Earning a Master of Liberal Arts Online

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As a generalist degree that explores several subject areas, a master's in liberal arts truly allows learners to study fields that interest them. Centering broadly on history, religion, philosophy, art, literature, and film, an online liberal arts degree not only hones students' analytical and writing skills — perfect for those interested in pursuing doctoral work — but also builds their critical thinking and communication skills, preparing them for fields like advertising and law.

This guide considers the ins and outs of a master of liberal arts online, including coursework, academic milestones, job options, and scholarships.

Why Get a Master of Liberal Arts?

Pursue Deeper Knowledge and Specialization

A master's degree in liberal arts allows students to explore several subjects, gain broad knowledge, and learn about what suits their personal and academic interests.

Career Advancement Opportunities

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those with master's degrees take home more wages each week on average than those with bachelor's or associate degrees.

Online Learning Technology

Online learning provides a unique opportunity for distance learners to use the latest technology as they earn their degrees. Gaining a strong understanding of current technology helps students get ahead and bolster their resumes before entering the job market.

Prerequisites for Master of Liberal Arts Programs

Students considering earning a master of liberal arts online must meet certain admission standards before enrolling. For instance, they may need prerequisite courses, identifiable skills, educational attainment, and/or work experience. Actual requirements vary depending on the school, but the list below offers a general idea of what to expect.

    • Bachelor's Degree In order to apply for admission to a graduate program, students usually need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Often, students will apply to graduate programs prior to their final semester of undergraduate studies, but programs require applicants to hold their degrees prior to their first term in graduate studies.
    • Work Experience Though uncommon for liberal arts programs, some graduate schools require applicants to have a minimum amount of work experience prior to admission. This work experience may need to come from the same area or field that you plan to study in the program, or the school may look for general work experience outlined in a formal resume.
    • Minimum GPA Graduate programs, including the master of liberal arts online, often have higher admissions standards than undergraduate programs. Admissions boards look for students with high cumulative undergraduate GPAs — usually a 3.0 minimum. Some programs only look at the applicant's GPA for the final 60 credits of undergraduate study.
    • Standardized Test Scores Many graduate schools require students to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) prior to admission and submit official score reports with their applications. This exam measures analytical writing and verbal and quantitative skills through multiple choice questions and an essay. Some schools have a minimum score requirement while others waive this requirement entirely.
    • Liberal Arts Academic Background Although most programs don't require applicants to hold a bachelor's in liberal arts, admissions boards may look for applicants with a significant academic history within the liberal arts. This might include undergraduate coursework, internships, publications in academic journals, or participation in conferences.

How Much Can I Make With a Master of Liberal Arts?

The earning potential for individuals with a master's in liberal arts can vary widely, as graduates of these programs go on to work in various industries and positions. Typically, earning a master's degree in liberal arts increases your earning potential in many fields; graduate degree-holders tend to earn more on average than those with a bachelor's.

According to data from PayScale, those with a master's in liberal arts earn an average of $68,000 per year. Because a master's in liberal arts provides a broader set of skills, it may also help you transition to a new career or more advanced job position.

Potential Careers

Careers Stats Description

Curator

Median Annual Salary: $48,400

Curators work at galleries, museums, and historical sites, where they locate and acquire pieces of art or other artifacts to add to museum and gallery collections. Curators also work with archivists to appraise artifacts and collections or design and implement themes for exhibits. A master's in liberal arts with an emphasis in visual art or history may further prepare graduates for this career.

Postsecondary Teacher

Median Annual Salary: $78,470

A master's in liberal arts prepares graduates to take up teaching positions at community colleges. They may teach general liberal arts and humanities courses or courses within a specific area of interest. Teaching at the postsecondary level often entails serving on committees and advising students.

Historian

Median Annual Salary: $61,140

Historians work with historical documents and artifacts to document, analyze, and interpret history. They may work within a particular field, such as literature or warfare, tracing the progression of certain ideas throughout time. A master's in liberal arts provides a strong foundation of knowledge and skills for working as a historian.

