According to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, those with a bachelor's degree in the liberal arts earn — on average — more than $50,000 per year. An online bachelor's in liberal arts is preparation for a variety of exciting fields and a growing number of fulfilling careers. Today's employers desire skilled graduates of liberal arts programs, and a bachelor's in liberal arts is a highly marketable degree in today's changing job market.

What are the best liberal arts programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 California State University, Long Beach Long Beach, CA
2 California State University, Northridge Northridge, CA
3 Arizona State University Scottsdale, AZ
4 California State University, Chico Chico, CA
5 University of Illinois Springfield Springfield, IL
6 Clayton State University Morrow, GA
7 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA
8 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Camden Campus Camden, NJ
9 Northeastern University Boston, MA
10 Harvard University Cambridge, MA

What is a Degree in Liberal Arts?

A liberal arts degree is an excellent multidisciplinary education that develops strong foundations in a variety of different disciplines. The field offers a well-rounded education in the sciences, arts, and humanities, and emphasizes critical thinking and writing throughout. While some colleges and universities are designed as liberal arts institutions, general liberal arts degrees can be found at just about any college or university. The multi-faceted design of a liberal arts degree introduces students to a range of coursework, like earth sciences, art history, philosophy, and literature.

Many colleges allow a tailored design in their liberal arts degree program. Students can customize their undergraduate coursework toward their specific interests and career goals, and the interdisciplinary nature of a liberal arts bachelor's degree prepares students for the workforce, graduate school, or to be engaged participants in their community.


Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

California State University, Long Beach

Long Beach, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

CSULB offers a hybrid bachelor's in liberal arts degree completion program designed for busy professionals reentering higher education.

This 66-credit program includes courses on communication, global citizenship, and diverse cultures. Students take classes online and in person, working in small cohorts with their fellow learners. Courses take place one night a week and every other Saturday. Most students complete their bachelor's degree within two years.

Eligible applicants must possess at least 72 credits of transferable postsecondary coursework and a minimum 2.0 GPA. Prospective students should submit an application essay and official transcripts from all colleges they previously attended.

All bachelor's in liberal arts students pay the same tuition, regardless of state residency. Graduates complete their degrees with a median student loan debt of $15,000.


California State University, Northridge

Northridge, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

CSUN's Tseng College delivers an online bachelor's degree in liberal arts for individuals returning to school to complete their education. The 60-credit program features a cohort structure, allowing students to take classes with the same group of peers.

The curriculum includes a course on cities of the third world, which explores economic, cultural, and political influences that shape communities in Africa, the Caribbean, and other parts of the globe.

Prospective students must possess at least 60 transferable credits and a minimum 2.0 GPA. Their transcripts also must reflect passing grades in critical thinking, analytical writing, oral communication, and math courses. The program boasts a graduation rate of more than 85%. All online students pay the same tuition, even if they live out of state.


Arizona State University

Scottsdale, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 48%

ASU Online delivers a bachelor's in liberal arts program that encompasses more than two dozen subject areas across the social sciences and humanities. The program serves students looking to complete their bachelor's degree and individuals interested in exploring a variety of disciplines for their major.

The program features 40 total classes and 120 credits, with each class lasting 7.5 weeks. Students take all courses online and learn using an asynchronous schedule, with no set log-in times.

The program also provides flexibility in the classes students can take. One popular course — cultural diversity in the U.S. — examines how various cultures have influenced American communities and society as a whole. Located in Tempe, ASU boasts a five-year graduation rate of nearly 70%.


California State University, Chico

Chico, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 66%

Primarily serving students who plan to teach elementary school, the online bachelor's in liberal arts completion program at Chico State delivers a solid foundation in a variety of subject areas. The program also enables students to gain experience working with children in K-8 settings.

The program's curriculum includes courses on liberal studies, sociology, social sciences, and religious studies. Students have the freedom to choose many classes that interest them as they complete their degree.

Students can begin taking classes in the fall or spring. To apply as a transfer student, an applicant must provide official transcripts from colleges and universities they previously attended. Chico State's median student debt upon graduation is $17,000.


University of Illinois Springfield

Springfield, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

UIS offers an online bachelor's in liberal arts program designed for individuals looking to complete their undergraduate degree. While the program makes all its courses available online, students may opt to engage in some in-person experiences at the school's Springfield campus.

This online bachelor's degree in liberal arts features at least 48 credits of upper-division courses, with students choosing from a variety of subjects to complete their degree. Most students graduate within 2-3 years.

While resident students pay less than nonresidents, UIS offers discounted tuition rates to distance learners. The university also offers credit for prior learning, such as internships, service learning, the military, and job experience. UIS alumni make up nearly 30% of the college-educated workforce in the Springfield area.


Clayton State University

Morrow, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 30%

Located in Morrow, Georgia, CSU delivers a bachelor's in liberal arts degree that allows students to create their own curriculum. Many students who earn this liberal arts degree move seamlessly into graduate programs.

