The Best Online General Studies Degree Programs

by TBS Staff
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General Studies Degree

Earning a general studies degree online allows students to engage with many topics. Furthermore, while students often choose this educational path as a soul-searching adventure, the degree offers many benefits for graduates who wish to turn it into a career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that business and financial occupations—both of which may employ candidates with broad knowledge — will grow at faster-than-average rates from 2016 to 2026; their median annual salaries represent higher-than-average wages as well.

Students pursuing a general studies degree online build a solid educational foundation and gain knowledge in different fields while creating their own academic path. Some students may pursue a single concentration or complementary specializations, whereas others may choose to prepare for future studies with a mixture of undergraduate courses. Educational freedom allows students to develop a professional expertise wholly designed around their interests.

The Best Online Bachelor's in General Studies Programs

  1. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $13016

    Founded in 1963, UCF currently offer more than 230 degree programs across 13 schools and colleges.

    The College of Undergraduate Studies offers an online bachelor of general studies in integrative general studies program requiring 120 credits for completion. Students must first complete 75 credits to declare this program with an academic advisor. Steps to apply include speaking with an academic advisor, online application, and submittal of official transfer transcripts.

  2. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    Tuition

    $9455

    ULM consists of five colleges plus online learning and currently offers 96 major and minor options.

    ULM Online's bachelor of general studies program requires a minimum 120 credit hours for completion. 45 credit hours must come at the 3000 or 4000 level, 15 credit hours must come at the 4000 level, and 12 credit hours must come through the major thematic concentration group.

    Online undergraduate applicants must complete an online application, submit official transcripts, and apply for financial aid.

  3. McNeese State University
    Location

    Lake Charles, LA

    Tuition

    $9985

    Established by the Louisiana Legislature in 1939, McNeese currently offers more than 100 undergraduate programs and 36 graduate degrees.

    Available to students through a completely online format, McNeese's bachelor of general studies program requires 120 credits over four years for completion. Students can choose one of three offered concentrations: applied and natural sciences, arts and humanities, and behavioral science.

    Admission requirements include an online application and submission of official high school transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, and immunization record.

  4. Southeast Missouri State University
    Location

    Cape Girardeau, MO

    Tuition

    $12468

    SEMO was founded in 1873 and currently offers more than 145 undergraduate majors, 100 minors, and more than 75 graduate programs.

    The bachelor of general studies program provides students with academic flexibility through completely online coursework, choice of four, eight, and 16-week classes, and year-round offerings. Students must complete the 120-credit program with minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate.

    To apply, prospective students will simply submit an online application and self-reported academic record. Prior to acceptance, students must submit official records.

  5. Northeastern State University
    Location

    Tahlequah, OK

    Tuition

    $9138

    NSU currently offers 59 undergraduate programs and 26 graduate program to a student body of more than 7,300 unique students.

    The online bachelor of general studies program at NSU, designed for transfer students through a degree-completion format, requires a minimum 50 transfer credits into the program with minimum 2.0 GPA. In total, students must complete 124 credits of undergraduate study for degree completion.

    Admission requirements include official transcripts with 2.0 GPA for transfer credits, ACT scores, successful completion of curricular entry requirements, and additional non-academic criteria.

  6. University of North Dakota
    Location

    Grand Forks, ND

    Tuition

    $15374

    UND was founded six years prior to North Dakota achieving statehood in 1889 and currently enrolls more than 13,600 students.

    The completely online bachelor of general studies program requires 120 credits for completion which typically takes students four years. Students can choose courses from any of the four offered disciplines, including social sciences, humanities, fine arts, and natural sciences and mathematics.

    Prospective students will complete an online application and submit official high school transcripts with proof of minimum core competencies and SAT or ACT scores.

    The University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  7. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    The private nonprofit located in Manchester, SNHU was founded in 1932 and has since grown to offer more than 200 academic programs.

    The fully online bachelor of arts in general studies degree requires 120 credits for completion at a cost of $320 per credit. Students can transfer up to 90 credits into the program. Curriculum includes 42 general education credits, 12 credits in a chosen concentration, and 63 general elective credits.

    Applicants will complete an online application and submit official transcripts and online attestation form.

    Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

  8. University of Louisiana at Lafayette
    Location

    Lafayette, LA

    Tuition

    $11190

    Founded in 1898, UL Lafayette has grown to support over 19,000 students annually, making them the second largest university in Louisiana.

    The online bachelor of general studies program features accelerated eight and 16-week courses at an affordable flat rate tuition of $380 per credit. Students have access to six offered concentrations in addition to available online tutoring, technical support, and library.

    The institution will conduct a holistic review of prospective students' official transcripts, strength of high school curriculum, Louisiana Core 4 requirement completion, and ACT or SAT scores to determine admittance.

