Master’s in Liberal Arts Program Guide

18 min read

Share this Article

With today's emphasis on STEM, many individuals worry that those with liberal arts degrees won't find jobs. Despite what some may say, research by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems found that, while unemployment rates for those with liberal arts graduates sits around the same percentage as those who completed professional or pre-professional degrees, liberal arts earnings outpace them over time.

While unemployment rates for those with liberal arts graduates sits around the same percentage as those who completed professional or pre-professional degrees, liberal arts earnings outpace them over time. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Quotation mark

Learners with the creativity, passion, and an interest in studying the liberal arts have the opportunity to use their degrees in innovative ways. A master's degree in liberal arts is the doorway to many exciting careers. Keep reading to learn about common coursework, available careers, and online resources to help you in your school and job search.

Should I Get a Master's in Liberal Arts?

A master's in liberal arts is an interdisciplinary program that offers learners a breadth of knowledge in philosophy, art, mathematics, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. The degree may attract students transitioning from an undergraduate degree and professionals who want to add a graduate degree to their resume. The former often opt for campus-based programs, while the latter may seek distance-learning programs that provide maximum flexibility.

Whether studying online or in person, students can benefit greatly from a program's support services. In school, they can take part in networking events and speaker series to help broaden their connections. Nearing graduation, they can contact career services for assistance with finding jobs, securing internships, and creating resumes. After graduation, they can take advantage of ongoing relationships with former professors or fellow alumni to forge connections that may lead to jobs. Finally, students can rely on the name recognition of their school to help open doors.

How to Choose a Master's Program in Liberal Arts

When reviewing different master's in liberal arts programs, some degree seekers may feel overwhelmed by the options. Narrow your options by reading the following.

First, make sure the program's curriculum provides coursework suited to your future goals and interests. You might also look for specific concentrations in particular areas of liberal arts.

Second, consider delivery method. While this guide mostly focuses on traditional, campus-based programs, individuals interested in distance learning can review Best Colleges' ranking of the top online master's in liberal arts programs to get a better sense of options.

Third, explore any expected projects or internships. Many master's in liberal arts programs require students to complete an internship, so students should find out what resources and support services exist to help them find a suitable location. Some require a written thesis, while others opt for a culminating final project. Depending on your future goals, one of these may appeal more than the other.

Finally, consider location, both in terms of cost and job prospects upon graduation. Students looking to save money may pursue in-state tuition at a public institution, while those who know they want to work in a specific location after graduation may decide to study in that city so they can build contacts while still in school.

Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Liberal Arts

Learners should attend a school with proper accreditation. Aside from institutional accreditation provided by regional and national accrediting agencies, many bodies now provide programmatic accreditation for individual degrees or departments. To receive programmatic accreditation, schools must submit to an independent, rigorous assessment process that helps ensure the degree adequately prepares students for graduation and that they receive ample support along the way. Degree seekers who fail to attend a regionally, nationally, or programmatically accredited school may find it difficult to transfer credits, move into a Ph.D. program, receive licensure (if necessary), or compete against other job candidates who did so.

Master's in Liberal Arts Program Admissions

When applying to a master's in liberal arts program, students must prepare themselves for the rigors of the admissions process and ensure they follow all instructions carefully, as acceptance tends to be competitive. Admissions panels generally require a bachelor's degree, GRE scores, minimum GPAs, and letters of recommendation from trusted practitioners.

Admissions for brick-and-mortar programs tend to be straightforward; admissions for distance education programs may ask you to demonstrate time management skills for working remotely. Most experts suggest students apply to four to eight programs to heighten their chances of getting in.


  • Check

    Bachelor's degree=

    While a bachelor's is required for any master's in liberal arts degree, most programs don't specify prerequisites or particular fields.
  • Check

    Professional Experience:

    The majority of programs do not require that students possess existing professional experience before applying, but learners should check with programs individually to confirm whether this requirement exists.
  • Check

    Minimum GPA:

    Many programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 or above, but students with lower GPAs may be able to offset this requirement with high GRE scores or professional experience.

Admission Materials

  • Check


    Filling out an application does not take all that long, but students should start several weeks before the due date as they may need to gather documents from outside sources.
  • Check


    Students must provide transcripts from any schools they've previously attended. These must be sent directly from institutions to those you apply to, and most schools charge a small fee.
  • Check

    Letters of Recommendation:

    Most schools require two to three letters of recommendation originating from former professors, mentors, or supervisors. Students should ask one month in advance to allow the recommender adequate time.
  • Check

    Test Scores:

    The GRE exists as the most common graduate school entrance exam. Learners should contact individual departments directly for more details.
  • Check

    Application Fee:

    Application fees typically range from $50-$125 and are nonrefundable. Learners showing academic merit or financial need may get these fees waived.

What Else Can I Expect from a Master's Program in Liberal Arts?

