The Best Online General Studies Degree Programs
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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
Online Bachelor's in General Studies Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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