  9. North Greenville University
    Location

    Tigerville, SC

    The private liberal arts institution affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention offers more than 50 undergraduate, online undergraduate, and graduate programs.

    The entirely online bachelor of general studies program requires 120 credits for completion, or the equivalent of four years of full-time study. All NGU undergraduate students will pay the same plat rate tuition of $440 per credit.

    Prospective students will complete an online application and submit official transcripts and official SAT or ACT scores.

  10. Texas Tech University
    Location

    Lubbock, TX

    Tuition

    $15531

    TTU stands as one of only 94 public universities to achieve the rank of "Very High Research Activity" from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

    The College of Arts and Sciences offers a fully online bachelor of general studies degree requiring 120 credits for completion. Although students can complete all required coursework online, the foreign language requirement must be completed through partnered institutions, satisfied through CLEP scores, or through four years of high school foreign language.

    Students will utilize the ApplyTexas online application system to submit official transcripts and pay associated fee.

Best Online Programs

Online Bachelor's in General Studies Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Online Online Bachelor's in General Studies Programs

The Advantages of a General Studies Education

For students looking to obtain a well-rounded education with training in multiple fields, a general studies degree online might represent a good option. These diverse degrees not only prepare graduates for entry-level positions in a number of industries, but they also provide a strong educational foundation for further study.

With an associate degree in general studies, for example, graduates may pursue entry-level careers in business, finance, customer service, or journalism. They might use the degree to discover a field for a bachelor’s degree, further develop a professional skill set, or help them determine the ideal concentration for a master’s degree. And depending on the courses taken, an online bachelor’s degree in general studies can open promising career options for graduates.

Choosing an Online General Studies Degree Program

To choose the best online general studies degree, students should think about a number of factors and how they might impact their educational path. With the proliferation of online programs and advances in course delivery, students now enjoy access to a wider pool of programs, which allows them to be more selective. In the past, for instance, in-state programs offered students the most affordable option (since out-of-state programs typically charge higher tuition rates for nonresidents). But now, many online programs offer a flat rate or discounted tuition for all students.

The list below identifies important factors for potential students to consider as they are deciding between online schools and programs.

  • Program Cost: Students should evaluate the total program cost, considering tuition and required materials, but also facility usages, faculty, and program reputation. Online programs provide students with more choices and often more flexible study options, but students should carefully examine if any additional costs exist for out-of-state students.
  • Transfer Policies: For students with previous education or a desire to study further in the future, a strong transfer credit policy should sit high on the list of priorities. Transfer credits can decrease the length of study time and the cost of a degree dramatically.
  • School Size and Type: Different school sizes and types may offer advantages for certain students or match the preferences for others. Smaller school and class sizes, for example, may offer students more interaction opportunities with teachers, whereas larger schools may provide more diverse programs options.
  • Program Length: Program lengths vary with online programming. While students with flexible schedules may seek the shortest program possible, these accelerated schedules can prove intense. For working professionals, longer, part-time programs may allow for the optimal study/work balance.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Online students should understand on-campus requirements, specifically for out-of-state programs. While online study allows students to access programs from all over the country, mandatory on-campus sessions may limit a student’s choices. Students should know when those sessions take place and how long they last.

Accreditation for Online General Studies Doctoral Degrees

Accreditation offers students quality assurance. Not only does accreditation ensure students that their prospective institution and its programs meet a high educational standard, but it also provides assurances for funding providers, employers, and other institutions granting transfer credits.

For schools, accreditation comes from approved regional accrediting agencies and from privately owned national accreditors.

Approved by the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, accreditors require institutions to meet high standards. Students should ensure their desired school or program received accreditation through the Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

While many programs receive accreditation, no single accrediting organization oversees general studies programs. Still, depending on a student’s career interests, certain programmatic accreditations may prove more useful than others. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, for example, provide accreditations for business schools and programs. In the business environment, certain employers may require or prefer candidates from these programs.

While programmatic accreditation may improve a graduate’s employment chances, students should consider regional and national accreditation a necessity.

General Studies Concentrations

In an online general studies bachelor’s degree, students benefit from concentrations. They may explore topics of interest in more detail or prepare for a specific career choice by way of focused tracks. The following table highlights common concentrations available in an accredited online general studies degree and what students might do with them.

Criminal Justice

In this concentration, students learn foundational concepts from the U.S. legal system (e.g., psychology, juvenile law, and the court system). Students may combine their teachings in other fields—like business or information technology — to apply criminal justice teachings to another field.

Careers this concentration prepares for: Law Office Administration, Paralegal and Legal Assistant.

Information Studies

Students take classes in areas like informatics, database design, programming, and networks. With technological advancements taking place within most industries, information studies skills and training may prove very useful, especially when combined with training in fields like business or communications.

