Last Updated: August 20, 2021
Courses in Liberal Arts
Liberal arts is the culmination of areas like arts (decorative or performative), humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. It is a common misconception that the liberal arts is anything but science or commerce. In actuality, it is a study that includes a wide range of disciplines that help to enhance one’s area of knowledge as well as to diversify skills. Given that liberal arts and sciences have a multifaceted approach, it is not only advantageous for upgrading skills but also offers flexibility and versatility for students to follow the career path they ideally desire.
There was a time when Liberal Arts stood for prototypical education since specialized disciplines had not yet made their appearance on the educational scene. It goes without saying that education in Liberal Arts was available only to people belonging to the upper sections of the society. Students were required to master only three subjects or skills, i.e., grammar, rhetoric, and logic aka trivium. These were enough to boost one’s leadership profile in society, as one had to win debates, fight court cases, and join the military. Over millennia, new subjects, which lent sophistication to one’s intellect, were added, namely, math, geometry, music, and astronomy, and these were dubbed as the quadrivium. In modern times, Liberal Arts comprise a wide range of subjects that are essentially interdisciplinary and available to everybody.
Major Liberal Arts Specialties
Literature is a subject not restricted to prose, poetry, and drama, but is also the broad study of various written works, narratives, philosophies, theories, and cultures, around the world. Students with a major in literature may opt for careers like teaching, publishing, researching, writing, archiving, and so on.
History is the study of human civilizations, dynasties, and the various events that occurred in the past. It extensively deals with every aspect of society that led to major changes or occurrences in this world (economy, politics, culture, religion, technology, administration, etc.). Major career options include archeologist, lecturer, museum curator, archivist, and so on.
A major in psychology involves the study of humans, their relationships, experiences, thoughts, and how various factors influence the human mind and behavior. It examines how humans are similar, yet so unique at the same time. Educational psychologist, counselor, clinical psychologist, social worker, etc.
Philosophy generally involves the study of human existence, the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, truths, and perceptions involved in it, and an understanding of the world. It involves a lot of questioning, thinking, analyzing, and theorizing, about numerous aspects of life or even the universe itself. Career options include publisher, lecturer, management consultant, counselor, and so on.
Linguistics is the area of study that extensively deals with language, its properties, structure, and philological aspects. It involves the analysis of aspects such as grammar, phonetics, morphology, etc. Popular career options for students with a major in linguistics include linguistic consultant, translator, language interpreter, lexicographer, and so on.
Sociology involves the in-depth understanding of how human society and various civilizations used to function, how it changes with time, and how it operates in the current setting. It also explores the impact society and its changes have on human behavior and relationships. Students with a sociology major can opt to be social workers, policy analysts, counselors, human resource representatives, and so on.
The field of liberal arts and sciences is undoubtedly diverse and broad. Most degree programs offered by colleges cover subject content which is associated with social sciences, languages, writing and literature, social issues, philosophy, and world cultures.
The programs in General Studies give one a degree, which comprises of various disciplines like arts, humanities, and sciences, which might appeal to students who wish to pursue an extensive education, or for those who are not yet sure of their specific area of study. Most four-year universities and two-year colleges offer programs in general studies. Graduates can often pursue a career in an industry they want to get into or they can choose to continue their education further.
General Studies graduates can go on and become lawyers, social workers, or teachers just to name a few of the many career possibilities.
Degrees in Liberal Arts and Sciences
- Associate Degree: An associate degree in liberal arts and sciences comprises a comprehensive study with a span of one to two years. This program is an option for students who wish to acquire knowledge in a short period of time and get employed sooner for jobs on a preliminary level. It covers topics such as general psychology, world history, principles of sociology, world literature, etc.
- Bachelor’s Degree: This is a four-year program that grants students the liberty to major in more than one area of specialization, about its interdisciplinary nature. This gives students the scope to establish a foundational knowledge about different subjects and to understand and recognize their interests. Apart from a curriculum set by students, generalized courses like mathematics, writing, literature, psychology, and so on, are also provided.
- Master’s Degree: A graduate degree in liberal arts and humanities takes two to three years to complete. Considering that liberal arts provide students with diverse options, it makes it flexible for them to attain a great deal of expertise in various subjects without restricting them to a specific area of study. For instance, Religion and Conflict, Digital Humanities, Modern Art, and so on. This benefits students to strengthen knowledge in these areas while also gradually identifying specific interests about a future career or research.
- Doctorate Degree: This is a four to five- year degree that involves an in-depth study of the subjects under liberal arts and sciences. Like most doctoral programs, this implies extensive research and analysis in one’s area of specialization that comes under the liberal arts discipline. The student can also choose to conduct research or write a thesis or dissertation in interdisciplinary areas.
There are various career opportunities for a student pursuing a degree in liberal arts and sciences. It depends upon the subject one is studying or the area of focus. Choosing the right college, major, and career is one of the most important things a student can do in their life. However, one should not discount liberal arts colleges or arts degrees for the fear of poor career prospects. The number of careers open to those who study the liberal arts is myriad and the possibilities are endless. Given below are some career options that one can take up when pursuing humanities and liberal arts majors.
- Technical Writer
- Freelance Writer
- Graphic Designer
Liberal Arts Colleges: Scope, and Benefits
Liberal Arts education aims at developing rational thought, vigorous critical thinking, analytical and problem-solving skills with a strong ethical foundation. Since the fields of study include diverse disciplines, education provides a healthy combination of concrete information in the shape of data and statistics, and theoretical knowledge in the field of ethics, psychology, and philosophy. Thus, it hones one’s intellectual as well as practical skills. This prepares the students for a wide range of careers and enables them to dynamically respond to evolving scenarios in the spheres of industry, economy, and employment. For example, a Liberal Arts graduate in any subject can take up jobs in the fields of journalism, education, administration, and can even become an entrepreneur. They can also get into fields of academic research or become social scientists.
Listed below are some of the best Liberal Arts colleges in the United States of America:
Other best liberal arts colleges include:
- Williams College (Williamstown, MA): Williams College has been ranked as the best liberal arts college by US News in 2021 and is known for its quality coursework and a great teacher to student ratio. Founded in 1793 as a private college for men, it became coeducational in the year 1970. Students are provided with a very comprehensive curriculum when it comes to coursework with three major academic divisions, namely, languages and the arts, social sciences, and science and mathematics. They also have a great cultural background that allows students to grow as individuals.
- Amherst College (Amherst, MA): Amherst College is a private, non-profit institution of higher learning that was established in the year 1821. It holds the 2nd position nationally as the best liberal arts college by US News, in 2021. It is an esteemed undergraduate institution known for more than 40 majors in liberal studies, and a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1.
- Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA): Founded in 1864, the college has been very successful with regards to its focus on the quality of education. They have some of the best faculty in the country and the learning experience at Swarthmore is commendable considering the diverse backgrounds students come from, allowing them to learn from each other and grow as individuals. It has been ranked 3 as the best liberal arts college by US News, in 2021.
- Pomona College (Claremont, CA): Pomona college is one of the oldest private liberal arts colleges in the country and is known for its quality coursework. They update their coursework to keep up with the latest changes and improve the quality of teaching at all times. It was established in the year 1887 and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, with more than 40 majors and research opportunities. It has been ranked 4 as the best liberal arts college by US News, in 2021.
- Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
- Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)
- Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, CA)
- United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD)
- Carleton College (Northfield, MN)
- Hamilton College (Clinton, NY)