Online Liberal Arts Degree

To help you hone many skills, some colleges offer online liberal arts degree programs. As a LIS grad, you may find entry into business, law, criminal justice, teaching and other areas. If you want a study plan suited to your goals, an online liberal studies degree may be useful.  

While many programs discuss one topic in depth, LIS draws on many. As a result, you may study the arts, humanities, natural and social sciences. One may find online liberal studies degrees at all levels. Bachelors, masters and PhD. At each level, you may organize a study plan around topics that matter to you and your goals. 

Bachelors programs cover many topics. While you engage with this material, you will likely read and write a lot. As a result, you may develop deeper skills as a thinker and learn to express yourself in a clear way. 

An online masters in liberal arts degree program adds more research and in depth inquiry. As such, you may gain more complex skills in analysis. And may take away the ability to use logic and rationale when you argue a point. 

Doctor in liberal studies immerse you in intense study and research. While you do this, you often look at how each area affects society. Apart from quality analytical skills, you may grow as an innovator and creative thinker. 

Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts 

An online bachelors degree in liberal arts is an entry level degree. And, may furnish the professional skills for a spectrum of possible career paths. Many online colleges offer two kinds of awards. One is a Bachelor of Arts (BA). And the other, a Bachelor of Science (BS). Both draw from a wide range of subjects, rather than one. But there may be slight differences to know and factor into your choice. 

As a rule of thumb, a BA in liberal studies spans arts, humanities and fine arts majors. Like English, languages, history, media and theatre. In contrast, a BS in liberal studies may cover more natural and physical sciences. That doesn’t mean no humanities or arts, only more comp sci and math. Either a BA or BS in liberal studies may help you learn to use logic to think through problems. Apart from this, both may stretch your mind and help you grow as an effective team player and communicator.  

Many programs typically entail about 120 credits and may allow you to tailor your studies. But while you have this flexibility, there may be some guidelines in place. You may need four years to complete your degree. Although some students bring transfer or military training credits which may shave time off.  To enroll, you may need to have a high school diploma or GED. Some online colleges may also set an acceptable GPA or range for ACT or SAT scores.   

Another thing that varies is program cost. According to DataUSA the average tuition in 2017 for a liberal arts and sciences degree is $6,530. That’s if you study at a public college. It’s more expensive ($28,980) for a private school, out of state.    

Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts

An online masters in liberal studies (MLS) is a graduate level degree. You may also find master of liberal arts (MLA) programs and these are alike. While many masters programs ask you to become more focused, an MLS allows you to custom design your program. As a result, it may provide a deep and broad education. The breadth of this plan may allow you to meld your interests in creative ways. Whether you seek professional growth, personal enrichment, or a blend of both.  

That aside, you are likely to conduct in depth research. And this may bring about critical skills in analysis and an ability to argue a point to a logical conclusion. Many programs may do this in about 30 credits. That’s about 10 classes and may or may not include a final thesis or project. To complete these credits, you may need from one to two years. And some schools may give you up to five, if you want to study part time.  

When you decide to enroll, you may need a bachelors degree. Aside from transcripts, you might have to provide a writing sample and meet an approved GPA range. These details, as does the cost of earning your degree vary. With this in mind, according to the NCES  the average cost of a grad degree for the 2016 – 2017 academic year was $11,617 and that’s if you attend a public school.  

Doctor of Liberal Arts

An online PhD in liberal studies is a research degree. So, the main goal is typically to produce new knowledge at the end of your program. There may be other degrees to look for at this level though. Two common ones may be the Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA) or Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS). These programs may be alike in that you study many subject areas. Unlike the PhD though, a DLS or DLA program tends to want you to frame issues. 

As a result, you may learn how to fuse your knowledge. And while you do, you may grow skills in perception, analysis and innovative thinking. Some people use this expertise to stay in academia. But others may prefer to lead, research and work in policy analysis. At any rate, many programs entail from 36 to 60 credits. So, between courses and your thesis may need about five years to complete them. To enroll, many schools prefer candidates with a master’s degree. But there may be exceptions to this rule. Apart from strong academics, many universities may want to see other things. A writing sample is one. References, goals and resume are a few more. Another thing that may vary is format. While many classes are online, your program may have built in residencies. Some PhD students also become TAs or teaching assistants. And these experiences may take you onsite too. 