Paying for an Online Master of Liberal Arts Program

Paying for your master of liberal arts online degree may seem like a daunting task, but graduate students have funding opportunities available to help ease this process. First, do some research: Compare tuition rates and look into programs that offer accelerated degree paths, as this option may save you money in the long run. Students in liberal arts programs can also apply for financial aid, including grants and scholarships like those listed below.

Scholarships

Scholarship opportunities help college students at all degree levels fund their educations. Some scholarships are specifically tailored to students earning degrees in certain majors and fields, including those pursuing degrees in liberal arts. Students earning a master of liberal arts online may benefit from applying for one of the scholarships below.

What to Expect From a Master of Liberal Arts Program

Typically, master of liberal arts online programs require 30-45 credits, which take 3-6 terms to complete. The liberal arts degree allows students to take courses in several areas, and students can design their specific degree paths with help from academic advisors. Online liberal arts programs often involve lively discussion posts with peers and instructors, video lectures, and online research.

Major Milestones

As you progress through your master of liberal arts online program, you can expect important milestones like those below.

  1. Complete Core Coursework

    The first part of the program involves taking core courses in different subject areas to fulfill degree requirements.

  2. Choose a Concentration

    Some programs ask students to concentrate their studies in a specific subject following core coursework. This decision takes place in the latter half of the program.

  3. Take Comprehensive Exams

    Some programs require students to take written or oral comprehensive exams prior to beginning their final projects or capstones. If required, this would take place during the final year of study.

  4. Complete Capstone Project

    The capstone project takes place at the end of the program; it may involve a formal portfolio, collaborative research project, or internship. Some programs require a formal thesis as the capstone.

  5. Application to Jobs or Doctoral Programs

    During the final semester of study, students begin preparing to enter the job market or pursue further graduate study at the doctoral or professional level.

Coursework

Actual coursework varies from program to program. The courses below serve as examples of classes students may take while earning a master of liberal arts online degree.

Media and Society

This course explores the relationship between media and society, examining the ways the media represents races, genders, social classes, and sexualities. Students discuss the ways media representation of marginalized groups has shaped societal perspectives.

Popular Culture

Students in this course examine different crosscultural elements of popular culture, including food, movies, and fashion. Students use writing to explore the way popular culture shapes society.

Topics in Literature

Many liberal arts programs emphasize literature. Special topics courses in literature may include author-focused, genre-focused, or thematically-based studies in literature as students read, analyze, and critique novels, short stories, and other literary works.

Social Science Perspectives

This course offers an overview of sociology, anthropology, and psychology. Students examine the intersections between these disciplines, study their histories, and think critically about their influences on one another.

Social Justice

This course in social justice looks at social justice theories and frameworks, including critical race theory and social justice in education. Students examine the evolution of social justice movements and academic discourse.

Professional Organizations and Resources

While in graduate school, students earning their master of liberal arts online degrees may benefit from joining professional organizations in the liberal arts. Professional organizations offer graduate students opportunities for networking, career advancement, and publication. Outside of professional associations, students may also wish to take advantage of valuable resources such as job boards and academic journals.

  • Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges: This organization provides a list of member institutions for students to search. Students can also explore the organization's ongoing projects and learn more about employment prospects for liberal arts graduates.
  • Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs: With more than 60 member institutions, this association aims to promote the value of liberal arts studies and provide accessible education to working adults. Students may participate in a student forum workshop offered by the organization.
  • Humanities Education and Research Association: HERA aims to promote research and scholarship in the humanities. Members have access to a special newsletter, an annual conference, and a journal published by the association.
  • Digital Humanities Quarterly: This open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal publishes articles emphasizing the intersection between technology and the humanities. Students may find this publication valuable while conducting research and writing papers.
  • The Phi Beta Kappa Society: This academic honor society provides students and members with access to special awards, fellowships, and scholarships. Members may also take advantage of chapter meetings, networking opportunities, and an alumni association.