What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Liberal Arts Program?

Liberal arts programs, also referred to as liberal studies or general studies, cover a broad scope of subjects, which can open up numerous varied career paths. Online liberal arts master’s programs differ between educational institutions, but typical programs are interdisciplinary with topics in arts, humanities and the social, natural and formal sciences. Earning your master’s in liberal arts online offers the flexibility working adults need while getting the same degree of professional education you’d receive through on-campus programs.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Liberal Arts

A good online liberal arts master’s program prepares you to succeed in a variety of industries and allows you to choose concentrations that align your coursework with your personal interests and career goals. In addition to core courses, you’ll take electives that correlate with the concentration you choose to match the career path you desire.

Creative Nonfiction Develop the skills needed in every stage of the writing process, from preliminary research to the final edit. Technical writer, journalist, editor, publicist, advertising executive, marketing professional, copywriter
Art Provides comprehensive coverage of the visual arts, art history and technical artistic skills. Professional artist, art teacher, museum curator, graphic designer, art agent, animator, arts administrator
Sociology Explores the role of individuals in society, including the effects of family, religion, education and government interactions. Social worker, guidance counselor, human resources, public relations, policy analyst, therapist, probation officer
Humanities Incorporates numerous topics, including art, literature, performing arts, classical and foreign languages, religion, philosophy and ethics. Teacher, technical writer, travel agent, museum curator, linguist, genealogist, foreign correspondent
Natural Science Covers any branch of science that deals with the physical world, including biology, chemistry, botany, archaeology, geology, zoology and physics. Scientist, teacher, chemist, archaeologist, conservation technician, environmental health and safety expert

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Liberal Arts

Online master’s in liberal arts programs typically have standard core requirements but allow you to individualize your degree through electives that match your personal and professional goals. The graduation requirements for most programs can be fulfilled completely online, and many programs culminate with a master’s thesis or master’s capstone. All liberal arts programs offer a broad range of courses in numerous academic fields, but course options might include:

Intro to Literacy Studies Approaches literacy from historical, cultural and critical perspectives, with students reading and writing about the definitions of literacy and literacy narratives.
Liberal and Integrative Studies Covers the theories, resources and skills needed for students to become independent, self-directed learners.
History of Ethics Explore the historical origins of ethics and moral philosophy while exploring the rationality or wisdom of the ethical life.
Food and Politics Examine the history and development of agriculture, including consumerism and governmental policies, while exploring the inequalities related to food production and consumption.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts?

Most online liberal arts programs require at least 30 credit hours and typically take about two years to complete; however, many factors affect your actual time of completion. Self-paced programs that allow students to take more than one class simultaneously can take differing amounts of time, depending on your motivation to finish. Cohort-based programs require students to take individual courses as a group and typically cover one course at a time. Students looking to graduate quickly should choose individually paced, accelerated programs.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Liberal Arts Prepares For

Unlike most majors that prepare students for one specific career, an online master’s degree in liberal arts prepares you for multiple careers in numerous fields. Due to this broad focus, there aren’t any professional certifications or licenses offered specifically for liberal arts graduates. Depending on your area of concentration and chosen career, obtaining a master’s degree can prepare you for — and may even be required to apply for — professional licensure in a specific field.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Liberal Arts

Earning an online master’s in liberal arts from an unaccredited school could call into question the legitimacy of your degree. If prospective employers won’t recognize your degree, you could find yourself unemployable. Accreditation also affects your financial aid. Attending an unaccredited school makes you ineligible to apply for federal financial assistance programs, which are the biggest sources of student aid. State-based financial aid also requires attendance at an accredited college, and most private scholarship providers do, as well.

Colleges and universities with a proven ability to provide a quality education and meet established academic and professional standards receive accreditation following a thorough review. Agencies recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation issue accreditation to qualifying schools. Individual programs within an educational institution may also receive field-specific accreditation from professional organizations. While this is a relatively new practice for liberal arts programs, the American Academy for Liberal Education accredits programs at schools that maintain the highest standards of learning.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Liberal Arts Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

While any amount of higher education boosts your career, earning your master’s in liberal arts helps you gain specialized knowledge that could provide even further advancement in your field. A master’s degree makes it easier to transition into leadership positions, and it can also increase your earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings of workers in 2017 who possessed only a high school diploma was $712, while those with a master’s degree earned nearly twice as much with median weekly earnings of $1,401.

