May 05, 2023

Master of Liberal Arts Vs. Master of Liberal Studies: What’s the Difference?

Lifelong learning in the liberal arts is a powerful means to advance personal and professional growth in many different career paths and walks of life.

The University of Chicago Master of Liberal Arts, for instance, attracts many executive leaders and graduates from master’s programs in other fields. They enroll in the program seeking opportunities to augment their leadership skills, read engaging texts, participate in discussions with accomplished peers, and learn from eminent scholars and educators. 

Either a Master of Liberal Arts or a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies can provide a multidisciplinary education that fuels your curiosity and presents you with new ways of looking at the world. 

What are the liberal arts and liberal studies?

The “liberal arts” refer to the entire range of topics associated with a traditional academic education. These fundamental areas of research and learning have roots dating back to classical antiquity, but they have evolved over time. In today’s higher education institutions, the liberal arts may encompass:

A graduate program in the liberal arts or liberal studies may touch on all these fields. Students take multidisciplinary courses that engage with complex issues from multiple angles, exploring how to gather information, analyze sources, synthesize ideas, and then clearly express their own arguments. 

Since both liberal arts and liberal studies programs include so many different disciplines, degree programs may take a variety of approaches. We have found, for example, that some liberal studies programs explore a wider range of academic areas, while a master’s in liberal arts often tends to delve deeper into the intersections between the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. 

Finding the right program 

When comparing educational opportunities, whether in liberal arts or liberal studies, it’s important to consider which program is best suited to help you explore the topics that interest you and advance toward your goals. Some essential factors to keep in mind include:

A community of learners and leaders 

An open exchange of ideas can reveal insights and result in improvements for our organizations and communities. But engaging in genuine conversations with people who have different points of view is often difficult in an era when each individual determines their own information diet. 

Studying the liberal arts is an opportunity to overcome cultural barriers and join wide-ranging conversations in which you consider diverse perspectives, re-examine your assumptions, and refine your arguments. For UChicago MLA students like mathematics teacher Fatema Burhani, one of the program’s greatest benefits is the chance to meet accomplished people who have a variety of backgrounds. 

“I have formed connections with students from all over the world, including Colombia, India, Australia, and China,” Burhani said. “I look forward to my class each week and can’t wait to discuss the readings with my professor and peers.” 

A master’s in the liberal arts or liberal studies grants you a high-level perspective on culture and human knowledge. By drawing wisdom from across the whole spectrum of disciplines, you develop intellectual frameworks and habits of mind that will serve you well in any line of work or endeavor. You can prepare to make better decisions by analyzing the ways organizations and communities function and gathering strong evidence that supports your ideas. 

A liberal arts or liberal studies master’s degree benefits people with a broad range of personal and professional backgrounds, helping them to become better informed citizens, stronger communicators, and more effective leaders. The UChicago MLA achieves these outcomes through a unique educational experience that opens up possibilities to grow and connect with others. 

About the University of Chicago Master of Liberal Arts 

The University of Chicago online Master of Liberal Arts provides a transformative education that strengthens skills in leadership, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. We welcome a diverse community of accomplished professionals to participate in live seminar discussions, guided by eminent faculty members with expertise in multiple disciplines. 

Customize the online MLA to fit your goals by choosing from three optional concentrations. You can complete all the requirements online or visit us on campus for UChicago’s week-long, immersive residential seminars, held twice a year.  

Contact us to learn more about the learning opportunities, resources, and support that make our MLA program unique. 


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