Liberal studies may be one of the easiest online master’s degrees, but this program can help you gain crucial skills that carry over between disciplines and occupations. If you decide to earn your master’s in liberal studies, you can expect to spend a great deal of time and effort cultivating skills in critical thinking, communication and making connections across disciplines.
Critical Thinking and Reasoning
If there’s one set of skills most closely associated with degree programs in liberal studies, it’s critical thinking and analytical reasoning. Critical thinking means more than being able to run statistical analyses of data, although that skill is certainly valuable, as well. To be able to think critically about both quantitative and qualitative matters, you have to develop a way of thinking that involves asking insightful questions and coming up with answers that are both logical and creative.
Humans are naturally inquisitive creatures – just ask any parent of a small child currently going through a phase of constantly asking “Why?” However, adults tend to stop asking questions like “Why?” In school, this may be because students are conditioned that learning is equivalent to memorizing information, rather than truly seeking to understand it. In the workplace, employees often fear that asking questions is a weakness.
By not asking questions, though, we limit ourselves. Asking “why?” allows for innovation and breakthroughs. Questioning why things are the way they are – and how they could be different – is what allows us to work smarter rather than harder and accomplish new things rather than the same old thing.
One way you develop your critical thinking skills is through reading and argumentation – things you can expect to do a lot in the course of your graduate liberal studies coursework.
Written and Oral Communication
It doesn’t matter how profound your thoughts are if you can’t express them. Another versatile skill that you develop when pursuing a master’s degree in liberal studies is the ability to communicate effectively.
People often associate communication skills with writing skills. While writing skills are extremely important in a liberal studies program and in numerous career paths, communication skills extend beyond simply being a good writer. You also need to be a good speaker. The best communicators also develop the active listening skills that allow you to understand where an audience is coming from – even if they have an opposing viewpoint – and address their thoughts and opinions.
In a liberal studies program, you have the opportunity to improve all aspects of your communication skills through both written assignments and class discussions.
The Ability to Make Interdisciplinary Connections
Perhaps the biggest gain that comes with pursuing a master’s degree in liberal studies isn’t a skill so much as it is a change in perception. When you devote your studies to one area of focus, you’re not truly seeing how the issues, concepts, practices and methodologies of that field are situated in relation to other related fields. The cross-discipline focus of a liberal studies graduate program allows you to see the world in a different way and make connections between and across disciplines.
This shift in perception can help you better understand not only the field in which you work but also the information you come into contact with every day. You become better able to understand the causes and effects of current events and the forces at work in matters of politics, religion and economics. You become a more informed global citizen. In your personal life, being able to make connections even among things that don’t seem related at first glance can help you become a more intellectually well-rounded person and a more perceptive friend, parent, romantic partner, and more. This perceptiveness can help us perform better in every role we carry in our personal and professional lives.
How this change in perception affects your work depends on your occupation. If you work in a field like programming or engineering, making these connections can help you better understand what a company or client is looking for in a project beyond the technical specifications. This knowledge allows you to build a better rapport and more effectively exceed expectations for the work.
If you work in a social science or a branch of the humanities, being able to pull from different knowledge bases can help you make more profound connections about your research findings. An anthropologist might be able to put their findings in a sociological context, while a historian can make more meaning out of examining a work of art because their liberal studies coursework included topics in art or art history.
In the real world, each distinct academic discipline has the potential to affect each other, and many career paths combine elements of different fields. Being able to make connections extends to fields like business, technological innovations and legal matters.