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A broad, interdisciplinary degree, a master's in liberal arts offers learners the opportunity to study a wide variety of subjects and encourages critical thinking, problem-solving, intellectual curiosity, and effective communication. Graduates can apply these skills to many different careers.
Candidates with this degree find diverse opportunities in a variety of fields, including education, library science, communications, journalism, politics, business, and healthcare. According to PayScale, individuals with a master's in liberal arts earn an average annual salary of $71,050.
Most online master's in liberal arts programs include coursework in world cultures, social issues, philosophy, history, literature, natural sciences, and the arts.
Read our master's in liberal arts program guide to learn more about how to choose a program and admission requirements.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Liberal Arts Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:
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|1||Harvard University||Cambridge, MA|
|2||Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore, MD|
|3||Stony Brook University||Stony Brook, NY|
|4||Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey||Newark, NJ|
|5||Arizona State University||Scottsdale, AZ|
|6||University of Oklahoma||Norman, OK|
|7||Texas Christian University||Fort Worth, TX|
|8||University of North Carolina at Greensboro||Greensboro, NC|
|9||University of North Carolina Wilmington||Wilmington, NC|
|10||The College at Brockport||Brockport, NY|
- How We Rank Schools
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2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Liberal Arts Programs
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|Cambridge, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 98%||
Harvard's Extension School offers master's in liberal arts degrees across more than 20 subjects in arts, business, education, environmental sustainability, global studies, life sciences, social sciences, and technology.
Students can take classes online or on campus, and all graduates can walk at Harvard's traditional commencement ceremony. The program includes a thesis requirement that gives students the opportunity to complete and present a self-designed research project.
To qualify for admission, prospective students must earn satisfactory grades in 2-3 initial classes. They can then complete the remaining 10-12 courses in their program, typically graduating within two years. All students pay the same tuition, regardless of where they live.
Johns Hopkins University
|Baltimore, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 93%||
Johns Hopkins' online master's in liberal arts program offers a flexible curriculum that students can tailor to match their interests and career goals. The 10-course program features one interdisciplinary core class, with the remaining courses consisting of electives. Students also take a capstone course, completing a portfolio, graduate project, or internship.
Eligible applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students also need to submit a 2-3-page essay, a resume, and official college transcripts. Individuals who have completed graduate-level liberal arts coursework may qualify for advanced standing.
Students may begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer, and most participants graduate in 12-24 months. All master's in liberal arts students pay the same tuition, even if they live outside Maryland.
Stony Brook University
|Stony Brook, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 74%||
An interdisciplinary program spanning the arts, social sciences, and natural sciences, Stony Brook's online master's degree in liberal studies gives students considerable flexibility regarding the courses they take.
The 33-credit, two-year program serves working adults who wish to attend graduate school part time. All coursework takes place online and is delivered asynchronously. However, students also have opportunities to engage in internships, field experiences, and other in-person learning to supplement their studies.
Individuals interested in enrolling in this master's in liberal arts program must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students should also submit a 750-1,000-word personal statement, a resume, and at least two letters of recommendation. Stony Brook is part of the State University of New York system.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
|Newark, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Rutgers delivers an online master's in liberal studies program designed for working adults with considerable life experience. The program prepares individuals for advanced career opportunities or to transition into a doctoral program.
Students complete 30 credits — tailored largely to their interests — and take classes related to the arts, social sciences, literature, philosophy, history, and natural sciences. Students also complete a capstone project on a topic of their choosing.
Prospective students must provide two recommendation letters, a writing sample, and a personal statement. The program accepts candidates who possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The admissions process does not require GRE scores.
Arizona State University
|Scottsdale, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
ASU's online master's degree in liberal studies explores the intersection of arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Students can tailor their degree to meet their interests and learning goals.
The 30-credit program features 10 courses delivered in 7.5-week terms. All distance learning takes place asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework around their schedules. Most full-time students graduate within two years. Before graduating, all students complete an applied research project.
Application requirements include a letter of interest, a resume or biographical statement, and two letters of recommendation. Eligible students must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. They should also have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of Oklahoma
|Norman, OK||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 67%||
OU's master of arts in integrated studies allows students to explore a variety of subjects that can help improve their communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Students may choose from concentrations in research methods, foundations of interdisciplinary studies, cultural communication, diversity in the United States, volunteering, and volunteer management. The program's format features 16-week classes, and students can usually graduate within two years. All learning takes place online using an asynchronous course format. Students complete 33 credits and a master's thesis.
