Given their status among the fastest online associates degrees, associate’s degree programs in liberal arts and general education are popular. The question is, what do you get out of completing these programs? If you’re wondering whether an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts degree is better preparation for a job or for a bachelor’s degree, the answer is that it depends on the program. All associate’s degree programs earned at regionally accredited institutions are capable of being transferred to a bachelor’s degree program, but only some are intentionally formulated for transfer. If you want to join the workforce as soon as you complete your associate’s degree, avoiding programs classified as transfer degrees and maximizing the liberal arts skills you learn through your studies will be important for your career prospects. Students who intend to finish their bachelor’s degrees immediately upon completing their associate’s program may do better in a transfer program.
An Associate’s Degree Built for Transfer to a Bachelor’s Degree
Some A.A. programs in liberal arts market themselves as university transfer programs. These are the associate’s degrees that focus primarily on equipping students with the general education foundations needed for a bachelor’s degree. In essence, university transfer associate programs are meant to stand in for what would be your first two years at a four-year college, allowing you to start your studies at these higher institutions as a junior rather than a freshman. Your coursework in a university transfer program will likely encompass classes in communications, humanities, social and natural sciences and mathematics. Unlike students who declare a major, you may not get to take in-depth coursework in any one area of study, but you will make a lot of progress toward satisfying the general education requirements of your future bachelor’s degree program.
There are benefits of using an associate’s degree program to start your quest for a bachelor’s degree. For one thing, you can save a lot of money, since community college tuition can be as little as one-tenth the cost of a pricy four-year school, according to the National Society of High School Scholars. Although you still need to pay the full tuition of the four-year school for two years of your education, the money you save during your first two years at community college can drastically reduce the amount of student loan debt you accumulate.
Choosing a university transfer program can also be a better choice than starting in any associate’s degree program and attempting to transfer those credits on your own, because it streamlines the transfer process. Often, the community colleges offering university transfer degrees have some sort of partnership with local or associated four-year institutions that may save you time and hassle when it comes to making sure your credits and courses transfer to your new degree program.
The downside to a university transfer associate’s degree program is that these transfer programs may not do much for your job search without further study, since their primary purpose is to give you a foundation for study at a four-year school.
Getting a Job With a Liberal Arts Degree
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The academic areas that fall under the umbrella of liberal arts have long had a bad reputation as being “useless,” but in fact, that’s far from the case, according to Forbes. While it’s true that you won’t find many job postings that specifically seek candidates with a degree in liberal arts, like you would expect to find in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the skills you cultivate while majoring in liberal arts, even at the associate’s degree level, are versatile. Among the countless positions you might leverage your liberal arts degree to attain include project manager, business development manager, client service specialist and a variety of analyst roles, Forbes reported, based on the publication’s original research. You can start working in many different industries and career fields with an associate’s degree in liberal studies, including advertising, sales, education, public relations and government positions.
What should students do to help them get a job with a liberal arts degree? You need to open your mind – something that, by the end of your liberal arts curriculum, should come naturally to you – and think outside the mentality that the college major you choose prepares you for one type of occupation and is the only way of preparing for that career. In many fields that primarily emphasize technical knowledge, you don’t have to make much of a leap from your major to your career title. Nursing students go into nursing, engineering students into engineering and accounting students into accounting.
For students who major in liberal arts or in subjects under that liberal arts umbrella, like English and history, finding jobs with your degree means thinking critically about job postings that can be in a variety of fields and analyzing how your skills fit into those requirements. Perhaps even more importantly, you need to use your communication skills to essentially sell prospective employers on your candidacy for a job.
In competitive job markets, you don’t only need to convince a prospective employer that you’re as good as someone with a degree that may be more relevant. You must persuade them that the broader, big-picture skills you would bring to the position are better than what someone else – whose main qualifications are easily teachable technical skills – has to offer. That’s a tall order, especially in industries where these technical skills are more complex and more highly valued, but liberal arts students excel at thinking critically, analyzing information and communicating effectively.
You can also improve job prospects with a liberal arts degree by adding some technical skills to your repertoire. A chief concern about liberal arts programs is that they are too broad, but expanding your skill set gives you a better balance of different types of skills.