Expected Salary

Earning an online master’s in liberal arts provides you with a strong foundation of knowledge in numerous subjects, unlike other degrees that specialize in a single subject. Being knowledgeable in multiple subjects also increases your transferable skills and prepares you to work in a variety of sectors instead of a single vocation. The list of careers below illustrates the wide range of fields graduates with a liberal arts master’s degree could potentially pursue.

A liberal arts undergraduate degree provides a wide variety of career choices, but many of them require a master’s degree to qualify for an entry-level position. Earning your master’s in liberal arts online opens up even more career opportunities, with many in fields that are lucrative and/or expected to have faster-than-average growth. Although some career paths will require additional education or training, a liberal arts master’s sets you on the right path for the following occupations.

Career Opportunities

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of a liberal arts degree, possible careers for graduates of online master’s programs are highly varied. Choose a concentration that aligns with your desired career track, or choose general studies for greater career opportunities.

Multimedia Artist Multimedia artists design graphics, illustrations, animations and visual effects for film studios, video game companies, marketing agencies and other forms of advertising or entertainment fields with hand-drawn or computer-generated creations. $70,530 per year 8%
Environmental Specialist Environmental specialists use their knowledge of natural sciences to protect the environment by collecting and compiling environmental data, analyzing environmental problems and developing sustainable solutions. $69,400 per year 11%
Historian Historians gather historical data from documents, books, artifacts, archives and a variety of other sources to research, interpret and write about history so they might preserve historic materials, educate the public and provide guidance on preservation issues. $59,120 per year 6%
Archaeologist Archaeologists draw on their liberal arts knowledge in humanities and the social, physical and biological sciences to perform cultural research, including the origin, development and behavior of humans in different time periods and locations around the world. $62,280 per year 4%

Professional Organizations

Graduate students earning a master’s in liberal arts degree online who join professional organizations gain access to numerous resources that can supplement their education and professional development. Many professional organizations host conferences or other events and offer research support and funding, training programs, professional journals, job boards and various other perks. Membership in one of these organizations also allows you to build and maintain a strong network with professionals in your field.

Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs: AIMBE provides education and resources for individuals in the field of biological and medical engineering. The AIMBE hosts workshops and advocates for public policies supporting biological engineering.

Association for General and Liberal Studies: The AGLS provides students and professionals in the liberal arts with academic and career development services, plus professional journals and annual conferences available to members at discounted rates.

National Association for Graduate-Professional Students: NAGPS advocates specifically for the rights of graduate students and offers its members numerous benefits, including thesis/dissertation assistance, citation resources, grant and proposal writing tips, resume and curriculum vitae writing tips and examples, an extensive member network, a crisis hotline and discounts on insurance and other professional services.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Liberal Arts

The popularity of pursuing higher education online has increased significantly, and financial aid opportunities have evolved to meet the growing demand. Online master’s in liberal arts students qualify for many of the same types of state and federal aid and scholarships as students attending school on campus. Many contemporary awards are available to distance learners only, and the federal government ceased differentiating between online and on-campus courses as a determination for financial aid eligibility.

When applying for financial assistance for your online master’s degree in liberal arts, your first step should always be the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You use your FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid in the form of grants, awards and student loans. State-based financial assistance programs also utilize the information from your FAFSA to determine your eligibility. The federal government is the largest source of funding for college tuition and other expenses, but don’t forget to also look at private scholarships and other resources for financing your higher education.



Scholarships Details

Beinecke Scholarship Program – Graduate Education in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Award: $4,000 initially / $30,000 while attending graduate school

Deadline: February

Eligibility: College juniors enrolled at a participating institution and planning to pursue a master’s in the arts, humanities or social sciences.

National Women’s Studies Association Graduate Scholarship

Award: Up to $1,000

Deadline: Fall

Eligibility: Any graduate student who is a member of the NWSA and engaged in the research or writing stages of a master’s thesis in the interdisciplinary field of women’s studies.