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Perfect for students with a passion for knowledge and diverse interests, a master’s in liberal arts degree represents a fulfilling educational path that can provide opportunities in numerous professions. This degree sharpens critical thinking and analytical skills and improves communication, preparing graduates for several roles.Its versatile nature makes this degree ideal for positions such as instructor of philosophy, with a median salary of $79,930; technical writer, earning a median salary of $80,050; and education administrator, with a median salary of $102,610.

Typically, completing this degree takes 18 months to two years with full-time study — although many programs offer part-time enrollment options for working professionals. With an average tuition cost of $19,749, pursuing a master’s in liberal arts is an investment in a career that values intellectual versatility.

How to Choose a Master’s in Liberal Arts Program

Choose your area of study

With a degree as inherently versatile as a master’s in liberal arts, choosing an area of study is essential. Specializing will allow you to customize your education to your interests and career goals, helping you make the most of your academic career.

For instance, focusing on cultural studies will suit those seeking careers in multicultural organizations or international relations. Literary studies is ideal for future writers or educators, enriching their understanding and analytical skills. Meanwhile, a concentration in philosophy could benefit future ethicists or academics, fostering significant analytical and critical thinking skills.

Research schools and programs

Now that you have a specialization in mind, you can begin researching schools and programs that support your interests. You may come into this process with questions of your own, but here are a few you can use to help focus your research:

  • What specializations does the program offer?
  • How do the program’s curriculum and faculty align with my career goals?
  • What networking and internship opportunities are available?
  • Does a recognized accrediting body accredit the program?

You can usually find most of this information on the program’s website, but many students benefit from attending an information session or speaking with an admissions counselor.

Prepare for tests and applications

Preparing for graduate school applications effectively requires two things: early organization and attention to detail. Begin by gathering recommendation letters and transcripts well in advance, as these can take time to collect. Then, allocate ample time to writing your personal statement and focus on illustrating your goals and qualifications for each program.

Since some programs may require GRE scores while others may have moved to test-optional policies, verify this early on. Consider enrolling in a test prep program to improve your performance if needed.

Select your program

The arrival of acceptance letters is always an exciting time, but it can quickly become overwhelming if you receive more than one. After all, how can you be sure you choose the right one? Fortunately, you can make this decision significantly easier by revisiting your initial research criteria. Focus on what matters most in your education — such as specialization availability, the faculty you’ll learn from, and the program’s structure.

It’s also an excellent time to reassess each school’s total tuition costs and compare these against any offered financial aid. This helps gauge the investment required and ensures that your selected program aligns closely with your academic goals and economic realities.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

With appropriate planning, you can successfully pay for your degree without going into debt. This may include researching scholarships, as these do not require repayment and can significantly reduce education costs. Don’t forget grants; although these are more common for undergraduates, some may also be available for graduate students.

If you’re seeking part-time employment, consider applying for assistantships, which usually provide tuition waivers or stipends in exchange for research or teaching responsibilities. For those who are currently employed, ask your employer about tuition reimbursement programs, especially if your degree aligns with your job.

Lastly, federal loans can bridge any remaining financial gaps, offering relatively low interest rates and flexible repayment plans.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Liberal Arts Programs