To apply to this master's program, prospective students should submit a statement of purpose, a resume, and at least two recommendation letters. Eligible students must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Texas Christian University
|Fort Worth, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 83%||
Offering self-directed degree plans and a variety of intellectually challenging courses, TCU's master's in liberal arts program gives students the chance to explore their personal and vocational interests.
The 30-credit program features many online course options, and most students graduate in 1-2 years. In addition to classes of their own choosing, students complete at least one course in each of the following topics: contemporary U.S. society, American cultural diversity, and other world cultures.
The program is open to individuals who possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Applicants do not need to meet a minimum GPA requirement or submit GRE scores. All TCU graduate students pay the same tuition. The university is located in Fort Worth, Texas.
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
|Greensboro, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
UNCG offers an online MA in applied arts and sciences that teaches students data analysis, creative thinking, and collaboration skills that can maximize their value in the workplace.
The 33-credit program features project-based courses that allow students to complete assignments largely on their own time. Classes last seven weeks each and full-time learners can graduate in 18 months. The program also offers an Applied Learning Studio, which gives students the chance to work with one another virtually to network, conduct research, and collaborate on assignments.
Eligible applicants to this master's program must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. However, the admissions process does not require students to submit GRE scores.
University of North Carolina Wilmington
|Wilmington, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
UNCW's online master's program in liberal studies gives students the chance to create their own curriculum, with course options that cover topics like environmental studies, social sciences, cultural studies, the arts and humanities, natural sciences, literature, and social concerns.
Designed for lifelong learners, the 30-credit program features online courses with mostly asynchronous formats. All students complete a capstone project and take a final exam before graduating. Students may concentrate their degree on women's studies or conflict management and resolution.
To apply, prospective students must submit a writing sample and three letters of recommendation. The program requires incoming students to hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited postsecondary institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants do not need to provide GRE or GMAT scores.
The College at Brockport
|Brockport, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Brockport, based in northwest New York, offers a variety of online programs through OpenSUNY — the online division of the State University of New York. Among Brockport's distance offerings is an online master's degree in liberal arts.
Students in this program complete 30 credits of coursework. Faculty deliver classes asynchronously on a semester-based schedule, and there are no set log in times for learners. Participants also have the option to engage in hands-on learning by completing an internship, clinical placement, or other type of service learning activity.
Distance learners are paired with a "personal concierge" who serves as their point of contact for the duration of the program. Students can also receive online help from a tutor. Brockport holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Liberal Arts Program?
Most online master's in liberal arts programs require 30-36 credits and take about two years of full-time study to complete.
A master's in liberal arts program tends to attract independent, creative thinkers with a passion for learning. Vital skills emphasized in these programs like critical thinking, research, writing, and problem-solving propel students to work in fields as diverse as the subjects covered in this degree.
Students cover topics through the lens of humanities, politics, history, religion, art, and natural science. Curricula vary and may cover areas such as film analysis, environmental studies, ethics, religion, and cultural communication.
This flexible program encourages students to specialize in their areas of personal and professional interests. Depending on the program, students may choose from several interdisciplinary courses of study or select a specific concentration. Some common concentrations include creative arts and literature, sustainability, ethics and leadership, social entrepreneurship, psychology, history and politics, religion and philosophy, business, and international studies.
Most programs culminate with a thesis, internship, or capstone project. Additionally, some schools offer certificate programs, which enhance a student's specialization and inform potential employers about a candidate's qualifications in a specific area. A few of these certificates include Latin American, African American, cinema, urban, environmental, and ancient studies.
Most online master's in liberal arts programs require 30-36 credits and take about two years of full-time study to complete. Some schools offer accelerated programs that reduce completion times.
Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Liberal Arts Programs
Online master's in liberal arts programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in any field. Some programs require completed coursework in the liberal arts in subjects like independent research and writing.
Most programs require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a personal statement. Some schools allow applicants with lower GPAs to substitute this requirement with professional experience or GRE scores.
Learn more about applying for graduate school and common admission requirements in our Graduate Admissions Guide.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Liberal Arts Program?
Most online master's in liberal arts programs allow students to choose from electives that align with their career goals. In addition to taking these specialized courses, students typically build an interdisciplinary foundation in the humanities, literature, history, philosophy, religion, art, and social sciences.
The following section highlights coursework typically found in an online master's in liberal arts program.
- Global Cultural Diversity
This course delves into global controversies as seen from numerous viewpoints, including politicians, activists, volunteers, locals, and international experts. Covered issues include poverty, refugee hardships, human rights abuses, and social and environmental crises. Through ethnographic analysis, students gain an understanding of the conflicts and challenges that arise in an effort to create social change.
