Liberal Arts and Humanities Graduate Programs in United States
What is a Liberal Arts Graduate Degree?
A liberal arts graduate degree studies one or many areas from the humanities and beyond. Often flexible and self-directed programs, they encourage you to think, reason and analyze.
Masters of Liberal Arts (MLA) degrees are synonymous with Masters in Liberal Studies. These are programs that build breadth and depth of knowledge. They also help students adopt soft skills in writing, research and persuasion.
Another option is to pursue a masters or PhD in one of the liberal arts. Classic liberal arts study languages, music, English, history, psychology, political science, and more. Modern ones cover marketing, journalism, economics, business and historic preservation. These programs may provide technical skills while improving communication.
written by Rana Waxman
What can I do with a Liberal Arts Graduate Degree?
Data shows that liberal arts graduates enter a wide range of career fields. One might apply transferable skills to a variety of career fields or pursue a specific goal.
The major you choose may play a role in what you do with your liberal arts degree. Did you study one major like communications, psychology, sociology or economics? Or, did you pursue an interdisciplinary program, gaining skills employers value?
Some liberal arts grads look for jobs in marketing, journalism and public relations. These areas rely on an ability to problem solve, edit, translate and convey clear messages. The demand for media and communications professionals is rising and may add 43,200 new jobs by 2026.
Others may lean towards careers relating to life, physical, and social sciences. This includes jobs as economists, geographers, researchers and psychologists. Such areas also face higher than average growth. Especially in areas that link to energy efficiency and behavioral counseling.
If you studied linguistics and languages, there are other viable options. Per the BLS, there’s a much higher than average demand for interpreters and translators. They predict an extra 68,200 jobs by 2026. The most favorable prospects? Those who speak Spanish, are experts in healthcare and law, or American Sign Language.
Another type of career path may appeal to persons who enjoy a great debate and value dialogue. The next few years will see a 10 percent growth in jobs for arbitrators and mediators. Succeeding in this field often takes a solid grasp of diverse cultures and backgrounds.
What jobs can you get with a masters of liberal arts (MLA)?
A Master of Liberal Arts aims to ready students to pursue a wide variety of jobs rather than one profession. Skills in writing, problem solving, and analytical thinking transfer to myriad fields. Among them are C-suite executive roles in the private sector.
Here are ten other career paths that a MLA degree grad might pursue:
- Research Associate
- Social Research Assistant
- Technical Writer
- High School Teacher (private schools)
- Economist (government sector)
- PR Manager
If you earned your degree in a specific liberal art or humanity, this may widen your net. Included in the liberal arts are single-subject programs. Examples span economics, business analytics, history, creative writing, PR, digital media and so on.
Is a graduate degree in liberal arts worth it?
Considering many chief executives have an MLA degree, it isn't as easy to get why some people say it’s too broad. BLS.gov data shows that some CEO's earned a median annual wage of $189,600 in 2018.
Experts also say that employers look at what skills a candidate brings to the table. With competition high in many industries, a liberal arts education might instill the skills employers seek:
- Pivot from project to project
- Problem-solve - think on your feet
- Reason without losing your creativity
- Communicate – verbal, written, listening
- Make solid presentations and give clear instructions
- Take a wide view – understand diverse perspectives
A generalist point of view is not for you? Consider that liberal arts majors often study a single topic and go on to pursue a related career. There are potential jobs in government, private and public sectors and non-profits. Many industries relate to specific programs that fall under the umbrella of liberal arts, social sciences and humanities. Some examples are economics, political science, history, sociology, English, psychology and literature/languages.
What is the difference between liberal arts and humanities?
Liberal arts include four broad areas: humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and math. These study humans through time, the physical world we live in and the natural laws that bind us.
Contemporary liberal arts graduate degrees include both general and focused programs. The Master of Liberal Arts (MLS) is an example of a program that may allow you to study from a wide range of disciplines. There are also many other programs that stem from the above four categories. Here are a few examples.
