In our struggling economy, liberal arts degrees have been given an unjustified bad reputation for leading to doom and gloom in the job market. While it’s clear that graduates in healthcare and STEM-related fields realize higher starting salaries, the value of a liberal arts degree cannot be measured by dollars alone. Liberal arts programs are designed to build the “soft” skills in oral communication, interpersonal relations, problem solving, and critical thinking. Since these skills never become outdated, liberal arts grads have the potential to soar above their average start pay of $43,100 to compete with graduates in technical fields. After all, one-third of CEOs for major Fortune 500 companies possess liberal arts degrees in the humanities. In this section, we’ll cover how to get a liberal arts education at a great value and become a success story too.
Types of Liberal Arts Degrees
Although liberal arts degrees in the United States tend to be associated with four-year colleges, these programs can be pursued at every academic level. Most liberal arts degrees are focused on exposing students to a wide variety of topics while building the ability to write creatively, research extensively, debate ideas, and apply critical thinking to any situation. At the associate level, community colleges often offer Associate of Art (A.A.) programs in liberal arts core areas to prepare students for transfer to four-year universities. Liberal arts degrees typically lead to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in various subjects like English, mathematics, history, psychology, art, political science, religion, philosophy, foreign language, communications, and sociology.
For individuals interested in continuing their education into graduate school, a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) is an interdisciplinary program offers by numerous colleges to provide depth and breadth of study within liberal arts disciplines. You can also focus on receiving a Master of Arts (M.A.) program in a specialized area like American history, archaeology, art history, creative writing, literature, women’s studies, linguistics, library science, and much more. Students aiming for top-level leadership positions or faculty teaching roles at the university level often continue a step further to receive a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in their chosen liberal art.
Related article: Top 25 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Best Return on Investment
Online vs. On-Campus Programs
Thanks to the advent of the Internet, it’s now possible for students to earn their liberal arts degree through online virtual classrooms rather than commuting to traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. Online education is a life-saver for many individuals who couldn’t otherwise pursue formal education due to personal, financial, or work situations. Online liberal arts degrees provide students the chance to log-in to coursework day or night to complete assignments at convenient times in your busy schedule. Of course, this means that you must have more focus on course materials and motivation to meet deadlines because your education depends on you.
Tuition costs for online liberal arts programs are comparable to their traditional counterparts, but distance learning comes with many money-saving benefits. You’ll save a considerable amount by avoiding the room and board, parking, transportation, meal plan, and laboratory expenses associated with attending on-campus college. While some students may miss interacting with peers in the classroom, online programs have evolved to provide lively discussions through instant chats or video conferencing. Plus, there’s no need to wait around for office hours because your professors are simply an email away at any time of day.
Financial Aid Options
Securing financial aid is essential for you to afford and maximize the value of your degree. Your first step towards finding sources of financial aid should be filling out the FAFSA form by the deadline with your tax information. This application is essential for finding what financial aid, grants, student loans, and other unique programs you qualify for receiving. Financially needy students may be eligible to receive the Pell or FSEOG Grant. Active or veteran military members could receive GI military benefits that reduce tuition costs. You may also need to borrow money from the federal government through Stafford, Direct, Perkins, or PLUS loans, but remember to keep these amounts as low as possible.
As a liberal arts student, you should search for financial aid resources that won’t need to be repaid to ensure you’re not entering the job market saddled with loan debt. Undergraduate students should consider applying for work-study programs to earn at least the federal minimum wage in on or off-campus service jobs. While gaining work experience, you can cut your tuition bill by working in the admissions office, library, campus dining hall, recreation center, or other academic departments. Graduate assistantships are also a popular option for advanced students to receive tuition waivers in exchange for helping professors conduct research or teach baccalaureate-level courses.
Never underestimate the lucrative potential of scholarships for minimizing the amount of student loans you’ll need to cover college. Ranging in value from $100 to full tuition, scholarships are offered by numerous community foundations, professional associations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and universities to reward students based on merit or financial need. Scholarships may be slightly challenging for liberal arts majors to find, but take advantage of your college’s financial aid office to learn more about what’s available. On the national level, some great scholarship opportunities for liberal arts students include:
• Beinecke Scholarship Program – Since being founded in 1975, the Beinecke Scholarship Program has delivered $30,000 to more than 550 c ;ollege juniors to support graduate study at an accredited U.S. institution in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
• Ayn Rand Institute Essay Contests – In honor of a controversial philosopher of the 20th century, the Ayn Rand Institute hosts several essay contests to award up to $10,000 to graduating high school seniors and college students who submit a logically organized essay debating the novels Anthem, The Fountainhead, or Atlas Shrugged.
• Humane Studies Fellowship Program – For full-time graduate students in the liberal arts and humanities, the Institute of Humane Studies (IHS) offers $15,000 annually to advance the ideas of liberty through research at an accredited U.S. institution.
Also, don’t miss our collection of Liberal Arts Scholarships.
Wide-Ranging Careers in Liberal Arts
Many liberal arts students decide to receive an advanced degree in their subject to teach it, but there are an abundance of other occupational categories in which liberal arts graduates can use their well-rounded education to succeed. You can use your social skills and leadership initiative to unlock career opportunities ranging from healthcare and architecture to law and business. Lucrative job options include real estate agent, building inspector, journalist, HR manager, social worker, insurance underwriter, broadcast news analyst, sales representative, museum curator, public relations manager, general operations manager, and marketing manager. Ultimately, the sky’s the limit when it comes to finding careers where your broad liberal arts education can be applied.