Master of Liberal Arts Programs
A Master of Liberal Arts (MLA)—also known as a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)— is an interdisciplinary graduate degree that strives to provide students with a broad-based education in multiple disciplines. There are also a variety of specific master’s degrees that fall within a broad category known as the liberal arts. These degree programs focus on areas in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
What Is a Master of Liberal Arts Degree?
A Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) is a graduate degree designed to empower imaginative individuals who embrace the interconnectedness of our modern society. It is geared toward life-long learners who wish to foster their personal intellectual growth and develop transferable, professional skills.
MLA programs delve into the exploration of human ideas and values across various contexts, including literature, politics, religion, society, and science. By studying these subjects, students could gain a profound understanding of how their areas of interest— such as literature, history, politics, religion, society, and science—shapes the human experience.
While MLA programs typically do not provide an in-depth education in a specific professional field, they are designed to develop high-level skills that could be transferable to any number of professional contexts. Such skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Reading, writing, and oral communication
While MLA degree programs may vary by school, they often include several basic components:
- Core, foundational coursework
- Elective courses
- A culminating project such as a capstone or thesis
Coursework typically covers a broad range of academic disciplines—including history, literature, philosophy, political science, art, economics, and sociology—with a focus on the interconnectedness of these areas. Programs may offer courses specifically related to the nature of interdisciplinary study. The curriculum might also include collaborative, small-group sessions focused on discussion, debate, and intellectual exploration.
Potential Benefits of Earning a Liberal Arts Master’s Degree
Earning a Master in Liberal Arts (MLA) could offer a range of potential benefits, making it an attractive option for individuals seeking a multidisciplinary education and a broad understanding of various subjects. Here are a few potential advantages of pursuing an MLA.
Interdisciplinary perspective. MLA programs may offer students the opportunity to gain an interdisciplinary perspective. Unlike traditional graduate programs that focus on a single discipline, an MLA program is designed to encourage students to explore a diverse range of subjects. This multidisciplinary approach could allow students to make connections between different fields of knowledge, fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills that could be applied to a wide array of professional contexts.
Flexibility and customization. MLA programs often provide flexibility in course selection, allowing students to tailor their curriculum based on their interests and career goals. This flexibility could enable individuals to delve deeper into specific areas of study, such as history, literature, philosophy, social sciences, or arts, while still maintaining a broader academic framework. Students can typically choose courses that align with their personal passions and professional aspirations, creating a unique educational experience.
Enhanced communication and analytical skills. The MLA curriculum often emphasizes rigorous research, analytical thinking, and effective communication. As students explore diverse subjects and engage in interdisciplinary dialogue, they develop strong analytical skills and the ability to communicate complex ideas across disciplines. These skills may be highly valued in many professions, including academia, research, writing, policy-making, and consulting, as they could enable individuals to approach problems from multiple angles and effectively articulate their thoughts and arguments.
Professional enhancement. While an MLA degree may not be directly tied to a specific career path like some degrees, it could offer valuable advantages in various professional settings. Employers often value the broad knowledge base, critical thinking abilities, and adaptability that MLA graduates may possess. This degree is geared toward equipping individuals with transferable skills that could be applied to diverse fields, making them potentially well-suited for positions that require interdisciplinary collaboration, strategic thinking, and a holistic understanding of complex issues.
Personal growth and lifelong learning. Pursuing an MLA degree could be a transformative experience on a personal level. It could offer an opportunity for intellectual growth, self-reflection, and exploration of new ideas. Students often develop a deeper appreciation for the humanities, social sciences, and the arts, gaining a broader cultural and historical perspective. Additionally, an MLA program could foster a lifelong love of learning, encouraging individuals to continue pursuing knowledge and personal growth beyond their formal education.
Types of Master’s Degrees within the Liberal Arts
The liberal arts encompass academic disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. In turn, each of these disciplines includes a variety of areas:
- Humanities — Art, literature, linguistics, philosophy, religion, ethics, modern foreign languages, music, theater, speech, classical languages
- Social sciences — History, psychology, law, sociology, politics, gender studies, anthropology, economics, geography, business informatics
- Natural sciences — Astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, botany, archaeology, zoology, geology, earth sciences
Following is an academic roadmap for the types of master’s degree programs available in the liberal arts.