The program requires students to complete a minor to supplement their studies. Criminal justice and English minors are currently available entirely online, although the school plans to expand these options in the future.

First-time applicants must provide their official high school transcripts or GED scores, along with their ACT or SAT scores. Prospective transfer students should submit official college transcripts from previously attended institutions. Out-of-state residents who study online pay less than they would for on-campus classes.


University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 73%

Emphasizing leadership and communication skills, UI's online bachelor's degree in liberal arts allows students to complete their undergraduate studies from a distance. Students may choose from concentrations in expression in writing and the arts; family, community, and social support; global studies; health and human studies; justice and ethics; and organizational studies.

To graduate, students must complete a total of 120 credits, transferring in up to 60 credits from a two-year postsecondary institution. Incoming transfer students must possess at least 24 credits of college coursework earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. The program also accepts individuals with an associate degree.

Bachelor of liberal studies students may also combine their degree with a certificate in entrepreneurial management, nonprofit management, or public health.


Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Camden Campus

Camden, NJ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 58%

Rutgers-Camden delivers an online bachelor's degree in liberal arts for individuals who possess an AAS degree from an accredited institution.

Students can tailor their studies to match their interests and career goals, choosing from courses in music and the arts, English, history, literature, and the social sciences. Although students can take all classes online, they may opt for in-person experiences at several campuses throughout New Jersey.

Applicants to this bachelor's in liberal arts program must provide transcripts from all colleges and universities they previously attended. Students at nearby community colleges can apply to a dual-degree program and earn a bachelor's and master's in liberal studies at the same time.


Northeastern University

Boston, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 88%

Northeastern's online bachelor's in liberal arts degree completion program features an experiential learning model that teaches students the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a variety of workplaces.

The 48-credit program includes courses in English, humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and science. Students complete a three-credit capstone, conducting independent research aligned with their chosen curriculum path. All courses take place online and feature an asynchronous structure.

To apply, prospective students must submit their official college transcripts. Incoming students may begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer. Northeastern's main campus is located in Boston. Resident and nonresident students pay the same tuition.


Harvard University

Cambridge, MA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 98%

Harvard's Extension School offers an on-campus and online bachelor's in liberal arts program tailored to professionals looking to complete their degree while working full time. The program primarily serves adults over the age of 30 who have completed 1-2 years of postsecondary coursework.

While most learning takes place online, students must complete at least 16 credits at the Harvard campus; however, three-week and weekend class options are available. Graduates can also participate in the institution's annual commencement ceremony.

To receive admission into this bachelor's in liberal arts program, students must complete three initial courses with a "B" or better. The program accepts up to 64 transfer credits from regionally accredited colleges and universities.

In-state and out-of-state Harvard Extension School students pay the same tuition. The liberal arts program also offers a joint bachelor's/master's degree.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Liberal Arts Program?

Though these rankings provide a general idea of what to expect from an online degree in liberal arts, note that programs will vary from school to school. Carefully consider each program's online learning platforms, policies, and degree path options before selecting the best online degree in liberal arts for you and your needs.


Concentration Description Careers this concentration prepares for
Political Science Political science studies the ideologies, policies, strategies, and processes of various forms of government and politics. Courses cover how societies create and maintain government systems, and compare different governing bodies in countries around the world. Government Jobs, Lobbyist, Campaign Manager, Educator, Businessperson, Journalist
Women's Studies A concentration in women's studies requires courses in feminist theory, civil and women's rights, representation, and cultural identity. This field usually emphasizes intersectionality, and it studies a wide range of cultures, ideologies, and history. Advocate, Social Worker, Human Relations Professional, Educator, Community Development Coordinator
Literature Literary studies cover topics like writing, communication skills, and analysis. A concentration in literature examines the history, themes, and rhetorical structure of texts. Librarian, Editorial Assistant, Copy Editor, Journalist, Writer


As you can see, a liberal arts degree prepares you for a range of interesting and engaging careers. It is important to remember that course offerings and degree paths vary from within each school and program, however, here is sample curriculum of what you might expect in an online bachelor's in liberal arts program:

  • Introduction to Sociology: This course is a broad look at the inner workings of society. As a field, sociology addresses the ways humans interact and the cultures that they form together. This course is an introduction to the broader field of sociology, and the basic sociological ideas and principles. Courses in sociology are good preparation for a career in social services.
  • British and American Literature: Courses in British and American literature cover novels and texts from various time periods, usually from the early 1400's to today. These courses engage many genres of writing, including poetry, novels, and nonfiction essays. Students identify different literary movements and periods, and write critical analysis of literary works. Studying literature may be preparation for a job as a secondary English teacher.
  • Philosophy: The study of philosophy covers topics including the mind and body, religion and spirituality, and the nature of truth. Courses in philosophy call for a great deal of thought and contemplation of different ideas and concepts. The field also engages the historical philosophical tradition, and traces the origin and maturation of theories and concepts. Philosophy provides a better understanding of the world, and is a common field for those intending to pursue a law degree.


