What Is Liberal Arts and Should I Study a Liberal Arts Degree in 2021?

Are you interested in a Liberal Arts degree, but not sure if it’s right for you? Have the negative opinions of your family or friends made you think twice? That’s okay. It’s always better to consider different points of view than regret later.

If you want to learn more, keep reading as we’ll go through the definition of Liberal Arts and what skills you will develop during studies. We’ll present the pros and cons of studying a Liberal Arts degree, and hopefully that will help you make the right decision.

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What is Liberal Arts?

Liberal Arts can refer to a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Liberal Arts or a degree in one of the numerous Liberal Arts disciplines.

What they all have in common is an interdisciplinary academic approach. Liberal Arts classes focus on developing soft skills, like formulating arguments, solving problems, communicating, or analysing ideas, problems, and solutions.

Graduates may not specialise for any career, but they learn how to:

  • think for themselves
  • evaluate and criticise
  • persuade without manipulating people

These powerful and important attributes are well-valued on the job market regardless of the career you choose.

Difference between Liberal Arts and Humanities

It’s easy to get confused because Liberal Arts and Humanities are often used interchangeably. But there are differences between them.

Liberal Arts is broader, and it includes Humanities, as well as other subdisciplines, like Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics. This allows Liberal Arts students to develop the soft skills we’ve already mentioned (critical thinking, problem-solving), which can be applied at any job.

Humanities focus on the study of the human condition, and includes subjects like:

Which are the main Liberal Arts disciplines?

The list of Liberal Arts discipline is long, but here are some of the most popular connected subjects:

Even though these programmes are more focused than a general Liberal Arts degree, they keep an interdisciplinary methodology. For example, History students might also take classes in Anthropology, Cultural Studies, and other related fields.

Group of Liberal Arts students. Study a Liberal Arts degree abroad.

Admission requirements for Liberal Arts degrees

These are the most common requirements for students interested in a Liberal Arts programme. They can change depending on the university, country, or degree type (e.g. General Liberal Arts Studies vs Creative Writing).

Liberal Arts Bachelors

  • Minimum English language test scores: IELTS 6.0 or TOEFL 70
  • Minimum GPA
  • High school diploma
  • Motivation letter

Liberal Arts Masters

  • Minimum English language test scores: IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 80
  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field
  • Minimum GPA
  • Personal essay
  • Letters of recommendation

The best Liberal Arts universities

According to rankings created by Times Higher Education (THE) and TopUniversities, these are some of the best Liberal Arts universities in the world:

World University Rankings by THE

QS Rankings by TopUniversities

Tuition fees for Liberal Arts programmes

Tuition fees at top universities and colleges are rather expensive, especially in North America, where you can expect to pay over 31,000 EUR/academic year. In the UK, tuition fees at prestigious universities (e.g. Cambridge, Oxford) start at 10,000 EUR/academic year.

If you’re looking for free or affordable (under 5,000 EUR) Bachelors and Masters in Liberal Arts, check out the following European countries:

Always check if free tuition fees apply to students from your country. For example, Norway makes numerous free academic programmes available to all international students. Things are different in countries like Finland or Sweden, where you’ll find study programmes that are only free for EU or EEA students.

Online Liberal Arts courses

We live in the 21st century, and this means you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to study Liberal Arts abroad. Many universities offer online Bachelors and Masters in Liberal Arts. All you need is a decent internet connection and a reliable computer or mobile device.

It’s a smart way to reduce the costs of your education because you don’t need to travel or find accommodation in another country. Just make sure you go through your courses, submit the assignments on time, and don’t miss any deadline or exam.

Group of Liberal Arts students in the park. Study a Liberal Arts degree abroad.

Liberal Arts jobs and salaries

As expected, there are numerous career options for a Liberal Arts graduate. You can work in Education, Marketing, PR, Social Work, in public and private institutions, or even NGOs.

Here are some popular Liberal Arts jobs and their salaries in the US, according to PayScale:

  • Professor – 87,000 USD/year
  • Interpreter or Translator – 43,500 USD/year
  • Editor – 51,500 USD/year
  • Journalist – 40,000 USD/year
  • Lobbyist – 73,500 USD/year
  • PR Specialists – 47,500 USD/year

Pros and cons for studying a Liberal Arts degree

Some people claim that Liberal Arts degrees are useless. Those who support this belief have three main arguments:

  • Liberal Arts courses are too broad and don’t focus or prepare you for a specific job.
  • Liberal Arts programmes don’t help you develop technical skills, which are essential in the modern tech world.
  • Students who graduate in Business, IT, Engineering, or Medicine earn more money and have job stability.

There’s also the additional pressure from some parents, who insist that if they’re paying for the degree, their child should study what they consider to be better for his/her future.

Their goal might be noble but remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Money is important and represents an essential aspect of our life. Not having enough will make you frustrated and resentful but earning a lot while hating your job might keep you working long hours, ending up neglecting family, friends, hobbies, and even health.

Job satisfaction doesn’t come from money alone. It requires meaning. If you enjoy what you do and feel it is important and needed in the world, you’ll find gratefulness and fulfilment. If Liberal Arts or one of its disciplines feels like the right choice for you, do it. Life is too short for having regrets or blaming your friends or family for not following your true passion.

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Business or IT jobs may be better paid, but it’s hard to be good at something you hate doing. Just focus on developing your skills and becoming one of the best in your field. If you want to be a History teacher, be the best History teacher, or the best translator, or the best salesperson, etc. You get the point. People always pay more for top services, just make sure you’re the one providing them.

Another argument for studying a Liberal Arts degree is the almost inevitable automation brought by AI and technology development. Numerous jobs might disappear, others will be created, and people will need to change careers.

This might not be the case for Liberal Arts graduates. Their creativity, critical thinking, and curiosity will serve them well because machines and programmes are not yet capable of replicating these skills. As a result, the future will bring higher demand for people with these soft skills.

If you still don’t believe us, here are some of the most successful people who graduated a Liberal Arts degree:

  • Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO
  • Richard Plepler, HBO CEO
  • Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO
  • Jack Ma, Alibaba Chairman
  • Oprah Winfrey, Media Executive

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