A college liberal arts and sciences education offers a solid foundation for nearly any professional or academic pursuit. General studies spans the core disciplines of a college education, from English to math to biology and beyond. Students take advantage of this educational sampler platter to build general knowledge and transferable skills such as critical thinking.
General studies: An introduction
General studies online liberal-arts degree programs offer an interdisciplinary take on the college curriculum. Most general studies programs allow students to customize their education by combining electives from various disciplines. Key subject areas in general studies include:
- Behavioral and social sciences
- Natural sciences
- Mathematics and information technology
The interdisciplinary curriculum fosters transferable skills valuable in many different careers; students learn to research, analyze information, think critically and communicate their ideas. General studies degrees are ideal for students with broad interests who don't want to commit themselves to a specific career path. They can also help returning students with course credits across a range of disciplines complete their college degree, which may be especially attractive to professionals who are working in their desired field but need a degree to advance.
Online degrees in general studies
Degrees in general studies are available at the undergraduate and certificate level only. At the master's and doctoral level, general studies graduates must specialize in a particular discipline. Program options include:
- Associate. The two-year college degree in general studies may function as a gateway credential for a bachelor's degree in a specific discipline or as a general foundation for a career.
- Bachelor. The four-year bachelor's degree offers the opportunity for more elective coursework, expanding the general education foundation. The B.S. in general studies often serves as a degree completion program for returning students.
- Certificate. A general studies certificate allows students to sample different disciplines and build basic, college-level literacy. Certificates generally take a year or less to complete.
Some programs in general studies allow students to select a specific concentration within the degree as well. Although the concentration is less structured than a traditional college major, it may help students in general studies programs focus their education or prepare for a specific career path. Sample concentrations may include business, information technology, psychology, English and more.
The online format has made the general studies degree more accessible than ever, especially for mid-career returning students. Since most general studies courses focus on discussion, lectures and writing, the virtual classroom provides an appropriate venue for learning. Even in an online program, interactive learning methods are encouraged. Students may be asked to complete group projects, discuss course materials with peers and faculty, and provide feedback on paper drafts or class projects. Online courses in general studies may require students to participate in real-time online discussions or they may allow the flexibility of logging on to class discussion boards at all hours of the day.
Career paths for general studies graduates
Online degrees in general studies are designed to provide a versatile background for nearly any career. The core skills general studies graduates bring to the table--communication, research and critical thinking skills--are especially valuable in careers such as the following:
- Business careers, such as marketing, administration, research analysis and management roles
- Writing and media careers, such as journalism and corporate communications
- Education careers, such as K-12 teaching
- Government careers, such as agency administration and researcher
Flexibility is a feature of general studies as a discipline and online degrees as an educational format. Online degrees in general studies offer graduates a versatile tool for making nearly any career ambition a reality.
General studies at a glance
- Common courses: English, social science, history, math, natural science
- Career paths: Business, writing, education, government
- Key skills: Reading comprehension, critical thinking, analysis, communication