Last Updated: September 21, 2022
Liberal Arts - Popular Specialties
The term 'Liberal Arts' when taken verbatim may come across as an academic discipline that emphasizes nothing but arts and humanities. Contrary to popular viewpoints, Liberal Arts has a broader perspective. It has a multifaceted approach, and thereby, is interdisciplinary, i.e., it encompasses an extensive variety of subjects like history, psychology, biology, literature, economics, political science, anthropology, and even dance and music.
The primary purpose to engender such a comprehensive discipline is to give students the choice of broadening their horizons and have a more fulfilling understanding of various subjects. It positively provides the scope for students to explore, gain knowledge, and hone their intellectual, creative, and practical skills. This gives way to enhanced adaptability to undertake responsibilities in different industries or sectors. Moreover, liberal arts helps students to have a dynamic development in areas like analytical thinking, reasoning, communicating, and problem-solving, which will further make them capable of a strong and versatile career.
Degrees in Liberal Arts
Different jobs have their own requirements when it comes to the educational qualification of a candidate. Having a general idea of various degrees and their uses will be beneficial for gaining clarity in terms of choosing a career path. Degrees in liberal arts may be divided into four main categories, namely, Bachelor's degree, Associate's degree, Master's degree, and Doctorate.
- Associate's degree: Students can opt for an associate degree, which is a two-year program instead of a bachelor's degree if they wish to complete their liberal arts education and get employed for entry-level jobs sooner.
- Bachelor's degree: An undergraduate degree in liberal arts is a four-year program that provides the foundational knowledge within the discipline and introduces students to various sub-disciplines.
- Master's degree: Once students develop an understanding of their field of interest, they may opt for a higher level of education and pursue a master's degree, which takes about two to three years.
- Doctorate: Graduates can either look for employment options pertaining to their field of study or may further strengthen their knowledge and expertise by opting for a doctoral program, which is a four to five-year program.
The most sought-after majors in liberal arts are:
- Psychology: Psychology is a discipline that deals with the science of the human mind and behavior, and what influences it. Humans are complex beings - while there are a lot of aspects that are common in human behavior or personality, there are other attributes that make each one stand out. Psychology is a subject that essentially brings out how upbringing, memories, relationships, experiences, and habits affect the human mind. This makes it evident how psychology is an interesting subject to learn about, and why a majority of students go for it.
Courses and Career Prospects: A psychology major offers courses like theory, speech and communication skills, cognition and learning, research methods, basic sociological principles, psychopathology, behavioral study, psychological statistics, and so on. According to Payscale, students with psychology majors make an average of around $64,000 annually, which may vary based on the level of education, experience, organization, and location. Career options include educational psychologist, counselor, clinical psychologist, social worker, etc.
- History: History is a vast subject that deals with the study of the past with regards to wars, dynasties, civilizations, continents, systems, and more. It provides in-depth insight into various historical events, their economic, political, military, cultural, architectural, and administrative value. Extensive knowledge about the history of the world is an important tool to understand the root causes of various situations, and to show how it has affected the present.
Courses and Career Prospects: A major in history provides courses like American history, Middle Eastern history, History of India, European history, world cultures, civilizations, great wars, revolutions, military, public history, and so on. According to Payscale, students with a major in history make an average of around $70,000 annually, which may vary based on the level of education, occupation, experience, organization, and location. Career options include historian, political advisor, archeologist, lecturer, museum curator, archivist, etc.
- Biology: Biology is a major that comes under the category of natural sciences within the liberal arts discipline. Biology is a scientific area of study that deals with living organisms, their habits, behavior, ecosystems, and understanding what they do, how they thrive, and how everything influences one another. It provides extensive knowledge in the areas of ecology, zoology, evolution, botany, genetics, molecular biology, and environment. A major in the natural science field under liberal arts is highly advantageous for students to have a better grasp on the interdisciplinary approach.
Courses and Career Prospects: Courses within a biology major include organismal form and function, computational science, general chemistry, botany, anatomy and physiology, mathematics, field biology, zoology, biostatistics, environmental biology, and more. Students with a major in biology make an average of around $75,000 annually, according to Payscale. The value may vary based on the level of education, occupation, experience, organization, and location. Career options include research assistant, environmental scientist, marine biologist, lecturer, research and development laboratory technician, nutritionist, etc.
- Political Science: Students often find a subject like political science fascinating due to the power the study of politics holds. Political science is a branch of the social sciences under the liberal arts discipline. It deals with the understanding of laws, political systems, institutions, governments, communities, policies, political theories, and power. It involves the understanding of the political framework and the functions of not just one particular state or country, but of several nations and organizations across the globe.
