Is a General Studies Degree Worth It? [2021 Guide]

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If you’re college-bound but haven’t yet chosen a major, you may be considering general studies, but is a general studies degree worth it? It is worth it for many students.

General Studies degree

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Just having a degree may put you ahead in the job market, and an online general studies degree can lead to many different career fields.

What Is a General Studies Degree?

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When speaking of a general studies degree, other terms, such as liberal arts, multidisciplinary studies, or interdisciplinary studies, may be used. If you’re curious as to what the difference is, there really isn’t much of one at all.

The terms general studies and liberal arts are practically interchangeable. If you receive a degree in general studies, you can just as honestly tell people you’ve received a liberal arts degree.

The important point is that earning a general studies/liberal arts degree may give you one of the most well-rounded, balanced educations possible because you can learn about so many different subjects.

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Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies are two other terms often used interchangeably with general studies. All four terms are used by people to mean basically the same thing. The important thing to remember is that with these degrees, you’ll be taking a wide variety of classes that should center around one or two subject areas.

For instance, if you aren’t sure of your career path, but you’re leaning towards something business-related, instead of working towards an associate degree in business, you might take a wide selection of business-themed classes.

They might be taken from various degree programs, such as accounting, management, or human resources, but they’d all have a common theme: business. This is an example of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, or general studies.

What Does a General Studies Degree Mean?

What Does a General Studies Degree Mean

A general studies degree is just as relevant and respectable as any other associate or bachelor’s degree in a specified concentration.

The only difference is that a degree in general studies means you’ve taken a wide variety of classes in many fields while still taking all the specific general requirements required to earn a degree.

Is General Studies a Waste of Time?

General studies are definitely not a waste of time. In fact, because of the knowledge in a multitude of different subjects they can have, people with general studies degrees are often quite sought after by many employers.

A general studies degree can also lend itself nicely to many different specializations if you choose to major in something specific later on in life. As a result, this makes both bachelor’s and associate’s in general studies worth it for many students. 

Is a Degree in General Studies Good?

general studies degree students walking in university campus

Not only can a degree in general studies be good, but it can also be great. In addition to helping you build an acceptable knowledge base in a wide variety of different subjects, which in turn may make you more employable, a degree in general studies also offers many additional benefits.

To a certain extent, a degree in general studies allows you to design your own curriculum around your particular interests. There will still be mandatory core education classes you’ll have to take, but you’ll likely be able to indulge many varied interests, no matter how different they may be.

An associates degree in general studies can help students determine a more specialized path for their bachelor’s degree too. Likewise, a bachelor’s degree in general studies can help students pursue many different specialized fields at the graduate level.

If you earn your undergrad in general studies, you may use it to go into education, law school, medical school, social services, and more.

What Do You Learn in a General Studies Program?

general studies degree students listening during classroom discussion

The great thing about a general studies program is that there are so many different potential options as to what you could learn. You’ll be able to choose from a diverse catalog of college courses along with your core education classes.

Your core education classes will likely include English, math, science and science labs, public speaking, and other courses almost every college student has to take. Beyond that, though, you’ll have many choices when it comes to your electives and your general coursework.

You may choose from communications courses, art, theater, and music courses, social science courses, humanities, or something different.

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You may even choose to add in classes from fields such as business, religion, finance, CIS, or psychology. Another great thing about general studies is that you can mix together some fields that usually aren’t studied together in other degree programs and make it work.

Some general studies degree paths that students have successfully completed at various universities include:

  • Counseling and Food and Nutrition
  • English and Gender Studies
  • Art and African American Studies
  • Social Welfare and Psychology
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Music and Secondary Education
  • Criminology and Elementary Education
  • Human Development and Family Studies
  • Sociology and Public Health
  • Nursing and Human Resources

As you can see from this list, even a degree in nursing can fall under the category of a general studies degree.

What Can You Do With a Degree in General Studies?

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What you can do with your general studies degree depends heavily on which fields you put emphasis on in your curriculum. As we’ve already mentioned, though, there are a number of options available to you. The most common fields people put their focus on with a general studies degree are the following:

  • Media
  • Communications
  • Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Social Science
  • Literature/Composition
  • Science
  • Math
  • Technology
  • Business
  • Nursing

There are plenty of jobs that require associate degree credentials only.

