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Is a General Studies Degree Worth It?

Nathan Wilgeroth / Abound: Finish College »

Overwhelming data show that those who earn a bachelor’s degree have, more often than not, dramatically better employment and salary outcomes than those with a high school diploma. In fact, high school graduates are three and a half times more likely than college graduates to live below the poverty line, making approximately 62% of their median salary. Even those with lots of work experience but no degree have a harder time getting their foot in the door in pursuit of a higher-paying and more advanced career.

Your decision to go back to college is bound to reap you the rewards of a brighter future. But what if you don’t yet have an idea of what to study? Or what if you’re interested in so many fields that you don’t want to narrow down your degree to one subject?

Majoring in General Studies just might be an excellent choice for students looking to get a broad set of skills. Covering multiple disciplines from the sciences to the humanities, a general bachelor’s degree will let you gain a vast array of experience and knowledge that is applicable to a variety of careers. Read on to learn about the interdisciplinary general studies degree and all the reasons why you should consider it as you return to college.

1. A Completely Personalized Approach

Just as there’s no number-one school for everyone, everyone is going to find their own unique combination of topics more interesting than others. There is no apparent pressure to take the “right” path; you can decide which courses are proper for you. Take Southern Utah University’s General Studies degree for instance, which “allows students, in collaboration with their academic advisor, to customize an undergraduate degree that reflects their particular interests, and meets the University’s graduation requirements.” It lets students be in charge of their education while picking and choosing courses based on their personal interests. “With a general studies degree, students have the opportunity to explore a variety of skills without the pressure of committing to an area of study that doesn’t fit their career goals. A general studies degree allows students to gain a better understanding of their passions while still earning credit towards their degree and is a perfect option for self-motivated students wanting a degree in broader education.”

The General Studies degree covers a variety of fields across the arts, humanities, natural and social sciences, and math. From there, you and your advisor get to decide how to specialize your studies and customize your education!

This degree path is also a great option for those looking to get their associate’s degree or for those wanting to explore separate fields of interest instead of or before settling into a more specific major. 

2. You Can Complete the Degree at Your Own Pace

“Flexibility is key when balancing your work and personal responsibilities while pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” says Dr. Amy Gaimaro, Dean of Innovative Delivery Methods at Molloy College. Because you have such a flexible degree path, the time at which you finish your degree can be flexible as well. Like with Molloy College’s Interdisciplinary Studies degree-completion program, many colleges offer fully online General Studies programs, meaning that you can learn off campus, often at whatever time of the day works for you. Busy adults looking to finish college are sure to have plenty of responsibilities like work and family that may hinder their ability to commute to in-person classes. With such an accessible option, thousands of adults may have more of an opportunity to return to college than they may realize. 

3. Practical Core Requirements: Math, Literacy, and Critical Thinking

Whether your school’s General Studies degree is called “Liberal Studies,” “Interdisciplinary Studies,” or any other encompassing term, they all have one crucial thing in common: they are always well rounded with courses that boost your foundational skill set. Most undergraduate programs require that students enroll in a general education program, or core curriculum, that covers the fundamentals of all major disciplines. The General Studies degree, however, goes a step further into each subject, giving students the opportunity to refine their skills even more across the broad scope of study. 

Dr. Jeff Aulgur, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Arkansas Tech University, explains that the core competencies in general education are crucial for both academic and professional success. “Students are individuals with a wide array of life experiences, which inform their decisions each day. You also need the opportunity to select courses in the general education curriculum that speak to you.” The variety of courses available make is possible not only to build life skills, but also to cater your education to the realms in which you’re interested.

“At Arkansas Tech University,” says Aulgur, “the general core requirements emphasize effective communication, critical thinking, ethical perspectives, quantitative and scientific reasoning, the value of the arts and humanities, and the importance of civic engagement.” 

When these outcomes are the continuing focus of the entire General Studies degree, you will be primed to turn your well-rounded scholarship into well-rounded citizenship.

4. Your Broad Coursework Will Develop an Interdisciplinary Skill Set

Such an exhaustive curriculum can show employers that you have the essential skills needed for an ever-evolving workforce. The rigor of an interdisciplinary degree forces you to look at problems from different perspectives, drawing on your knowledge from multiple fields to the challenge at hand. Your bachelor’s will find you a number of benefits through your ability to communicate, think critically, and apply your breadth of knowledge. 

While it may have been the case that students would need to pursue a specific degree to succeed in a specific trade, the nature of work in the 21st century is expanding. Yes, it is good to be knowledgeable in specialized fields, but it is equally valuable to be adaptable in the face of challenge. 

5. Your Earnings Potential Increases Significantly

The COVID-19 pandemic has made an already cutthroat job market even more competitive, making it increasingly necessary for a worker to hold a bachelor’s degree to be so much as considered for employment. When looking at the highest level of education completed, the data tell us that employment and salary outcomes aren’t necessarily about what a person has studied, but whether a person has studied at all. 

A bachelor’s degree shows prospective employers that you have the grit and perseverance to see challenging things through to the end. People who only have a high school diploma have a 12.2% chance of being unemployed, a significantly higher rate than college graduates who have a 3.8% chance of being unemployed. What’s more, those with a degree are far more likely to get a higher starting salary than their peers with no degree, even for the same job.

We at Abound: Finish College have always stressed the importance of earning a college degree, no matter when in your life you may enroll. As you consider going to get your bachelor’s degree, General Studies might be a great path to consider. Not only will you have the credentials that employers require, but you will also have a well-rounded toolbelt of ideas that prove your ability to succeed in whatever you do.

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