What is Liberal Arts Education?

Have you ever been curious about studying one of the oldest fields? The term "Liberal Arts" dates back to the Ancient Greeks, who viewed a liberal arts degree as the pinnacle of education.

While liberal arts education has long had a foothold in the US higher education system, its original home of continental Europe has only recently seen a revival.

The Alliance of Liberal Arts Universities (AALAU), founded in November 2017, is a network of reputable liberal arts universities throughout Asia.

Continue reading for a more thorough discussion of liberal arts education, including all you need to know about what it requires to study the liberal arts and the benefits a liberal arts degree may provide for students.

History of Liberal Arts Education

Liberal arts education was considered crucial for a free person engaged in civic life in classical antiquity.

At the time, this would have meant having the capacity to participate in public discourse, defend oneself in court and on juries, and serve in the military.

Grammar, rhetoric, and logic, collectively known as the trivium, were the only three courses addressed by liberal arts at this time.

The quadrivium, or the addition of four more topics, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, resulted in the medieval liberal arts curriculum having seven subjects.

The quadrivium was considerably more challenging than the trivium and was meant to prepare pupils for a more rigorous study of philosophy and theology.

The goal of a liberal arts education was to create virtuous, ethical, well-versed, and highly articulate individuals.

To develop well-rounded individuals with general knowledge of a wide range of subjects and mastery of a range of transferable skills, the core objectives of the traditional liberal arts curricula remain, even though modern liberal arts curriculums allow students to study a much more comprehensive range of subjects.

Liberal Arts Education in Recent times

What, therefore, does a liberal arts education mean in the current world? There are currently a wide variety of disciplines that can be broadly categorized as liberal arts; a typical liberal arts degree program is interdisciplinary and covers issues in the humanities and the social, natural, and formal sciences.

The subjects included in liberal arts degree programs vary depending on the school. However, it is commonly acknowledged that the following issues fall under the liberal arts spectrum:

  • Humanities: Humanities include music, theatre, speech, and classical languages (Latin/Greek), as well as art, literature, linguistics, philosophy, religion, and ethics.
  • Social Sciences: History, psychology, law, sociology, politics, gender studies, anthropology, economics, geography, business informatics, and other social sciences are included in this category.
  • Natural Sciences: Astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, botany, archaeology, zoology, geology, Earth sciences, etc., are all-natural sciences.
  • Formal Sciences: Logic, statistics, mathematics, and other traditional disciplines are included.

The study of just one of the topics mentioned above can also be referred to as "liberal arts education" (for example, a student studying a BA in Philosophy could be said to be undertaking a liberal arts education).

However, the word generally describes degree programs that seek to offer a broader range of information and abilities.

US liberal arts education

Most degrees offered in the US nowadays are in the liberal arts. There are hundreds of liberal arts-focused colleges in the US, and many more provide a liberal arts program in addition to other alternatives. 

Liberal arts degrees are typically earned during four years of full-time study in the US, although some universities now offer one-year associate's degrees. Students can move on to graduate or professional school after receiving a BA or BSc certification. 

Additionally, some students could decide to specialize by selecting a major or minor in a particular field.

US liberal arts universities

Dedicated liberal arts institutions and other US universities differ from one another in a few significant ways. 

Liberal arts universities often emphasize student participation and promote teacher-student interaction, collaboration, and mentoring. 

A mix of graduate student teaching assistants and research academics is more common at liberal arts institutions than at universities, which tend to place more emphasis on research. 

Most liberal arts colleges are small and residential, with fewer students enrolled, smaller classes, and a lower student-teacher ratio. 

Teachers work closely with their students as mentors and sometimes as research collaborators.

European liberal arts education

Although liberal arts originated in Europe, they are far less common than in the US, even though liberal arts degrees are now more readily accessible. 

Now, less than half of the European Union's member states—Bulgaria, Belgium, Estonia, Slovakia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom—have liberal arts colleges or universities offering liberal arts degree programs.

Only the UK, Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, and Germany have more than one university that grants degrees in the liberal arts.

Benefits of Liberal Arts Education

Here are some of the significant benefits of a liberal arts degree in case you're still not sure if it's right for you:

  • Preparation for work in several industries: You will acquire a solid foundation of knowledge in a more extensive range of disciplines than if you were to pursue a degree focusing on a single subject or profession.
  • Introduction to job options: Students can be introduced to courses they might not have otherwise encountered in a liberal arts degree program, allowing them to choose their preferred career path with more knowledge.
  • Stepping stone to other careers: The education you receive in the liberal arts might help you more easily transition from one job to another.
  • Employers value liberal arts degrees because they know graduates have the transferrable skills to adapt to a changing workplace.
  • Lays a foundation for graduate study: a future graduate student with a background in the liberal arts will be able to learn in a variety of academic fields and will have the background knowledge necessary to pursue graduate study in any area of their choice.
  • It allows graduates to adapt and prosper in the real world, communicate with and comprehend different community members, and have a broader viewpoint. This is accomplished through a liberal arts education, which goes beyond the classroom and the workplace.

Liberal Arts Education: Career and Job Scope

Liberal arts students are more likely to be focused on learning everything they can about the world around them than choosing a career at the beginning of their degree, which creates chances across many industry sectors. 

Although some of the following occupations necessitate more education (such as a master's or doctorate), some typical careers with a liberal arts degree include:

  • Academics: As you investigate, research, and teach a particular topic, the interdisciplinary knowledge and abilities you've acquired through a liberal arts education will add an added layer.
  • Commercial art, painting, photography, interior, graphic, and visual design are all art forms.
  • Education: Get more certifications to work as a teacher, where you can apply your depth of knowledge to assist more pupils or teach more courses.
  • Become a trained translator, transcriber, or interpreter, a foreign language instructor or journalist, or work in the travel and tourism sector with the support of the fact that many liberal arts students acquire at least one foreign language.
  • Whether you select marketing-related fields like advertising, promotions, public relations, journalism, news editing, or copywriting, the humanities courses you took will improve your understanding of people and communication abilities.
  • Careers in political science include those in law, public policy, politics, business, and nonprofit organizations.
  • Additional career options include those in biology (healthcare, laboratory work, research work), business, event planning, environment (conservation, public policy), finance (banker, accountant, financial analyst), law enforcement, research analysis (fusing statistics and psychology), and social services (such as counseling or therapy).
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