Tennessee Liberal Arts and Humanities Graduate Programs

At the graduate level, a Liberal Arts degree often emphasizes breadth of study. The liberal arts can be broken down into four categories. These are the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics. Studies in humanities could cover classical studies, literature, history, theology, art, communication, foreign languages, writing, and more.

In addition to knowledge in a chosen subject area, students who pursue a graduate degree in liberal arts may develop ‘soft skills’. Because they often engage with their material from a variety of lenses, students may learn to think critically, solve problems creatively and express themselves.i

What Is a Liberal Arts Graduate Degree?

A liberal arts degree is a flexible course of study. Whereas most graduate programs ask students to become more and more specific, the liberal arts major differs. It expects you to both expand and deepen your academic experience.

Students can often expect to work with an advisor to tailor their liberal arts program to professional and intellectual interests. This can mean a course of study that involves fields such as art history, music, performing arts, political science, religion and other dynamic topics.

By contrast, many students choose to focus on one of these single liberal arts and humanities content areas instead of an interdisciplinary program. Consequently, a liberal arts education can mean different things to each learner.

A graduate degree in liberal arts and humanities may be awarded at the certificate, masters or doctorate level. Each of these programs may touch on similar topics but have different requirements and goals. Consider your interests and educational background to find a liberal arts degree to suit your needs.

How to earn a graduate degree in Liberal Arts and Humanities

DID YOU KNOW?

“Fortunately for liberal arts students, the research skills they use in their coursework are applicable to learning about businesses, too.” i

Master of Liberal Arts (MLA)

In some universities, the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MLA) is a 36-credit program. Applicants may need a bachelors degree, an essay, writing sample and references.

The MLA degree is often designed to foster discussion and collaboration in seminars, and students can expect to read a fair bit. Sometimes, students are required to take core topics.

  • Literature
  • Politics and Society
  • Philosophy and Theology
  • Natural Science
  • History

Along with the core courses, electives may provide students with the chance to satisfy their curiosity, pursue one topic in-depth, or just branch out. Whether this means a class in the American Revolution, Western Political Philosophy, Race and Jazz, or Italian Renaissance Art, electives lend flavor to an already multi-faceted curriculum. Aside from these segments, MLA students may be required to complete a capstone. This could take the form of a portfolio, graduate thesis or internship. Programs vary.

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What Might I Do with a Liberal Arts Graduate Degree?

Per Data USA, the most common industries that employ Liberal Arts and Humanities majors, by number of employees, are Elementary and Secondary Schools, Colleges and Universities, Hospitals, Food Services and Justice and Public Order.ii Of course, the diversity of student interests and program choices means a graduate degree in liberal arts graduate might prepare students for a variety of potential career paths.

On-Campus or Online Liberal Arts Degree?

Some students will be open to an on-campus liberal arts degree program where they can take part in face-to-face seminars, learn directly from faculty, and meet their cohorts. Others may prefer the convenience of a web-based program. Distance learners may participate through online discussion boards, or video conferences. Whatever your preference, be prepared to read, research, give and receive feedback.

PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies

The PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies is a terminal, research degree, and the highest academic award in liberal arts and humanities. A degree of this nature may draw on selected fields of the humanities. These might include social and political philosophy, history, religious studies, literature and aesthetics. Applicants may need a masters degree, GRE scores, an essay, writing sample and references.  

Compare Programs: Doctor of Liberal Studies

The Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS) is a research degree and academically equal to the PhD. It may provide students with a holistic grasp of various disciplines. In some universities, the DLS degree may help students develop their ability to synthesize what they know in new and innovative ways. Instead of research in a single topic, students may examine the ways that disciplines interact and the effect they have on modern-day society.

Liberal Arts Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates in liberal arts and humanities tend to focus on a single content area such as East-West Psychology or Integrated Marketing Communication. In some universities, they are short-term programs that may entail about five courses and about 9 months of full-time study. Candidates to the certificate programs may need to hold a bachelor's degree and submit their application for study in the graduate program along with all necessary documents.

Since they are themed programs, students may find that a graduate certificate provides deeper insight or cultivates new skills in the area studied. Also, some graduate certificates serve as a platform for a full degree in the student’s areas of interest. While format differs between universities, certificate students may be required to take some required courses along with electives.

Other Liberal Arts and Humanities Majors

As stated, a liberal arts degree may be used to refer to a masters or doctorate degree in a single content area under the umbrella of liberal arts and humanities. Below are some common options.