What could I do with an Online Liberal Arts Degree?

Liberal arts may build soft skills that employers in many sectors want. As a result, this type of well rounded program may be a gateway to classic and modern sectors. Soft skills are ones that enable you to work on teams, brainstorm, analyze and communicate. Per the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), these skills are also key to long term career success. As liberal studies are so broad, there may be jobs for all levels of education. But in many fields, one may need a bachelors for entry level roles, and a masters or PhD to advance. 

1. Editors

As an editor, your role is typically to read content, spell check, correct grammar and punctuation. All in all, you may work with writers to help their stories succeed. So, you may need to rewrite, change or develop their ideas and approve final drafts. Apart from your own skills as a writer, many employers prefer to hire editors with a bachelor’s degree.  

2. Reporters, Correspondents, Broadcast News Analysts 

reporter’s main function is usually to inform the public about news and events. Many do this work for newspapers, magazines, websites, TV and radio. While each platform is unique, it may ask you to interview people, pitch ideas and investigate hunches. Apart from these journalistic skills, employers may hire reporters and news analysts who have at least a bachelors degree.  

3. Public Relations Specialists 

As a public relations specialist your job is often to project a positive image for your client. To do this, you may write press releases, speeches and inform news and media outlets. Apart from an ability to understand public opinion, you may need solid skills as a public speaker. If this interests you, employers may look for PR specialists with both a bachelors degree and portfolio. 

4. Secondary School Teacher 

A secondary school teacher may teach either middle school or high school. And in these jobs, may teach grades from 1 to 12. As you might guess, teachers typically plan lessons, test and grade students. Beyond this your job may entail staff and parent teacher meetings. Some teachers at these levels may also focus on one subject area such as math, English or science. Also, since education is state run, many mandate you have a bachelors degree and license in your subject niche. There may also be states where high school teachers need a masters degree. So, make sure to research these rules ahead of time.  

5. Business Office Manager 

In the role of business office manager, you typically ensure all the activities in your workplace run well. So, you may need to manage people, clerical duties and also, the actual office space. Also, you are usually the point person who tracks timelines, goals, projects, repairs, mail and other things. As the job is so varied and takes skills as a leader, businesses prefer to hire people with at least a bachelors degree. 

6. Social / Community Service Managers 

Community and social services managers oversee social service programs and agencies. They may also manage workers who provide social services to the public. Some could work with a specific group like children, the elderly, veterans or people who are homeless. And others often try to help those with a challenge like mental illness. Apart from these duties, if you work in this type of role, you may need to write proposals for funding. As these skills are complex, many jobs call for a bachelors degree or masters.  

7. Recruiter 

Head hunters, or recruiters typically find, screen and interview applicants to see if they fit a job opening. As a result, your first task may be to consult with an employer to identify their needs. From there, you may search for candidates on social media (E.g. LinkedIn), college campuses, job fairs and via networking events. Apart from these people skills, employers may prefer to hire human resource pros with a bachelors degree.   

8. Writer 

There are many kinds of writers today and a slew of platforms to publish on. Writers usually come up with content for advertising copy, blogs, novels, articles, e-books, plays, and everything else. Beyond the way you use language, you may have to research, analyze, tell a story and ideate. To learn these skills and work as a salaried writer, you may need a bachelors degree. 

9. Policy Analysts  

Many policy analysts work for gov’ts, labor unions and political groups. In this role, you may collect and interpret data from public opinion surveys. And with this information, may be able to forecast trends and assess whether a policy is effective. Given these duties, you may be likely to research and publish articles too. To build these complex skills, you are likely to need a masters degree, if not a PhD.  

10. Fundraising Manager 

As a fundraising manager, you may oversee campaigns that bring in donations for your cause. To do this, you may meet with donors, carve and carry out a campaign strategy. And these tasks entail a firm grasp of many areas. Like public speaking, business, creative and technical writing. If this sounds like a good path for you, a bachelors degree is one possible entry point. But many employers prefer to hire people with a masters degree and some experience.  