A typical bachelor's degree requires the completion of 120 credit hours of coursework. For a traditional, full-time student, this may take up to four years. Students may be able to complete their online degree in liberal arts program in less time, depending on how many hours one takes per semester, and whether summer classes are available.

The length of time it will take to complete an online degree program in liberal arts can vary widely due to a number of factors. For example, a cohort-directed program that keeps students together throughout a program may require more time to complete; an individually paced program allows students to work at the pace that suits them, and may lead to earning a degree more quickly. It is also important to note whether a program is offered asynchronously or synchronously. Each of these will have an affect on the pace at which students complete their required coursework.

Accreditation for Online Liberal Arts Degrees

With the available amount of online and on-campus college options available, it may be overwhelming to select the best online bachelor's in liberal arts program for you. One important factor to consider, however, is the kind of accreditation each program holds.

Schools are most likely regionally accredited, and some may be nationally accredited, as well. Regional accreditations include the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits schools in 19 north central states that meet its specific criteria. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is another highly esteemed accrediting agency that provides a comprehensive list of their recognized accredited post-secondary schools on their website.

While the U.S. Department of Education is responsible for the policies in the U.S. school system, it also provides aid and assistance to students through a variety of grants and loans. The first step in securing funding for your degree is to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines your eligibility for federal funding. The Department of Education also maintains a database of federally accredited institutions.

Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Liberal Arts Graduates


Graduates of an online bachelor's in liberal arts program generally have a few key advantages over other applicants in the job market. Since the nature of the liberal arts degree is multidimensional, graduates are equipped to handle the interpersonal and critical thinking skills employers look for in their employees.

Skill Advantage
Critical Thinking Critical thinking demonstrates an ability to solve problems while also seeking team-oriented solutions to complex dilemmas.
Adaptability A liberal arts degree program prepares graduates to move seamlessly from one area to another. Adaptability is vital in today's ever-changing job market.
Communication Nearly every career demands excellent written and verbal communication skills. Graduates of a liberal arts degree program excel in this area, making them more marketable to future employers.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a number of jobs in the liberal arts that offer healthy average salaries. A liberal arts degree prepares graduates to enter a number of quickly growing fields, with generous starting salaries and a potential for advancement. Below, you will find a few examples of average salaries of jobs held by graduates with liberal arts degrees.

Job Title Average Salary
Social and Community Service Manager $64,680
Social Worker $46,890
Human Resources $63,639
Secondary Teacher $58,080
Public Relations Specialist $58,020


Liberal arts degree programs are great for people with a wide variety of interests and hobbies, and who want to pursue different fields of study at the same time. Rather than a focus in one area, an online bachelor's in liberal arts exposes students to a number of different majors and minors before choosing a more specific concentration. Graduates of liberal arts programs are highly effective in careers that value teamwork and strong critical and analytical thinking skills.

Social Worker

Social workers support vulnerable children and families, and connect them with available and appropriate resources in the community. They create workable plans to provide support for families and individuals in need.

Median Annual Salary $46,890

Projected Growth Rate 12%

Social and Community Service Manager

An ideal career for those who enjoy planning and coordinating services in their communities, social and community service managers work within their local communities in non-profit organizations and government agencies.

Median Annual Salary $64,680

Projected Growth Rate 12%

Human Resources Specialist

Human resource specialists organize hiring and hiring processes for companies and organizations. These specialists are tasked with screening, interviewing, and recruiting prospective employees, and they may also handle day-to-day issues and processes between workers.

Median Annual Salary $63,639

Projected Growth Rate 9%

High School Teacher

High school teachers plan and teach lessons in their subject of specialization. A graduate of a liberal arts program has the potential to specialize in just about any high school class subject, from mathematics to social studies.

Median Annual Salary $58,080

Projected Growth Rate 6%

Public Relations Specialist

These specialists are often the public face of companies. They work directly with the public to promote a positive image of the company, while raising awareness of an organization's goals and missions.

Median Annual Salary $58,020

Projected Growth Rate 6%


Because a liberal arts degree program exposes students to a broad array of subjects and disciplines, graduates are prepared to work in countless professional organizations and companies. However, the broad scope makes it even more important for students to find specific programs and organizations to help them achieve their career goals and maintain positive and ongoing professional relationships. Below, you will find a few professional organizations in the liberal arts.

Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Liberal Arts Program

There are a number of ways to fund an online bachelor's in liberal arts, including loans and scholarships. The first step to obtaining funding for your undergraduate education is always to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). From there, your school will be able to provide you with more individualized funding opportunities based on your personal needs.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.