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What is a General Studies Degree?

A general studies degree is a multidisciplinary academic program that allows you to explore various subjects while developing a broad and flexible skill set.

A woman surrounded by family researching what a general studies degree is

In today’s ever-changing job market, employers look for adaptable candidates with a comprehensive skill set. This is where a general studies degree comes into play, as an academic program offering the flexibility to explore various disciplines while honing transferable skills.

It's underpinned by a strong foundation in general education. "The Commons," as it is known at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), covers mathematics, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, which equips you with comprehensive knowledge and holistic thinking abilities.

This degree can open doors to diverse career paths. Let's look into the intricacies of this program, its value and career prospects and discover insights that provide a first-hand look into general studies.

What is General Studies?

General studies, as the term suggests, encompasses a wide range of academic disciplines.

Rather than focusing on a specific field, a general studies program allows you to explore an array of subjects such as humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and the arts. This approach provides a more comprehensive educational experience and encourages a multidisciplinary perspective.

Petr Cikhart with the text Petr CikhartPetr Cikhart ‘22, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in General Studies graduate from SNHU, valued this variety.

“I wanted to broaden my horizons, discover new things, learn about things I didn’t know before and do something that was different from my work shooting movies and TV shows,” he said.

Dr. Priscilla Hobbs, senior associate dean of general education, first-year experience and special programs at SNHU, said that “a general studies degree is designed for students who are looking for a broader course of study than a specialized major, and students who have a large number of transfer credits who are looking to wrap up a degree quickly.”

At some universities, such as SNHU, earning a general studies degree requires you to take at least one program requirement and one concentration, many of which are multidisciplinary, Hobbs said. This gives you flexibility and customization to take the best courses and concentrations that align with your goals.

Concentrations to consider pairing with your general studies degree may include:

  • Business administration
  • Coding basics
  • Communication
  • Criminal justice
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Psychology

Wondering what other focuses could be an option at your school? An admission counselor can fill you in — or your academic advisor if you're already in school.

What is a General Studies Degree Used For?

Dr. Priscilla Hobbs with the text Dr. Priscilla Hobbs

The application of a general studies degree is vast. The curriculum’s flexibility allows you to choose skills that meet your goals and cater to your interests. 

“Students can qualify for careers that require a bachelor’s degree and can leverage their coursework to develop the skills needed,” Hobbs said. “Many of the offered concentrations provide foundational skills and knowledge for those professions.”

This degree prepares you for further academic pursuits while keeping your options flexible. You'll also be positioned for a wide array of professions that value the extensive and integrative knowledge of a general studies degree.

Careers for General Studies Students

Graduates with a general knowledge base and a diverse skill set can fit into various industries. The BA in General Studies is a liberal arts degree. There are 736,780 people employed with liberal arts degrees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

According to BLS, some of the most prevalent occupations for liberal arts graduates are:

  1. Educational instruction and library
  2. Management
  3. Office and administrative support
  4. Business and financial operations
  5. Sales and related roles

BLS reported that 62% of all liberal arts graduates worked in one of those five industries. But that means that 38% found work in various other sectors, too. 

The most employed liberal arts degree jobs, according to BLS, are:

  • Customer service representative
  • Elementary school teacher
  • High school teacher
  • Manager
  • Retail salesperson
  • Secretaries and administrative assistants

BLS also noted that 31%, nearly one-third, of all liberal arts workers had an advanced degree. Earning a master’s degree is a great way to continue to pursue what you’re passionate about, whatever it may be, while showing employers that you have the skills for the job. And if you have a significant amount of transfer credits, you may be able to earn a general studies degree more quickly, preparing you to start work sooner on your graduate degree.

What Do Employers Think of a General Studies Degree?

You may be wondering how employers view a general studies degree.

Hobbs said that a general studies degree can highlight your vast skill set, especially the soft skills employers seek. Critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and adaptability — all nurtured in a general studies program — are prized in many professions.

According to Forbes, employers seek skills like critical thinking, teamwork and Communication. With its breadth of subject areas and emphasis on building versatile skills, a general studies degree aligns well with these employer preferences.  

Is a Degree in General Studies Worth It?

West Luia with the text West LuiaEvaluating the worth of a general studies degree is a highly individualized process. For students like Cikhart and West Liua ‘23, another SNHU general studies graduate, the intrinsic value of their degree was significant.

Liua, for example, had moved a few times and accumulated many college credits since beginning his degree in 2015. When he contacted SNHU, he was told he could have as little as a year left to complete his degree – which worked perfectly for Liua.

“It was just the right amount of time to be like, ‘I can do that,’” he said. “All of my credits transferred in.”

Liua's personal goal was to finish his degree and become the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. “My family is very proud, and I am very thankful that I was able to do it,” he said.

For Cikhart, earning his general studies degree was about exploring new frontiers.

“I wanted to be a better writer. So, I started looking at screenwriting and writing courses online,” Cikhart said. That’s when he found SNHU.

Studying the variety of topics available in the general studies program was something that he knew he wanted from his education. Cikhart sought a flexible degree to suit his needs, and an online program was essential to accommodate his busy schedule.

“I’ve done homework in the craziest places around the world,” he said. Through his work with National Geographic, he completed his studies in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.

After completing his degree, Cikhart is thinking about the future and is considering advanced degrees.

A general studies degree is not just an educational choice; it's a gateway to a diverse and adaptable career landscape.

So whether you're looking, like Cikhart, to explore new frontiers or build upon existing strengths (and college credits), a general studies degree offers the flexibility and versatility needed in today's ever-changing job market –and can help get you to the finish line with your bachelor's degree.

Discover more about SNHU's BA in General Studies: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you'll learn and how to request information about the program.

Nicholas Patterson '22 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.