11. Top Executive 

In corporate jobs top executives may have varied daily tasks. Among them, to set and apply policy that drive results for their business. As managers, many execs may also oversee staff, projects and other operations. In other duties, the level of decision making may vary from one role to the next. For this reason, many C suite roles demand extra prep beyond a bachelors degree. And while the MBA is common, many may also hold grad degrees in areas like public admin and liberal arts.  

Is an Online Degree in Liberal Arts Worth it?

A degree in liberal studies may prepare you with skills that transfer to a spectrum of careers. Many of these jobs may be in fast growth sectors with above average earning potential. Employers often want to hire liberal arts grads because they tend to be innovative. And able to think on their own while still adding value to a team. Apart from these skills, grads often know how to research, communicate and reason.  

Social and community services managers use these skills to secure funding and help clients. So, this may be an option. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (, there will be 17% more jobs by 2029. That is much faster that the average which is 4%. Salaries for these workers are also higher than the norm. Per the, social and community service managers earned an annual median wage of $67,150 in May 2019. That means while some earned less, other workers had more lucrative salaries of $112,480 and up. 

Liberal Arts Degree Jobs & Salary

Occupation Median Annual Salary Jobs
Preschool Teachers $30,520 523,600
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors $48,210 66,700
Public Relations Specialists $61,150 270,000
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special $65,930 1,035,850

Top States for Jobs as an Editor

State Jobs Annual Mean Wage
NY 20,440 $87,140
CA 11,700 $79,960
TX 4,800 $75,180
IL 4,370 $61,080
FL 4,030 $55,570

What classes may I take with an Online Liberal Arts Degree?

As a whole, liberal studies typically nurtures breadth rather than depth in one area. So, rather than studying one major, liberal studies classes likely draw from many. That said, many programs cover subject areas like the arts, humanities, natural, physical and social sciences. These areas typically sharpen awareness of major theories, and authors. And may often look at classic ideas in the context of today’s society and issues. It is likely that you may custom design your program. Yet, each level of degree is likely to do this in different ways. Below we put together some examples of classes you may find at the bachelors, masters and PhD levels.

Bachelor’s Degree Courses

In an online BA or BS liberal arts degree program, classes may go from simple to complex. The simple ones are introductory. And the more complex ones build on the basics. To help you balance your degree, you may need to choose classes from broad subject categories. Like Identity, work, nature, society, language, heritage and art. If you are a BA student, you may also need to take a foreign language. In contrast, if you are a BS student, you tend to have more laboratory science and math courses. Here are some sample topics that may also be available in an online bachelors in liberal studies program. 

Communication Concepts and Skills

Students taking this course may learn about effective communication in both info based and global societies. This course aims to teach about the value of proper communication as it applies to all professions. It may cover practical skills. It also often covers cultural, gender, and linguistics and how this can change outcomes for communication. Students may also learn about the use of technology in communications.


This class often focuses on developing healthy ethical reasoning. It may include judgment development. This is done through a study of practical applications as it relates to ethical theories. In addition to this, students may touch on topics in ethics as it relates to health care, society, and the environment as a whole. Students may learn practical applications of these principles.

Intro to Psychology

This course aims to teach students about psychology. It is an intro course but offers an overall view on social sciences. Students may learn various topics related to human thought and actions. They may learn about ethical decisions, human behavior, and how to solve problems in this light. Students may learn some practical applications related to their career paths.

Critical Thinking

This course often focuses on developing critical thinking skills. They may learn to do this with communication and persuasion methods. Students may learn how to use informal logic to create an argument. They may also learn how to evaluate common logical fallacies. Students in this course may learn how to apply problem solving skills learned here to real world concerns.