Careers this concentration prepares for: Network Administrator and Web Developer.

Finance

Finance concentrations provide students with training in business finances, budgeting, and purchasing. Courses teach students how to optimize resources and identify inefficiencies within organizations. Students may supplement this training with business, communication, mathematics, or management training to maximize its usefulness.

Careers this concentration prepares for: Personal Finance Advisor, Financial Examiner and Financial Analyst.

Marketing

Within a concentration in marketing, students delve into areas of advertising, public relations, and sales. While primarily business-focused, marketing tracks prepare graduates for careers within a variety of industries by providing an understanding of product and service consumption. Graduates may apply these to several customer-facing careers and industries.

Careers this concentration prepares for: Sales Manager, Advertising Agent and Public Relations Specialist.

Public Health

This concentration provides students with an understanding of the healthcare system, disease, and the delivery of health services. Students may take classes in epidemiology, health records, and healthcare policies and procedures. Combined with the skills and training in business, communication, or information systems, students may expand their career options within the healthcare industry.

Careers this concentration prepares for: Social Service Assistant and Health Services Administrator.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in General Studies?

Most general studies degrees consist of 120 credits and take students an average of four years to complete. The time to completion depends on several factors, including transfer credit policies, course delivery, school terms, and course loads. Some schools offer accelerated programs or courses, whereas others offer more start dates or allow for heavier course loads. Students looking to finish quickly should explore these options.

Students should consider delivery options as well. Online courses, for example, often deliver materials asynchronously, enabling students to create more flexible study schedules. Working professionals can build a study schedule that allows them to work around their jobs while they complete the degree at a comfortable pace. Students with prior undergraduate study might want to explore schools with strong transfer credit policies to reduce the time and cost of the degree.

No matter what a student requires, the number of program options available makes it so everyone can find what they need.

Courses in an Online Bachelor’s in General Studies Program

An online general studies bachelor’s degree is one of the most flexible degree options available. Most programs allow students to customize their degree to fit their prior academic experience and professional aspirations. An online general studies curriculum includes general education requirements and coursework in areas such as research methods, public speaking, and professional writing. Many programs feature interdisciplinary courses with topics in practical philosophy, technology’s impact on society, and strategies for professional success.

  • Social Sciences: While social sciences represent a broad category, many online general studies degrees require students to complete a certain number of credits in this field. Courses may cover topics like economics, American studies, criminology, and psychology. General degrees place importance on the social sciences because they teach students how a society operates, covering the challenges and factors that go into making it work.
  • Humanities: Like social sciences, the humanities play a large role in most general degrees. Humanities courses explore the human side of society and culture, examining various disciplines like English, history, and politics. Courses in the humanities teach students analytical skills and provide foundational knowledge for many potential careers.
  • Communications: Communications courses teach students to communicate clearly and effectively in a number of settings. Courses may focus on professional writing and mass media (e.g., television, radio, and social media). Study options in this field expand as our media and communication methods evolve.
  • Research Strategies: Though research may seem purely academic, these skills transfer to the professional world. By providing students with advanced research skills, these courses prepare them to develop research questions, engage with problems, and arrive at solutions. Students utilize online resources and libraries.
  • Mathematics Foundation: In a mathematics foundations course, students typically learn to use mathematics to solve problems faced in the professional world. Some courses engage with statistics, algebra, or geometry, teaching students how these fundamental branches of mathematics apply to different professions and situations.

General Studies Degree Salary Information

A unique feature of an online general studies bachelor’s degree is its versatility. Students gain a broad general foundation in areas including business administration, early childhood education, and sales management. Below, we have compiled potential careers for students who complete their general studies degree online.

true Sales Manager $48,000 $54,000 $60,000 $72,000

Sales Managers oversee teams of sales professionals, troubleshooting issues and ensuring their success. These managers strive to improve sales performance through evaluation, assessment, training programs, and motivation tactics. Managers often possess a well-rounded education in business, mathematics, communication, and leadership.

true Public Relations Specialist $42,000 $53,000 $58,000 $60,000

Public Relations Specialists Public relations managers help create communications for organizations. They oversee the interactions between the organization, its clients, and the public, creating effective messages. General studies graduates may possess the communication, business, and problem-solving skills to handle this career.

true Personal Financial Advisor $51,000 $62,000 $84,000 $204,000

Personal Finance Advisors Personal finance advisors assist people with large financial decisions, including mortgages, loans, and retirement. Since these professionals often require skills in communication, finance, and mathematics, general studies graduates may make great candidates for this career.

true Insurance Underwriter $46,000 $59,000 $71,000 $95,000

Insurance Underwriters assess applications and determine insurance coverage a client receives. A well-rounded education in mathematics, communication, business, and finance prepares candidates to take on the challenges of the profession.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Image Credit: hsyncoban | Getty Images

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