You could potentially go on to become a nurse, technical writer, brand manager, public relations director, copywriter, software consultant, executive assistant, nonprofit program manager, social media specialist, software developer, executive chef, or marketing manager. These are just a few of the jobs you could pursue.

If you decide you want to continue your education into graduate school, the list of potential career options becomes even longer and may include prestigious job titles, such as doctor, lawyer, teacher, higher education professor, CEO, Vice President, or systems analyst.

Can I Teach with a General Studies Degree?

general studies professor teaching in a university

For many, the easiest way to become a teacher is to go into the education path from the beginning. However, if you’ve already started down the general studies path for whatever reason, then yes, it’s still possible that you can teach with a general studies degree.

This is because a general studies degree can help you build the foundation you need to teach in K-12 schools. Different states require different criteria for teachers, though, so you’ll need to check the specific requirements for becoming a teacher in your state to see if you have any additional things to do.

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The other option is to finish up your general studies undergrad and then focus your graduate degree on education so that you can come out of graduate school ready to teach. This way usually means you will get paid more as well.

General Studies Degree Salary

General Studies Degree Salary

Here we’ve compiled a list of some of the highest-paying jobs that can be pursued by people with a degree in general studies.

All salary information listed is the annual median salary for each career according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some employers may prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for these careers.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Human Resources Managers $121,220
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers $98,890
Management Analysts $87,660
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $84,810
Technical Writers $74,650
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists $67,190
High School Teachers $62,870
Public Relations Specialists $62,810
Computer Support Specialists $55,510

If you go on to graduate school, the job opportunities may get even larger and pay even more.

What to Do After a General Studies Degree

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If you decide to continue on to graduate school after receiving your general studies degree, this is when you’ll really have to narrow your focus. Although the options for grad school are numerous, there are a few programs that may work especially well for you with your general studies undergraduate degree.

Going to graduate school for education is typically a fairly smooth transition from a general studies undergrad program. If you focused heavily on humanities classes, graduate programs for library science, journalism, and sociology may also be good choices.

If your general studies undergraduate degree was more business-oriented, then you might want to pursue grad school programs in advertising, marketing, business, human resources, finance, or accounting. You can also potentially be accepted into law school or medical school with an undergrad in general studies.

Accreditation for an Online General Studies Degree

Accreditation for an Online General Studies Degree

No matter what your major is, it’s important that your school is accredited. Regional accreditation is widely regarded as the best accreditation a school can receive. If your school has regional accreditation, then your degree will likely be accepted just about anywhere in the United States.

Employers are more likely to hire you if your degree comes from a regionally accredited university. Furthermore, credits from a regionally accredited university will usually transfer to any other university in the United States.

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There are other types of accreditation—national and programmatic—but they’re lesser forms of accreditation that aren’t as widely accepted or as distinguished. These forms of accreditation are often not accepted outside of a specific state or area.

Financial Aid for a General Studies Degree Online

Financial Aid for a General Studies Degree Online

Financial aid for an accredited general studies degree program, whether it’s online or on-campus, is much the same as financial aid for any other accredited program. The three main ones to look for are federal grants, scholarships, and loans.

Of these three, the best types of financial aid are federal grants and scholarships because they don’t usually have to be repaid. Scholarships can be found in many places online, including dedicated scholarship websites. Your specific college may have merit- and talent-based scholarships listed on its website as well.

The most common grant for associate and bachelor’s level programs is the Federal Pell Grant. You can apply for it by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is money given to people who fall into a certain income bracket.

Loans can be either federal or personal. However, loans always have to be paid back, typically with interest, so it is important to use them responsibly and only borrow what you need.

Is a General Studies Degree Worth It?

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Yes, a general studies degree is worth it for many professionals.

A general studies degree may be a great degree to work towards if you want a college education but aren’t sure exactly what type of degree or career you’re interested in pursuing. There are general studies programs both online and on-campus to fit any schedule and budget.

There are also numerous financial aid options to look into if you need financial assistance.

Being unsure of your future plans doesn’t have to deter you from enrolling in college now. There may be a general studies degree out there just waiting for you to earn it. Whether your vision for your future is crystal clear or still a little hazy, a degree in general studies can help you get where you need to be.

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Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.