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Liberal Studies - Overview


Liberal studies programs teach students about a wide variety of subjects. Students learn how these subjects relate to contemporary issues or common themes. They take courses in many departments, often based on their own academic interests. They learn how to think critically and communicate effectively.

"Liberal" comes from the Latin word for "free." It can also mean "generous." "Liberal studies" refers to a program of liberal arts, which include fields such as language studies, history, and philosophy. This program provides information of general cultural interest rather than specific career preparation. It promotes cultural literacy in the broadest sense by freeing you to study a generous range of subjects.

In the mid-1900s, liberal studies were seen as necessary only for intellectual refinement or careers in teaching. Otherwise, they were considered impractical. In this same spirit, more and more schools nowadays offer programs in technical rather than liberal education. At those schools, you can get degrees in subjects such as human resources administration, computer technology, and biotechnology engineering.

However, the breadth of knowledge and both the analytical and writing skills you gain from this program also prepare you for careers in many fields. These include journalism, public relations, and government. And because you take courses in history, languages, the arts, and philosophy, you become a good candidate for global and international careers as well.

This program also prepares you for graduate study. Many graduate schools like to see a well-rounded candidate. Even for advanced degree programs such as medicine, you can easily combine a program in liberal studies with other science courses you would need for admission.

Many colleges and universities offer liberal studies programs where you can earn an associate, a bachelor's, or a master's degree. After high school, an associate degree typically takes about two years of full-time study and a bachelor's degree usually about four. A master's degree takes between one to two additional years after a bachelor's degree.

If you major in liberal studies, you typically choose to focus on a particular area. Possible areas vary from school to school, but may include the following examples:

• Art and Culture
• Classical Civilizations
• Ethics and the Professions
• Literature and Society

You may also be able to design your own concentration.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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