Ethnic and cultural studies
- Master’s in American Studies
- Master’s in Asian Studies
- Master’s in Cultural and Demographic Studies
- Master’s in European Studies
- Master’s in Jewish Studies
Communications and public relations
- Master’s in Communication Studies
- Master’s in Communications & Journalism
- Master’s in Communications Management
- Master’s in Interpersonal Communication
- Master’s in Public Relations
- Master’s in Publishing
- Master’s in Historic Preservation
- Master’s in History
- Master’s in Language
- Master’s in Asian Language and Literature
- Master’s in Foreign Languages
- Master’s in German Language and Literature
- Master’s in Linguistics
- Master’s in Romance Languages
- Master’s in Russian & Slavic Language and Literature
- Master’s in Translation/Interpretation
Liberal arts and sciences
- Master’s in Liberal Arts & Sciences
- Master’s in Comparative Literature
- Master’s in Creative Writing
- Master’s in Literature
- Master’s in Professional Writing
- Master’s in Technical Communication
Philosophy and ethics
- Master’s in Women’s Studies MSW/MA Dual Degree
- Master’s in Women’s Studies
Choosing a Master of Liberal Arts Program
Whether you’re interested in pursuing an MLA degree or one of the many master’s degrees within the liberal arts, there are a number of factors you might consider in choosing a program that could align with your goals and interests.
First and foremost, ensure that any school you are considering is accredited. Schools that are accredited have been evaluated by an outside agency to verify that they meet certain standards of quality and rigor.
Also examine the reputation of the degree program itself. There are several ways to do this. Talk to current students or alumni of the program. Search for reviews of the program. You could also find rankings online—although keep in mind that rankings might not take into consideration the qualities you are specifically interested in.
It’s often helpful to do a little research about the faculty at a program you are considering. If you are looking for a specific degree program within the liberal arts, such as public relations, check to see whether faculty members have worked or published papers in this area. If you are interested in an MLA program, reflect on the areas of liberal arts that matter most to you and research whether faculty members have experience and knowledge in that area.
Curricula in MLA programs could vary widely. Examine all aspects of the curriculum: What are the core courses? Does the program offer electives that are of interest to you? What type of culminating project is required?
The curricula for different types of master’s programs in the liberal arts might not vary quite as much, but it could still be important to ensure that the coursework and requirements might help you accomplish your professional goals and further your career.
Degree programs are generally available in several learning formats—on campus, online, or a combination of the two (known as hybrid programs). Each has its own particular appeal, but only you could determine which would fit your lifestyle. Online programs are often appealing to those who need flexibility—for example, those who might have families, jobs, or other life commitments—or for those who are unable or uninterested in relocating. On-campus programs provide face-to-face interaction and may require less planning and self-motivation. Hybrid programs could be ideal for those who need the flexibility of an online program but also crave the stimulation of personal interaction.
Cost and financial aid
Like it or not, cost may be a factor in choosing a school. While tuition is a large component of cost, also examine miscellaneous costs, such as materials, technology, room and board if applicable, etc. Also investigate financial aid opportunities—these might offset the cost of a school that you otherwise might not be able to afford.
Job Opportunities with a Master’s in Liberal Arts
If you are pursuing a specific type of degree in the liberal arts, your job opportunities will typically relate to your field of study.
Those pursuing an MLA degree, which by nature does not focus on any one particular area, might wonder where that degree could take them career-wise. Because these degree programs generally give students a versatile set of skills and knowledge, you could have the opportunity to pursue a career in a variety of fields—or further your current career.
Potential job opportunities with specific Master’s in Liberal Arts programs
Master’s in Communications
- Marketing Consultant
- Public Relations Manager
- Human Resources Manager
- Speech Writer
- Political Campaign Manager
- Technical Communication Specialist
- Health Communication Specialist
Master’s in Literature
- English Language and Literature Teacher, Postsecondary
- High School Teacher
Master’s in Humanities
- Secondary or Postsecondary Teacher
- Event organizer
- Public relations manager
- Museum curator
Master’s in History
- Secondary or Postsecondary Teacher
- Historian (in government, for example)
- Museum Curator
Potential job opportunities with an MLA
Graduates may pursue careers in higher education, teaching courses in a variety of disciplines.
The critical thinking and analytical skills developed in an MLA program could be valuable in government roles, such as policy analysis, program management, and research.
Graduates with an MLA degree may find opportunities in nonprofit organizations as coordinators or fundraisers.
The communication and writing skills developed in an MLA program might be useful in fields such as journalism, public relations, and marketing.
Employers in the private sector may value the interdisciplinary perspective and problem-solving skills of MLA graduates. Other abilities, such as strong writing skills and the ability to synthesize information from multiple sources, might also be particularly valuable.
Popular Schools with Liberal Arts Master’s Degree
GradSchools.com offers 847 Graduate Schools with Master of Liberal Arts
This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.
Colorado State University Global
Grand Canyon University
Full Sail University
Old Dominion University
San Francisco State University
Northwest Missouri State University
Institute for Christian Studies
Illinois State University
Angelo State University