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Liberty University

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PhD in Liberal Arts: Online and Campus-Based Programs

Read about Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs in the liberal arts, and the availability of degree programs and options for online study. Continue reading for information on academic prerequisites, degree requirements and courses.

What Subjects Fall Under the Liberal Arts Umbrella?

Doctoral degree programs for the comprehensive field of liberal arts are uncommon, but those in social sciences and other subjects that make up the overall category of liberal arts are not. If you're thinking of getting your doctorate in a liberal arts field, schools often offer a variety of subjects--like anthropology, psychology, languages or economics. Ph.D. programs in psychology are widely available online, while others are mostly campus-based.

SpecializationsPsychology, anthropology, languages, economics
Program RequirementsMaster's degree, exams, dissertation proposal defense
Common CoursesTheory, human behavior, intervention strategies, cultures and languages
Median Salary (2020)$82,180 (for psychologists)*
Job Outlook (2019-2029)3% growth (for all psychologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are There Prerequisites?

In most liberal arts Ph.D. programs, a candidate must have a master's degree prior to enrollment. Some schools require that you complete specific courses prior to admission (usually those that would be taken in your second or third year of master-level study). For psychology in particular, you may be required to complete a written examination and defend your prospective doctoral project.

What Classes Will I Take?

Your classes vary based on your specialization. Regardless of course topics, you have to complete and successfully defend a doctoral thesis as a requirement of graduation.

There may also be further room to concentrate studies once a major field is selected; for example, some schools break anthropology into separate subsections such as archaeology, cultural anthropology and physical anthropology. Your choice of concentration helps determine your course requirements--but you can typically expect to take courses that examine the theory of anthropological study, differences between cultures and languages of a region. However, in physical anthropology programs, you can expect to study biology and environment and their relationships to human behavior. With a focus on archaeology, you spend more time considering human origins.

Other variables include practical experiences. As a Ph.D. in Psychology candidate, you choose between clinical or counseling psychology. You analyze case studies and intervention strategies, take research-intensive classes and complete at least two years of clinical experience. You also complete an internship.

Certain liberal arts majors have more or less rigid curricula dictated by schedules. As an economics student, you may need to complete an oral exam at the end of your second year. You work with an adviser in your third year and complete a working seminar before assembling a thesis committee and completing a plan detailing your research efforts. The last step is preparing and submitting your finished work.