- Master of Arts in Global Studies
- MA, MS, MBA in Economics
- Masters and PhD in English
- Masters in History and Historic Preservation
- MS in Data Analytics – Social Science Analytics
- MA and PhD in Social, Political, Ethical and Legal Philosophy
Humanities graduate programs study the human condition. They often cover a wide range of topics. literature, journalism, foreign languages, film and communication are a few. Here, too, there are general programs and more narrow ones. An example of a flexible program is a Masters in Humanities. In some schools, you might co-create your curriculum. Here are a few examples of other graduate degrees in humanities.
- Masters in Computational Linguistics
- MFA in Writing
- Master of Science in Communication
- MA in New Media Journalism
- MA in French Studies
What is a Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS)?
A Doctor of Liberal Studies (D.L.S. is a research doctorate), like a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies. It usually provides an intellectual challenge through a flexible course of study.
Most DLS degree programs asks a student to work under the guidance of a (senior) faculty member. This mentor helps the student research for their final dissertation.
Such detailed study may be useful, both to excel as a thought leader and to gain critical skills. It often calls for a student to analyze, synthesize and interpret findings. These practices work on different levels to widen and deepen expertise.
One might focus on areas and ideas in:
- Public policy
- Social change
- Creativity and, innovation
- Design thinking
Can I pursue a Liberal Arts or Humanities Graduate Program Online?
Many schools offer liberal arts and humanities graduate programs online. These often suit busy adults. For instance, one may pursue a grad degree online without abandoning their career. Since it saves on commute time, online students may do their coursework instead of rushing to campus. The format despite being virtual, might engage and challenge you via:
- Pre-recorded lectures
- Discussion boards and feedback
While you can you definitely pursue a graduate degree online if you feel you need the personalized attention there are programs in United States available to you as well.
Salaries for Jobs with a Liberal Arts Graduate Degree
Top States for Employment for people with a Liberal Arts Graduate Degree: Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia
Top Metro Areas for Employment with a Liberal Arts Graduate Degree
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||$85,800||20,180|
Public relations and fundraising managers work in many industries. Among them are religious organizations, education, technical and corporate settings.
Top Communications Graduate Programs in United States
Communications degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of Liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities
In fact, in the most recent update of the data (2013), across the U.S, there were 3,884 Liberal Arts degrees awarded to graduate students. The majority <95 %> of these graduate programs were at the master’s level.
Masters of Liberal Arts (MLA) vs Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS)?
Both the MLS and DLS programs offer an alternative approach to learning. They often appeal to students seeking a flexible format that accommodates many interests. Yet the Doctor of Liberal Studies is a terminal degree, while the Master of Liberal Arts is not.
Master of Liberal Arts programs are for bachelor's prepared students. They may or may not ready you to pursue a specific career, depending on what you select as a major. As a grad, you might search for a job. Or, continue into a doctorate program gaining extra skills, knowledge and credentials.
Doctor of Liberal Studies programs tend to be for experienced professionals. Because they entail complex research, they may prepare for very different career paths. For instance, teaching at the postsecondary level, university dean or policy analyst.
Communications and Public Relations Graduate Program Guide
Masters of Liberal Arts (MLA)
Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS)
|Length of Program: 2 years or less||Length of Program: 3 years or more|
|This program takes an in-depth view of the links between humanities and the computational sciences. It discusses key questions such as how technology shapes our lives.||This program offers a well-rounded and interdisciplinary curriculum, to deepen and expand knowledge and skills. Students research an area of interest, choosing from one of several concentrations (E.g. Educational Studies)|
|No Specific accreditations (other than regional through the Higher Learning Commission)||No Specific accreditations (other than regional through the Higher Learning Commission)|
What Classes Are Needed for a Masters of Liberal Arts?
Students in a Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) degree program may design their own course of study. Depending on the school, one might have access to courses across many departments. Here are a few examples of MLA degree classes.
- Conflict and Cooperation in Global Politics
- Medieval Worlds
- Cultural Psychology
- Literary Studies
- Writing Workshop
- Religion and Politics
What Classes Are Needed for a Doctor of Liberal Studies?
Doctor of Liberal Studies programs often allow students to study many subject areas. In tandem, they may feature writing classes and research methods. Here are a few examples of DLS degree classes.
