Online degree programs in liberal arts are typically offered as associate, bachelor’s, or master’s of arts or science degrees; doctoral-level degrees are also common among liberal arts degree programs. There are a variety of majors to choose from under the umbrella of liberal arts, including the following disciplines: English, language, math, social science, humanities, and fine art. For instance, a Bachelor of Art in Philosophy and a Master of Science in Psychology are both common liberal arts degree programs.
The most popular of all liberal arts degrees are in the realm of social science and history, according to the most recent information gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics. Of all bachelor’s degrees earned in the 2008-2009 school year, 169,000 were in history and the social sciences, making degrees in these majors second only to business majors at the bachelor’s level.
Generally speaking, many who seek a liberal arts degree do so to advance in their careers and increase their income, given that the majority of careers require that one holds a degree beyond a high school diploma. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), in 2009, 62% of jobs required at least a two or four-year degree; the ACTE projects that by 2020, the number of jobs that require postsecondary degrees will increase to 75%. But more specifically, many earn their liberal arts degree to enter into careers in the legal, education, government, and financial fields. For example, students who earn a doctoral degree in American History may work as a researcher and professor at a research university.
The Online Liberal Arts Degree Program Experience
Accredited online degree programs in liberal arts are offered as synchronous and asynchronous classes, though this depends on the educational institution. Online synchronous programs require that students and their instructors meet online at designated times to go over course material, have online discussions, and listen to or conduct lectures and presentations. Online asynchronous programs, on the other hand, are more independent; students access course assignments, lectures, and tests online at times convenient to them.
Internships and final projects are common at all academic levels, though doctoral-level projects and internships are more in-depth than those at the associate level. For example, students majoring in psychology at the bachelor’s-level might participate in a psychology study taking place at a nearby college or research facility; meanwhile, a doctoral-level psychology student might be responsible for actually organizing and analyzing such a psychology study.
The major area students choose also causes course work to vary. For instance, history majors take courses in U.S. and world history from varying time periods and regions, including African, Asian and Latin American histories, and ancient and medieval European history. Meanwhile, social science majors take courses like criminal justice, economics, geography, and sociology, with the purpose being to give students multicultural understanding and global perspectives.
Online vs. Campus for Liberal Arts Degree Programs
Prospective students should consider the pros and cons of each when choosing between an online or traditional degree program. One con of online degree programs is that it is much easier to end up with a degree from non-accredited university. This, of course, can be remedied by doing research before starting an online program. Another con of online education is the lack of face-to-face contact with teachers and other students. However, given technological advancements, some synchronous programs now require students and teachers to interact via video chat, taking on this con head-on.
For many, the pros of an online liberal arts education outweigh the cons. Unlike a traditional education, online students have a flexible educational schedule; this is especially true of asynchronous program students. Another pro of an online liberal arts education is that because it is self-paced and self-scheduled, students learn to work independently, a skill that will do them well in their future workplace, whether graduates go on to work as researchers, curators, or lawyers. Finally, another pro of online and a con of traditional educational options is that such a flexible schedule allows online students to work full-time and on their degree simultaneously; though this is possible with a traditional education, an online education makes such an endeavor much more convenient and plausible. For instance, some busy journalist professionals may hope to obtain a graduate degree in English or journalism to see career advancement; it can be more convenient for them to complete their graduate-level work online whenever they happen to be off the clock.
If you’ve decided to pursue an online degree, there are a few things to consider before choosing your online school. First, the best online degree programs are accredited. Accreditation is determined by national and regional agencies located throughout the United States; it signifies that schools with online degree programs meet established quality standards for their provided educational services. Earning a degree from a non-accredited college or university could result in the loss of job prospects because many employers do not look positively upon non-accredited degrees.
Second, you should consult how well your prospective schools rank. U.S News and World Report, for instance, ranks online colleges in several categories and based on many factors. Using resources like this help you determine not only which school is right for you, but which schools offer the best online liberal arts programs.