Graduate Degree Courses

In an online master of liberal studies program you may follow interests, personal or professional. Apart from this flexibility, there may be some guidelines. In particular, you may need to choose from a menu of topics but stick to thematic areas. Like society and culture, arts and humanities, STEM, religion and philosophy. The thematic area often focuses on a question. Such as “why study history?” or “what can the classics teach us?” Along with the question, you may study the various theories that try to answer it. As a result, you may study ways to use first sources, gather, analyze and present data.

In an online Doctor in liberal studies program you may study a menu of subject areas. Like humanities, public policy, international affairs, religion, and science. One of the main goals is to examine each topic and their effects on modern day society. To do this, many programs also include research classes. Together, this kind of study plan guides you as you develop your doctoral thesis.

Below are a few samples of classes at the graduate level:

Interdisciplinary Research Methods

This high level course often helps students to understand the various interdisciplinary approaches as it applies to writing and research. Students may follow a logic process used in research and how to develop epistemologies in various projects. Students may learn more about institutional concepts like Review Boards. They also may learn ethical treatment in research.

MLS Seminar in the Humanities

This type of course is an intro to these topics. It is often related to this field of study for those in the Humanities. Students may learn how to demonstrate the interrelated nature of literature. In addition to this, they may learn through readings from various eras over history. They may then use this information to understand concepts in philosophy and history as they apply to their needs.

MLS Seminar in the Social Sciences

This type of course often focuses on taking insight from principles and concepts in the social sciences and drawing various conclusions from them. This type of course typically looks at issues of the individual and society. This may include a range of disciplinary approaches as they apply to the social sciences. Students may learn how this applies to their career choice or degree path.

MLS Seminar in the Visual and Performing Arts

This type of seminar class typically focuses on skill development and historical context in areas of the performing arts. This may include topics such as visual art, but also includes theater, dance, and music. Students may examine various concepts of creativity and how they relate to this specific field.

How long does it take to earn a Liberal Arts Degree online?

The time it takes to complete a degree in a liberal arts online varies by program level, your course load and any transfer credits you bring in. That said, the average student may need four years to earn a bachelors degree in liberal studies online. Once you graduate, it may take one to two more years to earn a masters in liberal studies. And from three to five years to earn a doctor of liberal studies. Naturally grad degrees tend to involve research projects, so this may add time.  

University Level of Degree # of Credits Required Starts Per Year Minimum Months to Complete
University of Phoenix Bachelors 120 Multiple 48
Purdue University Global Bachelors 180 4 48
Ashford University Bachelors 120 Multiple 48
Clemson University Masters 30 3 18
University of North Dakota Masters 32 3 24
University of Toledo Masters 36 3 24
Walden University Doctorate 86 Multiple 36
University of Memphis Global Doctorate 54 3 36
Faulkner University Doctorate 30 3 36

15 Online Liberal Arts Degrees

We compiled a list to help you find online liberal arts degrees at all levels. We have ranked our top 15 schools based on the number of graduates from the program in 2019. Our process looks at 2019 data from the NCES. And, it may help you narrow your search down.

  1. Purdue University Global
  2. Oregon State University
  3. University of Illinois – Springfield     
  4. California Baptist University     
  5. University of Oklahoma – Extended Campus 
  6. Johns Hopkins University
  7. Texas Christian University
  8. University of Richmond 
  9. Nova Southeastern University   
  10. Albertus Manus College  
  11. Washington University Saint Louis   
  12. University of Memphis Global
  13. Faulkner University    
  14. Georgetown University
  15. Union Institute & University


Here is a closer look the 15 online colleges that offer these liberal arts degree programs.  


Purdue University Global

Bachelor of Science of Liberal Studies


Purdue offers an online Bachelor of Science of Liberal Studies. It typically entails 180 quarter credits and there may be  four start times per year. Apart from this, the program is for people with prior learning credits or military training who want a tailored course plan. As a result, you may play an active role in what you study and focus on. To this point, there is a leadership emphasis which looks at strategy and ways to manage conflict. Other sample topics are:

  • Communication
  • Ethics 
  • Statistics

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $14,358
Grad $10,580
Special rates available for military students.