Best Master's in Liberal Arts Degree Programs_2024 badge
Intelligent Pick
Coastal Carolina University
Best Archival Studies Focus
East Tennessee State University
Best for Political Science
Fort Hays State University
Best Public Research University
UNC Greensboro
Best Master of Arts Degree
Stony Brook University
Best Private Research University
JHU Advanced Academic Programs
Best in the Southeast
University of North Carolina Wilmington
Best Catholic University
Albertus Magnus College
Best in the South
Arkansas Tech University
Best Assistantships
Auburn University at Montgomery
Most Affordable
Clayton State University
Best Christian University
Dallas Baptist University
Best in the Midwest
DePaul University
Best Certificate Options
SUNY Empire State College
Best Small University
Georgetown University
Best Philosophy Focus
Henderson State University
Student Recommended
Kent State University
Best On-Campus Program
Lake Forest College
Best Part-Time Program
Louisiana State University
Best for Working Adults
McDaniel College
Best Study Abroad Opportunities
Middle Tennessee State University
Best Thesis-Optional Program
Ramapo College of New Jersey
Best Large University
Rutgers University
Best Social Science Focus
St. John's University
Best in the West
Stanford University
Best Hybrid Program
SUNY Brockport
Best Student Organizations
Temple University
Best Student Retention Rate
Texas Christian University
Best Faculty-Student Interaction
The New School
Best Faculty
Tulane University
Best Mid-Sized University
University of Delaware
Best Credit for Prior Learning
University of Illinois Springfield
Best Global Campus
The University of Memphis
Best American Culture Focus
University of Michigan-Flint
Best Women's, Gender & Sexuality Focus
University of Missouri - Kansas City
Best Ivy League Program
University of Pennsylvania
Best Business Focus
University of Richmond
Best for Rolling Admissions
University of Southern Indiana
Best Full-Time Program
University of Toledo
Best Student-to-Faculty Ratio
Vanderbilt University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

Almost all of our chosen programs lead to a master of arts in liberal studies. They feature either on-campus classes or remote, online learning pathways — some offer both — so you can choose the option that works best for you and your schedule.

Each of these colleges and universities is approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Regional accreditors look for evidence of strong, relevant curricula and highly qualified professors.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Liberal Arts Program?

A master’s in liberal arts offers a broad, interdisciplinary education that fosters critical thinking, communication, and analytical skills. As a student, you’ll explore subjects ranging from literature and philosophy to social sciences and history, gaining a versatile knowledge base.

This degree covers various disciplines, preparing you for career paths in education, writing, public service, and beyond. Its generalist nature means you can customize your studies to your interests while preparing for various professional opportunities.

These degrees take 18 months to two years to complete and traditionally culminate in a thesis, demonstrating mastery of a specific topic.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in liberal arts program

  • Comparative Literature: In this course, students explore texts from several cultures and historical periods, examining themes, narratives, and literary techniques across literary traditions. This analysis helps develop a more significant understanding of how literature reflects and shapes the human experience across different societies.
  • Cultural Anthropology: Through this course, students investigate human cultures, social structures, and their evolution. It includes fieldwork methods and theoretical approaches to understanding how societies develop and function, providing students with tools to analyze cultural differences and similarities.
  • Ethics and Leadership: This course focuses on moral philosophy and ethical decision-making in leadership roles. It encourages students to examine case studies from business, politics, and public administration. Participants learn to apply ethical theories to real-world situations, improving their ability to lead responsibly.
  • Political Theory: This course analyzes political theories and ideas from the Enlightenment to today. Students assess the works of key thinkers and the historical context of their ideas, gaining insight into the evolution of political ideologies and their impact on contemporary political systems.

Master’s in Liberal Arts Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in liberal arts degree program?

While specific requirements can vary by institution due to the program’s versatility, many of these admissions processes share similar criteria. Generally, you’ll need to provide:

  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate institutions attended
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A statement of purpose
  • GRE scores, if required

Given the diversity in program specifics, it’s crucial to consult an admissions counselor before applying. They can offer advice and insights, ensuring your application is aligned with your chosen program’s specific requirements and expectations.

How much does a master's in liberal arts degree cost?

The cost of a master’s in liberal arts degree varies depending on the school you attend, with the average graduate tuition being $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Besides tuition, you should also budget for additional expenses not typically covered by tuition fees. Depending on your situation, these can include commuting costs, housing, textbooks, and course materials. It’s important to factor in these costs when planning your budget, as they can add up over time and significantly impact the overall cost of your degree.

How long does it take to earn a master's in liberal arts degree?

Earning this degree typically takes 18 months to two years for full-time students, while part-time students may need three to four years, depending on their course load. Even with these figures in mind, completion timelines can vary significantly by institution due to differences in total required credits for the degree. Before applying, carefully review each program’s credit requirements, as this can significantly influence the duration of your studies.

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