schedules.
Median Annual Salary: $47,708*
- Administrative Coordinator
As an administrative coordinator, you provide support to a company's employees in addition to supervising staff personnel. You may also assist in managing a company's budget. Coordinators can also be in charge of hiring employees and some financial management duties.
Median Annual Salary: $42,304*
- Office Manager
Reporting directly to the CEO or other high-level executives, an office manager coordinates all ongoing office projects and has substantial financial experience. You may have to develop budgets or handle purchasing duties on behalf of your company. This position usually requires a bachelor's degree and at least two years of managerial experience.
Median Annual Salary: $44,503*
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts Program
When choosing a program, there are some important factors to consider. All degrees offer something unique, be it a concentration you may be interested in or an internship placement program. You must locate the program that best fits your educational needs. If you envision a career in a specialized area of your field, be sure that your program offers you that training or the necessary credentials.
How long can you afford to be in school? Students usually need to earn around 120 credits to graduate. Full-time students often complete those credit requirements in four years. On the other hand, some schools offer accelerated programs that enable you to finish in less time. Enrolling part-time extends the length of a program past four years but is often the best fit for busy, working professionals and students with children. The duration of your degree program as a part-time student depends on how many credits you can handle per semester and when required courses are available. You might have to wait longer than expected to complete required courses based on course scheduling.
Whether you're a full- or part-time student, an online liberal arts degree option could save you time and money. You can save on transportation and other costs of living expenses by working toward your degree from home. Accelerated and self-paced programs can help you finish your degree requirements promptly. Earning a degree from home also offers a level of comfort and requires fewer changes to your routine.
Bachelor's in Liberal Arts Program Admissions
The office of admissions receives all applications for both online and on-campus programs. Applications are usually electronically sorted and ranked based on a school's standard admissions requirements, from test scores to GPAs. An admissions team and department chairs or professors in your prospective department carefully consider those applications that met the basic requirements and passed the initial review. While test scores and transcripts matter for admission to both on-campus and online, traditional on-campus programs have to take availability of space and capacity into consideration.
Online programs may have a limited number of virtual seats per class, but deadlines, scheduling, and space are much less of a concern. In either case, you should apply to your desired schools as soon as possible. In first-come, first-served scenarios, you increase your chances of being accepted by applying early. Applying to more than six schools is not a bad idea but requires more time, energy, and money for application fees.
- Minimum GPA: For many schools, a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale is considered the minimum.
- Application: Depending on the student and program, some applications take several hours to complete. Give yourself enough time to compile a thoughtful application.
- Transcripts: Prospective students need to submit official transcripts from high school and any previously attended colleges or universities. Some colleges charge a small fee for an official transcript.
- Letters of Recommendation: The schools to which you apply should tell you how many, if any, letters of recommendation are required. Some schools require that your recommender mail or electronically submit the letter themselves rather than sending it to you first.
- Test Scores: The applications for each school will state which tests, if any, are required for admission. Common test scores required for an undergraduate degree are the SAT or ACT.
- Application Fee: A typical application fee is about $40, but this varies depending on the school. Over 2,000 colleges participate in a program that allows you to apply for free if you took the SAT or ACT using a test fee waiver.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts Program?
Depending on the schools, departments, and your areas of academic interest, the details of your bachelor's in liberal arts program vary. Each school includes professors and resources that determine its strengths and weaknesses. These characteristics dictate required courses, electives, and minor concentrations available to students.
Courses in a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts Program
You will find that the core curriculum for a particular major will be similar between different schools. For any given major there is usually a widely agreed upon foundation of knowledge, represented by your core set of classes, determined by historical academic trends and the experts in that field. Below is a sample curriculum, similar to what you may encounter in your liberal arts degree program.
- Introduction to Writing Fiction
This introductory writing class helps students formulate their ideas into stories. You will learn about writing and editing processes and create stories of your own in a collaborative, supportive environment.
- Introduction to Traditional Africa
A focus on the history and culture of a geographic area can be helpful in many professional settings. These courses examine the essential aspects of economy, politics, and art of societies that came before us and laid the foundation for civilizations around the planet.
- Urban Studies Research Methods
Methods courses show you how to design your own research projects and utilize scientific data and library resources. In this course, students receive an introduction to data analysis and the theoretical approaches to studying urban life and culture.
- Physical Activity in Society
Students learn how social forces influence cultural, economic, historical, and demographic considerations in geographic areas. Understanding how humans navigate the social forces at play in their lives is informative for any career that strives to stay current with popular culture, social media, consumer trends, and art.
- Biological Anthropology
For students interested in human development over time, human identity, the environment, and nature, courses like this help you better understand human evolution and our role on the planet. Anthropological studies are not only about where people come from but also where we are going in the future.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts?
Several different factors affect the duration of your liberal arts bachelor's degree. Most full-time students can complete their degree requirements in four years. Part-time students take longer to finish, depending on their availability and workload. Some schools offer accelerated online programs wherein degree seekers can complete the program in less than four years.
While pursuing your bachelor's degree, most of which require around 120 credits for graduation, you can take advantage of summer and online courses to finish faster and potentially save money. Some schools allow students to take an excessive number of credits, beyond the recommended full-time status. If this is an option, you may be able to finish your degree more quickly. The cost per credit, however, may increase after you enroll above the recommended maximum number of credits per semester. Students should check with an academic advisor to help plan their degree program.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts?
The cost of a bachelor's degree in liberal arts varies between schools. The National Center for Education Statistics indicated that the national annual average for undergraduate tuition is around $17,000 at public institutions, $43,000 at private nonprofit institutions, and $24,000 at private for-profit institutions.
When figuring how much money you need to spend on your education, it is important to look beyond the cost of tuition alone. Common costs such as housing, additional campus and technology fees, transportation, food, and entertainment should be included in your budget.
Apply to schools that make both academic and financial sense for your needs and lifestyle. Additionally, consider saving money by reducing your expenses outside of tuition. Attending a school nearby, where you can easily commute, saves substantial transportation costs. Enrolling in an online program is a cheaper alternative for some students, especially those who live in remote areas. Many public and state colleges also offer lower tuition costs than private schools and, in the long run, might save you thousands of dollars.
Resources for Liberal Arts Students
This peer-reviewed journal publishes works covering all aspects of digital media in the humanities. Students can search for research materials, scholarly articles, opinion pieces, and reviews of books, websites, and new media installations.
For all students incorporating philosophy, history, science, or esthetics into their studies, the Philosophy Commons provides access to over 18,000 full-text articles and research papers.
MIT offers online access to dozens of courses and the scholarly materials that its professors compiled for their students. These serve as useful references for research projects and additional study materials.
Hosted by the Los Angeles Times, Culture Monster collects articles on popular culture, arts, and the humanities.
As one of the leading resources for the study of art and cultural heritage, Smarthistory provides unparalleled access to digital media works by more than 200 expert historians, archaeologists, and curators.
Professional Organizations in Liberal Arts
Professional organizations are valuable resources for current students and recent graduates. Built around shared interests in an academic or professional field, these organizations provide their members with networking events that foster collaboration between colleagues.