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Oregon State University

BA or BS in Liberal Studies


OSU offers an online BA or BS in Liberal Studies. Both typically entail 180 quarter credits and there may be four start times per year. Beyond this, the programs allow you to craft your own study plan around a theme that mirrors your interests and goals. To this end, there may be classes to choose in art, speech, economics, music, political science and many more. And, for those who may want to teach, there is a pre education option which may prep you to seek a license to teach elementary school. Other sample topics are:

  • Global issues 
  • Tech and society 
  • Literature and arts   

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $31,215
Grad $26,844
Special rates available for military students.

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University of Illinois – Springfield

Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies


U of Illinois Springfield offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. It typically entails 120 credits and you may design a personal degree plan with an advisor. To do so, you might first nail down goals, then chart a balanced program of courses and electives. The courses you take may draw from humanities, arts, social sciences, physical and natural sciences. And the electives address 7 broad subject categories. Identity, work, nature, institutions, language, heritage, and art. Other sample topics are:

  • Globalization and power 
  • Studio age of Hollywood movies 
  • Survey of African American history 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $21,338
Grad $18,176
Special rates available for military students.

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California Baptist University

Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies


CBU offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. It typically entails 120 credits and may take an average of 18 months to complete. One of the features of the program is that you could tailor it to match your interests and goals. At the same time, there may be a few available focal points. Kinesiology, human growth, English and social science. Apart from the variety of classes, you may gain skills as a critical thinker and communicator. Other sample topics are:

  • Minorities in America 
  • History of California   
  • Reader’s theatre 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $34,882
Grad $13,560
Special rates available for military students.

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University of Oklahoma – Extended Campus

Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies


U Oklahoma offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies. It typically entails 120 credits and has a fast paced format which might allow you to finish in as few as 18 months. When admitted to the program, you could plan your studies with an advisor. As a result, you may pick topics that reflect your needs and from a range of disciplines. Like humanities, ecology and social sciences. if you want more focus, you may add a 15 hour minor in diversity studies too. Other sample topics are:

  • Math in liberal studies   
  • History of the US   
  • Strategies for success 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $27,144
Grad $23,236
Special rates available for military students.

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Johns Hopkins University

Master of Liberal Arts


Johns Hopkins offers an online MLA, or Master of Liberal Arts. It typically entails 30 credits and may take from one to two years to complete A main feature of the program is that it draws from many disciplines. At the same time, you may need to take at least one MLA core course, each of which explores a theme (E.g. Why Read the Classics?) and its relevance today. Beyond this one guideline, you may take about 8 or 9 electives and should expect to read, write and research a fair bit. Other sample topics are:

  • Race and jazz 
  • Shakespeare and the film 
  • The artificial human 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $55,350
Grad $57,556
Special rates available for military students.

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Texas Christian University

Master of Liberal Arts


TCU offers an online Master of Liberal Arts. It typically entails 30 credits and may take one to two years to complete. Of the 30 credits, 12 must be in MLA courses designated as “Perspectives on Society.”

And these course may relate a liberal arts discipline to issues of modern American society, culture, diversity and other world cultures and societies. Beyond these classes, there may be no thesis and you might need to keep a GPA of 2.75 to graduate. Other sample topics are:

  • American film genres 
  • US economy   
  • Superheroes around global contexts   

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $49,250
Grad $30,828
Special rates available for military students.

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University of Richmond  

Master of Liberal Arts


U Richmond offers an online Master of Liberal Arts. It typically entails 30 credits and half of them go to electives. As there is flexibility, you could choose topics to satisfy your curiosity or broaden your knowledge. And with each required and elective course, students may apply principles from history, social sciences, literature, and other areas toward solving a central focus question. For instance, you may study the Wild West, modern hot button issues, film or the economy. Other sample topics are:

  • Chinese foreign policy   
  • David Bowie – persona, music and meaning 
  • The Supreme Court’s greatest hits   

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $54,690
Grad $24,960
Special rates available for military students.