- Public Policy
- International Affairs
- Directed Reading and Research
- The Challenge of Post-Modernism
What types of Classes Will I Take?
Liberal arts classes are by definition, broad and deep. If you study one thing only, like economics, prepare to look at it from many angles. Otherwise, here are a few sample classics that schools may feature.
Visual Arts: Philosophy, Aesthetics, Art Theory
This type of program might feature classes that look at the relations between art and ideas throughout history. Students may study art works, various artists, and the theories of different philosophers and scholars.
Usually, this type of class is the focus of a master’s degree in strategic communication. It studies the craft of messaging used in media campaigns. This includes social media management, PR and how communication impacts the public.
This class might focus on the larger context of design. One might study community revitalization, redevelopment, adaptive reuse, and sustainability. Other topics may touch on the ways to protect historical resources while still remaining creative.
This class may cover the feminist point of view. It may address themes such as power, gender, sexuality and race. Sometimes, it is part of a dual degree program like an MSW/MA. As such, it may bolster skills in working with women who need specific counseling.
A class in philosophy often looks at different thinkers and their theories. It leads into topics like ethics and morals. Sometimes, a philosophy program covers many areas. Social, political, legal and business ethics are among them.
Some writing classes focus on a specific genre like poetry. Others may help you develop skills in formatting and storytelling for film and animation. Expect some theory and practice.
Is there anything I should know about Accreditation with Liberal Arts Degrees?
Many schools with regional accreditation offer liberal arts graduate programs. At such institutions, one might use transfer credits and apply for federal aid.
Students may expect a certain level of quality. This because a school undergoes a review to be "accredited". This status is not given forever, necessitating another review and application.
Since accreditation is a voluntary process, not all schools have it. But some have yet another level of quality control in place for individual programs. There is no specific agency devoted to accrediting MLA programs. That stated if you are pursuing another type of degree, there may be relevant accreditation to look into.
How long does it take to get a masters degree in liberal arts?
When studying on a full-time basis, most MLA degree seekers finish the program in two years. Masters in liberal arts degrees often entail from 30 to 36 credits.
# of Credits Required
Starts Per Year
Minimum Months to Complete
How Much Does Masters Degree in liberal arts cost?
The average cost of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with MLA Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also as reported by NCES.
Instate/Out Of State Tuition
What are the Costs per Credit for a Communication Graduate Program?
To earn an MLA degree, you usually need to complete from 30 to 36 semester credits of study. This equals 10 to 12 courses of 3 credits each. To maintain status as a full-time student, some schools set a 12 credit per semester bottom line.
Cost per credit of course is different at every College or University. State Universities are also likely to have in state costs vs out of state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by each one of these institutions
# of Credits Required
Cost Per Credit
Total Tuition Cost
Find 5,218 Top Liberal Arts & Humanities Graduate Programs in United States Here
Northcentral UniversityDoctor of Philosophy in Education - General Education
American UniversityMaster of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration Master of Arts in Strategic Communication Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, Digital Communication Strategies and Analytics Concentration
University of MiamiMaster of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)
Purdue UniversityMaster of Science in Communication
Queens University of CharlotteMaster of Arts in Communication
Manhattanville CollegeMaster of Science in Marketing Communication Management
Utica CollegeMS in Data Science: Social Science Analytics
Pennsylvania State UniversityMaster of Professional Studies in Strategic Communications
Roger Williams UniversityM.S. Historic Preservation
Western New England UniversityMaster of Arts in Communication with a Public Relations Concentration
Quinnipiac UniversityMaster of Science in Journalism Master of Science in Sports Journalism
Johns Hopkins UniversityMaster of Arts in Communication Master of Arts in Teaching Writing Master of Liberal Arts Master of Arts in Non-Governmental Organization Management Master of Arts in Cultural Heritage Management Master of Arts in Science Writing
University of DelawareMaster of Arts in Strategic Communication
Pacific Oaks CollegeM.A. in Advocacy and Social Justice
The George Washington UniversityStrategic Public Relations