Courses and Career Prospects: The courses included in a political science major are, the principles of American government, functions of government, political ideas and institutions, political theories, political methodologies, law and administration, international relations, and so on. Students with political science majors make an average of around $70,000 per year, according to Payscale. The value may vary based on the level of education, occupation, experience, organization, and location. Popular career options include political analyst, attorney, political consultant, diplomat, journalist, politician, and so on.
- Sociology: Sociology is a liberal arts degree that deals with the detailing of human society. This can be in the form of its development, structure, and functioning and can involve different perspectives like history, gender & sexuality, politics, environment, etc. Candidates who are involved in this field will be dealing with rigorous forms of inquiry and analysis to identify differences in social behavior, hierarchies, power structures, etc.
Courses and Career Prospects: Candidates who are studying sociology will be dealing with fundamental topics like urban poverty, law & society, sociology of deviance, criminology, communication systems, etc. They will be able to specialize in different areas like historical sociology, sociology of psychology, environmental sociology, economic sociology, globalization, etc. as a part of the program. Most candidates opt to continue their education well into research since it is a vast field and obvious career options include being a professor, school teacher, sociologist, or social scientist. All of these professions are highly paid and they have a current projected growth rate of 5%.
- Linguistics: There are more than 6,500 languages in the world and it is known how each language is distinct, yet has similarities. Every language has its own source and history, and linguistics helps to understand these factors in greater detail. The study of linguistics extensively deals with the properties, and structure of language. It involves the analysis of aspects such as phonetics, morphology, sound, and so on.
Courses and Career Prospects: A major in linguistics contains courses such as phonetics, grammar, philology, language acquisition, pragmatics, language and society, phonology, and more. According to Payscale, students with a major in linguistics make an average of around $71,000 annually, which may vary based on the level of education, expertise, organization, occupation, and location. Popular career options for students with a major in linguistics include linguistic consultant, lexicographer, translator, language interpreter, etc.
- Philosophy: The study of philosophy generally involves understanding the meaning of human existence. It includes the comprehension of different belief systems, values, cultures, thoughts, and ideas. It involves an extensive understanding of the world, the ethics, and the perceptions involved in it. Philosophy is a subject that offers a lot of value on an intellectual, social, and even emotional level. It deals with questioning, analyzing, and theorizing, about different aspects related to the life of all living beings, and the universe as well.
Courses and Career Prospects: A philosophy major includes courses like the history of philosophy, ethics, critical thinking, social and political philosophy, logic, metaphysics, philosophy of arts and sciences, and a lot more. According to Payscale, students with a philosophy major make an average of around $72,000 every year, which may vary based on the level of education, experience, organization, and occupation. Major career options include publisher, project manager, lecturer, management consultant, counselor, and so on.
- Media and Communication: This is a field of study that critically examines the various forms of communication, its effects on society at large, its uses, and its benefits. Media and Communication is a popular course among students because of the scope it provides to learn and develop various skills not just in communication but also in critical analysis, professional writing, editing, marketing, and so on. It also teaches students to have different perspectives about society and people.
Courses and Career Prospects: Popular courses included within media and communication are business communication, marketing, public relations, professional writing, introductory sociology, math, speech communication, new media, and so on. According to Payscale, students with a major in media and communication make an average of approximately $65,000 annually. The estimate may vary based on the level of education, experience, organization, location, and occupation. Major career options include marketing communications specialist, journalist, social media communications manager, art director, editor, public relations specialist, and more.
The majors mentioned here are discussed based on popularity per se, and may not necessarily offer a lucrative career in the long run. Courses and concentrations may vary in different institutions and should be explored carefully. It is not unusual for students to choose a career path solely based on a passion for a subject, or the popularity of a particular field. Even though there is no harm in pursuing a career that makes one happy, it may end up becoming counterproductive. Therefore, it will be wiser to opt for majors that guarantee adequate work opportunities and a steady income. Dual majors or minors are excellent options for those wanting to follow up on their passion as well as a successful career.
Popular Liberal Arts Colleges
There are numerous liberal arts colleges in the USA that offer a vast variety of majors and concentrations for students. According to US News, the most popular colleges for Liberal Arts are:
- Williams College (Williamstown, MA)
- Amherst College (Amherst, MA)
- Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)
- Pomona College (Claremont, CA)
- Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
- Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME)
- Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, CA)
- United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD)
Other than specific colleges for liberal arts, one can also opt for pursuing liberal arts education in public or private universities that have excellent liberal arts programs. Stanford University, Harvard University, Cornell University, Yale University, University of Michigan, Duke University, are some of the best universities to pursue an educational career in Liberal Arts.