Before they became known by their Latin name, liberal arts were the continuation of Ancient Greek methods of inquiry which began with a desire for a universal understanding.
According to the era of the classical period, the study was considered essential education for a free individual active in civic life.
At the time, this would have entailed being able to participate in public debate, defend oneself and serve in court and on juries, and perform military service. At this time, studies covered only three subjects: grammar, rhetoric, and logic.
This was extended in the medieval period to include four further subjects: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. So there were seven liberal arts subjects in the medieval curriculum.
The aim of a liberal arts education was to produce a person who was virtuous and ethical, knowledgeable in many fields, and highly articulate.
Modern liberal arts curriculums, however, allow students to study a much larger range of subjects, but they still retain the core aims of the traditional liberal arts curriculum which is to develop well-rounded individuals with general knowledge of a wide range of subjects and with mastery of a range of transferable skills.
Liberal Arts Education in our World Today?
There are now many subjects that fall within the broad scope of the category. However, the liberal arts spectrum is generally accepted as covering the following fields:
- Humanities: Art, literature, linguistics, philosophy, religion, ethics, modern foreign languages, music, theater, speech, classical languages (Latin/Greek).
- 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.
- Formal sciences: Mathematics, logic, statistics.
Liberal Arts Degrees in the United State
Degrees in this study are most commonly offered in the US. There are hundreds of dedicated liberal arts colleges in the US, with even more institutions offering a liberal study program alongside other options.
While some universities now offer a one-year associate’s degree in liberal arts, it’s more common for liberal degrees in the US to be earned over four years of full-time study.
Students earn either a BA or a BSc certification and can then progress to either a graduate school or a professional school.
Some students may also choose to specialize by picking a major or minor subject in a specific area like common subjects to major in business, law, communication, research, and politics.
Liberal Arts Colleges
There are some notable differences between dedicated liberal arts colleges and other universities in the US. Liberal study colleges typically rely heavily on student participation and encourage a high level of student-teacher interaction, mentorship, and collaboration.
Liberal Arts Degrees in Europe
Though the concept of this study originates in Europe, today it’s much less prevalent than in the United States though in recent years the degrees have become more widely available.
At the moment less than half of European countries have liberal arts universities with a degree program; namely Bulgaria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany have more than one institution.
Benefits of a Liberal Arts Degree
- Preparation for work in a variety of sectors: you will gain a strong foundation knowledge in a wider range of subjects than if you were to take a degree specializing in a single subject or vocation.
- Introduction to career choices: the range of subjects taught in a liberal study degree program means students can be introduced to subjects they may not have otherwise encountered, enabling them to make a more informed decision when choosing their preferred career path.
- Stepping-stone to other careers: the knowledge achieved during a liberal arts education can help you to better maneuver yourself out of your current career into another.
- Liberal arts degrees are appealing to employers
- Provides a foundation for graduate study: a potential graduate student with a liberal study background will have the ability to learn across a diverse field of studies, with the foundation knowledge to go straight into graduate study in any subject they choose.
Careers with a Liberal Arts Degree
- Art photography, commercial art, painting, interior, graphic and visual design
- Education: pursue additional qualifications to become a teacher
- Marketing, Interpreter, Journalism, public relations etc.
- Law, Public policy, politics, business, and working for NGOs
- Biology, healthcare, laboratory assistant, research assistant, event planning, banker, accountant, financial analyst, law enforcement, counselling or therapy. Note with a degree in Liberal arts you can pursue a career in almost any field.
Skills you will Gain from a Liberal Arts Degree
- Ability to learn and synthesize new ideas
- Effective oral and written communication
- Numerical skills
- Information literacy
- Effective research
- Ethical decision making
- Organization and time management
- Experience in quantitative and qualitative data analysis
- Self-confidence and self-understanding
- Ability to be sensitive to others and be tolerant of cultural differences
- Foreign language skills and cross-cultural knowledge