- Film and Media Studies
This course examines films from the context of power and identity. Students also explore films and media in relation to history and cultural groups. By studying changes in film and media over time, participants can gain an understanding of the evolution of societal myths and values.
- Environmental Issues
This course looks at environmental concerns from varying viewpoints. Students learn about the increasing demands on the planet's natural resources as well as national and international policies and priorities. Covered topics include energy, global climate change, environmental ethics, water resources, and growing populations.
- Critical Theory
This class traces the history of critical theory and its relationship to politics and social justice. Covered theories and theorists often include Marx, the Frankfurt School, feminism, race theory, and queer theory.
- Academic Writing and Research
Students learn conventional writing and research practices used by scholars. Covered topics include appropriate sources, quantitative and qualitative methodologies, and the use of voice and style for traditional academic writing. By the end of the course, participants understand how to conduct a research project and write a formal proposal.
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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Liberal Arts Degree?
The skills acquired from a master's in liberal arts program translate to strong foundational competencies. Just about every industry needs employees with strong writing, communication, and critical thinking skills.
Studies conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that employers often rank soft skills like critical thinking above technical skills that can be acquired on the job.
Graduates pursue careers in a wide variety of industries, including government, business, healthcare, education, and communications. See where a master's in liberal arts can take you. Learn more about careers for liberal arts majors.
- Fundraising Manager
Fundraising managers typically work for nonprofit or advocacy organizations. These professionals organize campaigns and events to raise money for these organizations. Common tasks include raising awareness, finding prospective donors, and training volunteers. After several years of work-related experience, fundraisers can qualify for this managerial position. Fundraising managers earned a median annual salary of $116,180 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
- K-12 School Teacher
A master's in liberal arts provides students with a broad education that translates into knowledge in many subject areas. Teachers plan lessons and work with students in groups and individually to improve their abilities. In addition to teaching specific subjects, teachers help students develop critical thinking and interaction skills. While teaching requirements vary by state, most public schools require the completion of a teacher education program and licensure.
- Senior Copywriter
Copywriters promote products or services through writing. Typical tasks include coming up with a brand's tagline and writing longform copy that drives consumers to make a purchase. These writers may develop a brand's voice and research suitable marketing venues. While this position typically requires a bachelor's degree, a master's in liberal arts with a concentration in communications or English prepares graduates for success in this field.
- Advertising Manager
An online master's in liberal arts helps students develop skills in critical thinking and creative problem-solving, which are valuable skills for careers in marketing and advertising. An advertising manager plans advertising campaigns and determines the appropriate media strategy. This process includes analyzing markets to understand consumer demand for particular products and services.
- Policy Analyst
Policy analysts work for numerous industries, including the government, healthcare, and education. Think tanks and other private organizations employ these analysts to research and find solutions for complicated issues such as environmental change, healthcare access, and social inequity. These professionals shape public policy by gathering information, making recommendations, and evaluating a program's effectiveness.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Liberal Arts Programs
- Is a master's in liberal arts worth it?
It can be. Some graduates use a master's in liberal arts to advance into leadership roles in their current position. Others gain entrance into a variety of fields, such as politics, business, library science, writing, education, communications, the arts, and journalism. This flexible program allows students to align their education with their career goals.
- What can I do with a master's in liberal arts?
A master's in liberal arts emphasizes the importance of soft skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, and intellectual curiosity. These skills can propel graduates into numerous positions in just about every field. Some graduates go on to work in government think tanks as policy analysts, while others pursue careers in advertising, fundraising, and education.
- How long does it take to get a master's degree in liberal arts?
A master's in liberal arts degree requires 30-36 credits and takes about two years of full-time study to complete. Some schools offer accelerated programs that reduce completion times to as little as one year. Students with other responsibilities like work or family can pursue a flexible online degree, which allows for part-time enrollment.
- How much money can I make with a master's in liberal arts?
PayScale reports that individuals with a master's in liberal arts earn an average annual salary of $71,050. The salaries these graduates make vary dramatically according to the professional's specific role and industry.
- What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in liberal arts?
Graduates with a master's in liberal arts can pursue careers in business, marketing, fundraising, and public relations. These professionals can boast fairly high annual earnings, with public relations and fundraising managers earning a median annual salary of $116,180 in 2019, according to the BLS. Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers make even higher wages, with these professionals earning a median annual salary of $135,900 in 2019, according to BLS data.