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Nova Southeastern University

Master of Arts in Cross Disciplinary Studies


NSU offers an online Master of Arts in Cross Disciplinary Studies (MACS) degree. It typically entails 33 credits, or 11 courses. In it, you may co- create your own program that blends theory with practical uses. Plus, you could study classes from a wide range of topics. Like gender, diversity, culture, environmental studies, the health sciences, human rights, and research. Apart from core classes and electives you may choose a concentration such as culture and society. Other sample topics are:

  • Information systems and society 
  • Coastal environment and society 
  • Health and society   

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $32,110
Grad $21,206
Special rates available for military students.

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Albertus Magnus College

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies


Albertus Magnus College offers an online Master of Arts in Liberal Studies. It typically entails 30 credits and you may design a final project yourself. Apart from its flexible approach, you likely take classes in four thematic areas. Society and Culture; Arts and Humanities; Science, Technology and Environmental Studies; and Religion, Philosophy and Moral Choice. Other sample topics are:

  • Romanticism and the arts 
  • Eastern and western mysticism   
  • Human genome   

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $33,260
Grad $20,704
Special rates available for military students.

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Washington University Saint Louis

Doctor of Liberal Arts


WashU Saint Louis offers an online Doctor of Liberal Arts. It typically entails 45 credits, 9 of which are for thesis and research. In the remainder classes, you may take graduate level courses in many areas. With this in mind, the program is usually for the experienced adult learner. And someone who likely wants to dive into rigorous interdisciplinary study along with independent, scholarly reading and research. Other sample topics are:

  • Effective writing 
  • Broad based decision making 
  • Analytical and critical reasoning 

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $55,292
Grad $54,750
Special rates available for military students.

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University of Memphis Global 

Doctor of Liberal Studies


UofM Global offers an online Doctor of Liberal Studies. It typically entails 54 credits and there may be three start dates. While in the program, you likely take core liberal studies courses along with coordinated study. For this, you may tend to study across disciplines to engage a topic or issue. You may also combine two disciplines with the ok from an academic advisor. Once you pass major exams, you may move onto a capstone project. Other sample topics are:

  • Data based decision making 
  • Prospectus design 
  • Research in interdisciplinary studies  

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $13,752
Grad $14,202
Special rates available for military students.

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Faulkner University 

PhD in Humanities


Faulkner offers an online PhD in Humanities. It usually tends to take from three to five years to complete and comes with some structure. For one, it kicks off with a foundation class that looks at the history and philosophy of human learning. You may also take seven classes which go deeper into complex ideas and thoughts. To add on, you typically take three classes in areas you choose. Like an author, idea, problem or specific historic period. To cap things off you may take dissertation and seminar classes. Other sample topics are:

  • Religion and culture 
  • Scholarly inquiry and writing in the humanities 
  • Justice

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $22,310
Grad $11,530
Special rates available for military students.

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Georgetown University

Doctor of Liberal Studies


Georgetown offers a Doctor of Liberal Studies in an on campus format. It typically entails 36 credits and tends to take from five to seven years to complete. Unlike a PhD, this program does not stress original contribution. Instead, it may help you learn how to join thoughts and frame ideas in new ways. As a result, you may master skills in perception, analysis, communication and creative thinking. At the same time, you may study many topics from the humanities, public policy, religion, int’al affairs and science while also looking at their effects on modern society. Other sample topics are:

  • Cities on celluloid   
  • Environmental ethics and criminal justice   
  • Untangling the Middle East

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $56,058
Grad $51,790
Special rates available for military students.

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Union Institute & University

PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies


Union Institute & University offers an online PhD in Interdisciplinary studies. It typically entails 66 credits and may take about three years. A main goal of the program is to expand and deepen your knowledge and expertise. To do this, you may explore ideas and practices in many subject areas. Like leadership, public policy, social change, ethics, creativity, innovation, and design thinking. Notably, it may also come with four focal areas. Public policy and social change; ethical and creative leadership; educational studies; and humanities and culture. Other sample topics are:

  • Curriculum and social justice      
  • Education, society and culture   
  • Policy processes and social change      

Tuition and Fees:
Undergrad $13,256
Grad $14,828
Special rates available for military students.

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*Unemployment Earnings.  Sources for school stats and data include the NCES and IPEDS.