California On-Campus Liberal Arts & Humanities Graduate Programs

Liberal Arts Graduate Schools could provide students with an integrative point of view that may impart the ability to reason, think critically, and effectively communicate. In contrast to a professional, vocational or technical program, most liberal arts graduate programs use a broad course of study to encourage intellectual curiosity and class participation. In addition to this interdisciplinary approach, liberal arts graduate schools may also offer students the opportunity to focus on a particluar topic, such as History, English, Creative Writing and more.

Earning Your Liberal Arts Degree On-Campus

In some liberal arts graduate schools, degrees in liberal arts and humanities are earned in small, discussion-based classes and seminars. Here, a professor may ask a question about the reading assignment and students take part in a dialogue to share their reflections. These potentially lively debates may help students develop several key skills. Among them, the ability to form and convey opinions, speak publicly, and use reason to solve problems. Moreover, the face-to-face interaction may help students work on analytical and creative thinking as they synthesize feedback and ideas.

Liberal arts graduate schools may also provide students with additional resources to enhance their studies. These could include research labs, libraries and databases, student services and guest lectures and extracurricular programming. Schools vary, so contact them directly to learn more.

DID YOU KNOW? Per the BLS, Liberal arts majors have skills that are in demand. i

What Types of Liberal Arts Degrees Are There?

Some liberal arts graduate schools offer interdisciplinary majors where breath of study is encouraged. This type of liberal arts degree is in the spirit of what the Ancient Greeks meant by ‘well-rounded’ education. Two examples are the Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) degree, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Other universities with liberal arts graduate programs may not offer cross-disciplinary programs, but they may have degrees in liberal arts and humanities topics. Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) are some examples. You can look for these degrees in liberal arts majors such as integrated marketing, journalism, history, and creative writing to name a few.

Design Your Own Course of Study

Today’s liberal arts degrees may be earned in programs where graduate students are expected to design their own syllabus. This flexibility could help students to pursue courses that best mirror their interests. Liberal arts topics span courses in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics and physical sciences.

Explore a Variety of Liberal Arts Majors

The liberal arts and humanities has an array of distinctive fields of study which can make for a dynamic liberal arts graduate program. Among these are literature, languages, art history, music, philosophy, history, economics, psychology, communication, mathematics and social science. The humanities, which may foster critical reflection and analysis, often form the basis of these graduate programs.

On-Campus Masters in Liberal Arts and Humanities Programs

Masters degrees in liberal arts and humanities programs often provide students with a firm grasp of theory and the professional practice of their technical area. Liberal arts programs at this level often have several components. Typically they include an overview of research and theory, core courses, electives, and a concentration. Sample masters in liberal arts and humanities programs include the following.

Master of Arts in Communication: A Masters in Communication may provide practical and applied knowledge in areas such as crisis communications, law and ethics. Electives may engage students to tackle real-life communication issues, develop usable campaign skills, and build a strong portfolio. Areas of emphasis such as environmental, health or strategic communication may help students narrow down a niche area, and an anchor for their research. 

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing: An MFA in Creative Writing may provide students with the opportunity to fine tune their artistic and technical skills and knowledge. Students may get to choose which genre most interests them – whether fiction, poetry, drama, or creative nonfiction. 

Master of Liberal Arts Degree

Several liberal arts graduate schools offer the Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) degree. Applicants to this cross-disciplinary program typically need a bachelors degree, but not necessarily in a specific major. Students may also need to furnish transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA, an essay, statement, and letters of recommendation.

The structure of the MLA degree varies between schools. In many cases, to complete the degree, students take a total of 36 credits. These credits may be divvied up between a required core and a self-designed segment of electives and/or area of emphasis. Other requirements for the degree might include a thesis, work portfolio, or capstone project. It is often from a student’s independent study that this final research is born.

In terms of coursework, liberal arts graduate schools do vary here too, so you should look deeply at a course syllabus to see if the books and topics excite your interest. Course names differ, but below are some possible required topics.

  • Modern World Philosophies
  • History
  • Critical Theory
  • Research Methods
  • Creativity and Aesthetics
  • Politics and Society
  • Literature
  • Philosophy and Theology
  • Mathematics and Natural Science

On-Campus Liberal Arts and Humanities PhD Programs

Doctoral liberal arts degrees are terminal programs where students might collaborate closely with faculty, design their own research, and engage with other thought leaders. To apply, some liberal arts graduate schools may look for a candidate who has completed a masters degree in their field of study. Some schools may also offer a joint MA/PhD.

One of the common doctorate degrees awarded in liberal arts and humanities is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), a degree focused on scholarly-research. Students who earn a PhD in their technical field (e.g. Philosophy, History, Communication) may develop expertise and the ability to lead and contribute original thought. Usually, their course of study explores their major in-depth, while courses in research methods helps them prepare for independent research – in that content area.

PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies: By comparison, the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies does not explore one topic exclusively. In some universities, it is often intended for students whose research goals and dissertation topics cross over into multiple areas. These students may be motivated to think outside the box, and/or are self-starters who want to work with scholarly minds from other disciplines. As a result, students may design an individual course of study with guidance from their Supervisory Committee.

On-Campus Graduate Certificates in Liberal Arts

Many liberal arts graduate schools offer on-campus graduate certificates in liberal arts and humanities fields of study. These non-degree programs often serve as a platform for students to explore a new area, refine skills, or prepare for a future masters degree. Because a certificate is shorter than a full degree – sometimes about five courses, they tend take less than one year to complete, and zero in on one theme. 

Admission requirements vary, but students may need a bachelors degree from an accredited institution, along with school-specific material. This could mean things like a resume, personal statement, essay, and letters of recommendation. You might wish to consider some of the liberal arts certificates below.

Graduate Certificate in Health Communication: This program could help students grasp the ins and outs of media support for health campaigns and enterprises. Students may take courses that expose them to case studies, so they can evaluate what goes into successful health promotions. Other courses might focus on brand identity, marketing theory and strategy.

Graduate Endorsement – English as a Second Language (ESL): This certificate may explore instruction methods, linguistics and content literacy. Students may study how to plan lessons and teach English to non-speakers.

Find Accredited Liberal Arts Graduate Schools

Many liberal arts graduate schools are regionally accredited. As accreditation is concerned with things like student services, fiscal stability, curriculum and faculty, keep it in mind as you review liberal arts degrees.

Take the Next Step

The next step is to compare liberal arts graduate schools. The on-page menus make this easy. Refine choices by degree level and subject. Or, look for liberal arts schools in a specific city, state or country. Either way, a list of programs is generated for you to explore. From there, it's simple to contact the providers. Just follow the link and fill out the on page form. This could be a great way to set up a visit to get a sense of the campus community and resources.


[i] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2007/winter/art01.pdf

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