Area, Ethnic and Cultural Studies Graduate Program 

Students drawn to cross-cultural communication might consider an Area, Ethnic and Cultural Studies Graduate Program. This broad category includes degrees in the several areas, such as American studies, Asian studies, Demographic studies, European Studies and Jewish Studies.

The Graduate Certificate in Peace Studies may help learners develop their ability to resolve conflicts. Coursework might explore the causes and conduct of warfare and violence prevention, along with global institutions for the resolution of conflict. Other topics may revolve around community advocacy and social justice. 

A Master of Global Studies program might explore diverse cultures and world views, world religions and global issues. Coursework could cover topics such as cultural anthropology, history and intercultural communication. Students are likely to conduct research for their thesis and may be required to complete an internship.

Communications and Public Relations Graduate Programs

Communications and Public Relations is a dynamic field that often includes programs in marketing and media studies, especially as communication becomes more informed by digital strategy. Several areas of study are possible. Among these are publishing, journalism, and strategic communication studies.

A Graduate Certificate in Public Relations might provide an overview of best practices and PR strategy. Students may take courses that help them develop the ability to craft effective written and visual messages, understand target audiences, and function in a crisis. Students may be able to choose electives in global media, media studies and corporate communication

The Master of Arts in New Media Journalism might help students apply traditional journalistic methods to interactive media. Coursework might explore the ways current technology can enhance narrative and visual storytelling. Look for many more Masters in Communication programs. 

Economics Graduate Programs

Economics graduate programs span topics as diverse as business administration, economic crime and fraud management and financial economics.

A Post Masters Certificate in Quantitative Methods in Applied Economics may help current economics professionals update their skills. Coursework might cover risk, cost-benefit analysis, modeling, microeconomics and financial econometrics.

Master of Arts in Economics programs may offer various tracks to help students refine their professional identity. General, developmental economics, gender analysis, financial economic policy and applied economics are some examples.

The PhD in Economics is a terminal, research degree. Students may examine the ways economic theory can be applied to various managerial problems, as well as conduct independent study. 

English Graduate Programs

Many graduate degrees in English are designed for current and future educators.

Graduate Certificates in English may be available as English as a Second Language Endorsement (ESL) programs. Coursework is likely to cover the ways people acquire language, methods of instruction and lesson design.

Master of Arts in English programs often explore literary study throughout the ages, with coursework that may cover both genres and historical periods. Some programs may offer pedagogy and instruction in course creation.

The PhD in English is a research degree where students might be exposed to literature, cultural studies, critical theory, composition and rhetoric. At the same time, coursework is likely to involve rigorous research, pedagogy and a practical teaching component. 

History Graduate Programs

A graduate degree in history usually involves the study of historical facts and scholarly arguments. Some programs are offered as dual degrees. For instance, a MS Historic Preservation/Juris Doctor or a combined Master of Arts/PhD in History. Also, students may want to opt for a program with a narrow focus, whether this is historic preservation, holocaust studies, medieval studies or military history.

Languages Graduate Programs

Languages can be a dynamic program of study in terms of a graduate degree. Some programs explore the language and culture of a specific country. Examples include French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Asian, African, Chinese, and the Romance Languages. Other programs are designed as teacher preparation. Or, specifically explore linguistics.

The Master in Computational Linguistics, Analytics, Search and Informatics (CLASC) is an example of the latter. This type of degree is a mix of computer science and linguistics. Coursework is likely to cover topics such as text analytics, information processing and communication.

Literature and Writing Graduate Programs

Graduate degrees in literature and writing explore several fields of study. Some programs are focused on literature, comparative literature or technical communication. Others specifically focus on types of writing – professional writing, science or creative writing. It is not uncommon to find Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in this category.

A Graduate Certificate in Applied Shakespeare may blend performance with scholarship. Aside from reading, this type of program might include acting, directing and play attendance.

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing may provide a course of study that explores poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Students may be able to fine tune their ability to develop different genres such as lyric, drama, novel and satire. 

Philosophy and Ethics Graduate Programs

Philosophy and Ethics graduate programs may help students develop their ability to reason and think critically about various issues. Students may want to choose an area of emphasis. Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Science are some examples. 

The Master of Arts in Philosophy student may have to show their mastery over a foreign language like Latin, Greek, French or German. Also, students usually must research, write, and orally defend a thesis. The MA is often used as a platform to a Doctor of Philosophy. The PhD is an advanced research degree. The area of emphasis for a PhD depends on a candidate’s major, for instance Psychology and Religion or Theological and Philosophical Studies. 


[i] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2007/winter/art01.pdf | [ii] datausa.io/profile/cip/24/

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