This section highlights common concentrations and coursework within a master's in liberal arts program. Students should check with the schools to which they apply to learn about specifics.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's Degree in Liberal Arts
Concentration Description Careers
Cultural Studies With an emphasis on how culture affects each discipline, students cover topics such as gender, postcolonialism, ethnicity, sexuality, and media to better understand the role of each. Roles related to sociology, history, psychology, or other human-focused careers.
Globalization Alongside traditional liberal arts subjects, students consider war, peace, politics, forms of governing, and anthropological advancements to gain a greater understanding of global culture. Roles requiring an international lens
Democracy By pulling from multiple disciplines within liberal studies, students can focus their interests in democracy and democratic studies to create a directed curriculum. Roles related to politics, public policy, sociology, or history.
Ethics Whether hoping to work in biochemistry or anthropology, the ethics concentration encourages future practitioners to consider the implications of their work and helps them develop a framework for their work in many different areas. Roles related to any of the liberal arts.
Religious Studies Students who want to understand the role and impact of religion across the ages pursue this concentration as it helps connect the dots between many historical and contemporary movements. Roles related to understanding how religion affects society.

Courses in a Master's in Liberal Arts Program

Based on faculty and available concentrations, many colleges offer unique coursework that helps the program stand out. While the courses listed below exist to give students a general idea of what to expect, they should check with prospective schools to get a more accurate sense of coursework they may encounter after enrolling.

Social History of Medicine

Chevron Down

This course looks at the development of modern medicine within cultural, economic, political, and social understandings. Learners consider advancements in medicine and the effects of lifestyle and naturopathic care.

Cultural Eras

Chevron Down

This course explores cultural and social phenomena of particular decades, with special focus on how these shifts speak to the concept of being an American. The course also looks at how gender, politics, socio-economics, and religion shifted during those time frames.

Gender Studies

Chevron Down

Students in this class study the evolving thoughts surrounding gender, with specific topics covering the idea of masculinity, the rise of feminism, the LGBTQ population, and the sexual revolution. Special emphasis is placed on setting each within historical context and showing how views have changed over time.

Environmental Studies

Chevron Down

This interdisciplinary class brings in studies related to the natural and social sciences to provide a clear understanding of how politics, economics, and ethics shape the ongoing conversation about environmental issues. Some of the topics include environmental justice, the rise of suburbs, contamination, and natural resource management.

Development of Modern Thought

Chevron Down

Learners delve into the history of thought, starting with ancient philosophers and moving toward ideas related to postmodernism. Disciplines woven throughout this course include the arts, literature, history, sociology, political science, and philosophy.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Liberal Arts?

Master's in liberal arts degrees require 30-36 credits. When studying on a full-time basis, most degree seekers finish the program in two years. While this path works for many, others may need an alternative timeline to make the program suit their needs. Many departments allow students to enroll on a part-time basis if that fits their schedules better; individuals who follow this plan usually graduate within three to four years.

Conversely, some learners want to finish more quickly. Several schools provide accelerated programs that fit more coursework into shorter semesters; other programs provide year-round learning options for those who don't want to sit idly during summer months. Internships, theses, and culminating projects may also affect the length of a program.

How Much Is a Master's in Liberal Arts?

Often the largest deciding factor in choosing a graduate program centers on whether you can afford to attend. According to data released by College Board, learners attending a public institution and receiving in-state tuition currently pay an average of $8,670 annually. Those attending a private institution pay an average of $29,960 each year for master's level education. These prices do not include room and board. If living on campus, students can expect to pay roughly $10,000-$11,500, depending on whether they attend a public or private school, respectively.

In some cases, living in off-campus accommodation with roommates offers a more cost-effective solution. Outside of housing, degree seekers must also consider costs related to food, transportation, parking, insurance, memberships, technology, and any other semester-based fees. Learners looking to pay less for their degree should research scholarships, grants, and teaching assistantship programs provided by the federal and state governments, private foundations, corporations, and the college they attend.

Resources for Graduate Liberal Arts Students

What Can You Do With A Liberal Arts Degree?

The University of Illinois at Springfield answers this common question with a list of options for students who feel drawn to the major but don't know how to make it work for them.

Wondering What to Do With That Liberal Arts Degree?

The Muse talks with alumni of liberal arts degrees to get insightful information on how they translated their knowledge into meaningful roles.

10 Great Careers You Can Have With a Liberal Arts Degree

Wise Bread offers practical ideas for career paths that look for and value the knowledge gained from these programs.

Highest Paying Jobs for Liberal Arts Generalists

For those who want high-earning salaries from their liberal arts degree, Monster provides a wealth of helpful information to get graduates on the right path.

10 Best Liberal Arts Career Paths

Zippia provides a list of jobs where your liberal arts degree comes in handy and also provides detailed info on how to sell your degree to prospective employers. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.