Liberal Arts Education Definition and What it Entails

One thing that makes the liberal art education unique is the historical stand it has. Dating back as far back as the ancient Greek, the liberal art education has had great influence in today’s scholar reformation so everybody should be proud to venture into this sphere of study.

Liberal Arts Education Definition and What it Entails

Historical Development

During the age of classical antiquity (when ancient Greece and ancient Rome entwined creating the Greco-Roman world), liberal arts was considered vital education for a free individual active in civic life. At the time, this would have involved being able to participate in public debate, defend oneself and function in court and on juries, and perform military service.

At this time, liberal arts covered only three subjects: grammar, rhetoric and logic, jointly known as the trivium. This was extended in medieval times to include four further subjects: geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy, named the quadrivium – so there were about seven liberal arts subjects in the medieval liberal arts prospectus.

The trivium was regarded preparatory work for the significantly more difficult quadrivium, with the quadrivium in turn being considered preparatory work for the more serious study of philosophy and theology. The goal of a liberal arts education was to produce a person who was honorable and ethical, conversant in many fields and highly articulate.

Although modern liberal arts prospectuses have an updated choice of a larger range of subjects, it still holds the core aims of the liberal arts curricula maintained by the medieval universities: to develop well-rounded individuals with general knowledge of a wide range of subjects and with mastery of a range of transferable skills. They will develop ‘global citizens’, with the capacity to pursue lifelong learning and become valuable members of their communities.

What Does it Really Mean Today?

So, in a modern setting, what is liberal arts education? There are now many subjects that fall within the broad scope of the category; a typical liberal arts degree program is interdisciplinary, covering topics within the humanities, as well as social, natural and formal sciences. There are variances in the particular subjects comprised in liberal arts degree programs at different institutions. However, the liberal arts spectrum is generally accepted as covering the following fields:

  • Humanities – comprises art, linguistics, philosophy, religion, ethics, modern foreign languages theater, speech, , music, classical languages (Latin/Greek)
  • Social sciences – comprises history, psychology, law, sociology, politics, gender studies, anthropology, economics, geography, business informatics,
  • Natural sciences – comprises biology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, archaeology,  botany, zoology, geology, Earth sciences,
  • Formal sciences – includes mathematics, logic, statistics, etc.

The term ‘liberal arts education’ can also be smeared to the dedicated study of just one of the above subjects (for example, a student studying a BA in Philosophy could be said to be undertaking a liberal arts education). In all, however, the term refers to degree programs that target to offer a broader spectrum of knowledge and skills.

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Liberal Arts Degrees in the United States

Today, liberal arts degrees are most mostly offered in the US. There are hundreds of devoted liberal arts colleges in the US, with even more institutions offering a liberal arts program alongside other options.

While some universities now provide a one-year associate’s degree in liberal arts, it’s more common for liberal arts degrees in the US to receive over four years of full-time study. Students earn either a BA or a BSc certification and can then advance to either a graduate school or a professional school. Some students may also choose to specialize by selecting a major or minor subject in a specific area (common subjects to major in include business, law, communication, research and politics).

 List Liberal Arts Colleges

There are some distinguished differences between dedicated liberal arts colleges and other universities in the US. Liberal arts colleges typically count on heavily on student contribution and encourage a high level of student-teacher interaction, mentorship and collaboration. Whereas universities are apt to prioritize research, liberal arts colleges have more staff members devoted to teaching full-time, rather than a combination of graduate student teaching assistants and research professors. Most liberal arts colleges are minor and residential, with smaller admission and class sizes and a lower student-teacher ratio, with teachers becoming mentors and even research partners with their students.

Liberal Arts Degrees in Europe

Though the idea of liberal arts originates in Europe, today it’s much less predominant than in the US – though in recent years liberal arts degrees have become more extensively available. Currently less than half of European countries have liberal arts colleges or universities with a liberal arts degree program; include  Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Belgium,  Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Of these, only the UK, Hungary, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany have over one institution teaching liberal arts degrees.

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Benefits of a Liberal Arts Degree

If you’re still unsure whether a liberal arts degree is for you, here are some of the key benefits of a liberal arts degree:

– Preparation for work in a variety of sectors

You will gain solid foundation knowledge in an extensive variety of subjects than if you were to take a degree specializing in a single subject or vocation.

– Introduction to career choices

The variety of subjects taught in a liberal arts degree program means students can be introduced to subjects they may not have otherwise encountered, allowing them to make a more informed decision when selecting their preferred career path.

– Stepping stone to other careers

The knowledge attained during a liberal arts education can help you to better move yourself out of your current career into another.

– Liberal arts degrees are appealing to employers

In a recent study of CEOs in the US, 74% said they would commend a liberal arts education to students. Employers identify those liberal arts graduates have the necessary transferable skills to adapt to a changing workplace.

– Provides a foundation for graduate study

A potential graduate student with a liberal arts background will have the ability to learn across a varied field of studies, with the foundation knowledge to go straight into graduate study in any subject they choose.

– Provides skills to become a valuable community member

A liberal arts education extends beyond academia and the workplace to give graduates the essential qualities that can qualify them to adapt and thrive in the world, communicate with and understand other members of the community and have a broadened perspective.

Careers With a Liberal Arts Degree

Instead of choosing a career at the beginning of their degree, liberal arts students are more probable to be focusing on learning as much as they can about the world around them, which opens up chances across many industry sectors. While some of the following careers require further education (such as a master’s or doctorate degree) some typical careers with a liberal arts degree include:

– Academia

The interdisciplinary knowledge and skills gotten from a liberal arts education will lend an extra dimension as you explore, research, and/or teach a chosen subject.

– Art

Photography, commercial art, painting, interior, graphic and visual design

– Education

Pursue additional qualifications to become a teacher, where you can use your breadth of knowledge to help a wider range of students, or to teach a wider range of subjects.

– Interpreter

Many liberal arts students learn at least one foreign language, which can help you become a qualified translator, transcriber or interpreter, become a foreign language teacher or journalist, or work in the tourism and travel industry.

– Marketing

Whether you pick advertising, promotions, public relations, journalism, news editing or copywriting, the humanities subjects you covered will aid you understand people better, while your communication skills will help you be better understood.

– Political science

Careers in this area include law, public policy, politics, business, and working for NGOs and donations.

– Other career choice

In the aspect of  biology (healthcare, laboratory aid , research assistant), business (entrepreneur, store manager, salesperson), event planning, environment (conservation, public policy), finance (banker, accountant, financial analyst), law enforcement, research analysis (joining statistics and psychology), and social services (like counseling or therapy).

Skills and Abilities Gained from a Liberal Arts Degree

Across the world, advocates of liberal arts education condemn the educational formats and curriculums of other degree programs for their over-emphasis of technical proficiencies while neglecting other vital skills. However, it can be difficult for a potential student to abstract what they will gain from such a wide-ranging degree. To aid you out, here are some of the key abilities gotten from a liberal arts degree for a typical student:

  • Operational oral and written communication skills
  • Problem-solving and pattern intelligence skills
  • A Analytical, evaluative, critical and creative thinking skills
  • capability to learn and synthesize new ideas
  • Experience in quantitative and qualitative data analysis
  • Critical and reflective reading abilities
  • Arithmetical skills
  • Effective research abilities
  • Business and time-management abilities
  • Information literacy abilities
  • Ability to adapt easily to situations
  • Ethical decision-making skills
  • Capacity to pose meaningful questions
  • Ability to work in a group
  • Confidence and self-understanding
  • Ability to be subtle to others and be tolerant of cultural differences