Guide to College Majors in General Studies

Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
--Malcolm Forbes

What Is General Studies?

A general studies degree, also commonly referred to as a "generalist degree," covers the basics of a university education. It's a broadly based degree program that demonstrates to employers and peers alike that you have the self-discipline and intelligence to work through a university-level program in a variety of subject areas. Some see it as proof that you're trainable.

Your general studies degree can serve as a prerequisite for a professional career or as a stepping stone to a college degree in another discipline. In either case, a general studies degree can be the most personally rewarding degree available, precisely because it is so broad. You'll develop a basic knowledge of classical studies and study a selection of electives in the liberal arts, humanities, and sciences. So you can take a course in sociology along with 17th-century art, or introductory biology with your required English or math courses. In some ways, the relatively new general studies degree has replaced the English degree in terms of providing a sampling of ideas, history, and disciplines. You can even take online college courses in general studies, and get a broad college education from the comfort of your living room.

Degree Programs in General Studies

Many students pick a general studies degree as a way to earn credits while they decide on possible career paths. If there are particular areas that you find interesting, take as many of them as you can fit into your degree program. For example, if you think you may want to specialize in museum curatorial work, you can take the fine arts courses you'll need if you decide to go that route. But you're not limited to a fine arts curriculum if you later discover that anthropology is your true love.

A general studies degree gives you the credentials to enter the work force at a professional level. General studies graduates also find it easier and faster to upgrade their skills by taking online college classes while employed. If your organization needs more people with a particular skill set, you have the prerequisites to be the first one to sign up for the course.

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Online Associate Degrees in General Studies

Because it's considered a gateway degree, general studies is not offered as a master's or doctorate degree. In two years or less, an associate degree in general studies lays the foundation for future career and educational advancement. You may already be employed or seeking employment in adult education, business, or human services. The general studies curriculum will allow you to explore a sampling of several disciplines such as humanities, psychology, sociology, philosophy, history, and mathematics. You'll learn how to research and analyze vital information, as well as how to examine the underlying rules and reasons why countries, cultures and companies follow specific patterns. General studies and interdisciplinary studies degrees at the associate level offer a solid general-education foundation that allows you to plan your degree according to your future goals.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in General Studies

An online Bachelor of Science in General Studies--often used as a degree completion program--also allows you to choose a concentration that meets your professional and personal goals. It's designed to allow you to finish at your own pace, so you can accelerate your program to finish sooner, or take your time and graduate when it is convenient for you.

What Can I Do With a Major in General Studies?

A general studies degree is a good introduction into the business world. It's appreciated by employers for positions in which specific skills are not required--just good judgment, critical thinking and analytical skills, and communication skills. Entry-level positions in administrative support, project management, and materials processing are open to a generalist graduate, and many more opportunities exist depending on your chosen electives and previous experience. By remaining adaptable and ready to learn new areas of expertise, you can keep your career options wide open.

Working adults wishing to advance their careers often find that a general studies degree puts them in line for management consideration or helps them to move into more challenging positions. If you want to get your general studies degree without taking time off from work, consider taking your college courses online and studying when it's convenient for you.

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