Top 20 Online Master’s in Liberal Studies Degree Programs

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Studying the liberal arts exposes students to the arts, mathematics, literature, political science, and many expressions of culture. Whereas most graduate degree programs focus on a specific discipline, the Top 20 Online Master's in Liberal Studies Degree Programs offer an education that emphasizes knowledge across a host of subjects and aims to produce well-rounded, aspiring professionals. 

Our list of the Top 20 Online Master's in Liberal Studies Degree Programs features degrees that prepare students for success in a wide range of careers by focusing on life-long learning, knowledge-building skills, and academic rigor.

The programs featured are completed entirely online, with no visits to campus necessary. Programs typically last two years, though some accelerated tracks may be available.

In most cases, MLA programs feature a capstone project or final portfolio as the degree's culminating experience. Through such projects, students get a chance to showcase the knowledge they've gained during the program while demonstrating mastery of a particular subject matter. A few programs allow students to write a graduate thesis, which is essential to look for if you're considering pursuing your Doctorate in Liberal Arts or another subject. Master's in Liberal Arts Studies programs are known for being flexible, and most programs can be customized for your goals by providing you with an academic advisor.

According to Payscale, graduates with a Master's in Liberal Arts Studies are well compensated. In 2019, the salary-ranking website reported an annual income of over $69,000 for people with a Master's in Liberal Arts Studies. Standard job titles for grads include executive director, secondary teacher, and human resource manager, and colleges boasted that their alumni now work in fields as diverse as business, medicine, nonprofits, and the military. Master's in Liberal Arts Studies programs deliver a well-rounded education as graduates refine their ability to think critically and view problems from multiple perspectives – skills that remain perennially in demand.

Ranking Methodology: "It's science!"

The researchers and writers at Best Master's Degrees don't make recommendations based upon preference – we back our rankings with science. Here's a quick breakdown of how we organize ranking data:

  • Finances (40%)
  • Academic Rigor (35%)
  • Student Gratification (25%)

Nearly half of the data used to score each ranking involves finances and is acquired from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Education, Glassdoor, and PayScale. Financial data encompasses the cost of tuition, fees, and class supplies; the average price of living; access to financial aid and social services; and lastly, the projected annual salary acquired from degree outcomes and income for loan repayment.

The second-largest category of information involves the quality of education, how competitive degree applicants should be for consideration, and how exclusive a degree program is overall. The final 25% of collected data is dependent on student and alumni reviews from sources such as PayScale, Rate My Professor, and Students Review. 

Want to Learn More? 

The amount of information available for specific degrees is plentiful, and Best Master's Degrees aims to provide as many resources as we can. Check out our Methodology page for more information and resource links.

#20 – Tiffin University

Master of Humanities with a concentration in Humanities

Tiffin, OH


Explore the creativity of humankind through the ages with the Master of Humanities with a concentration in Humanities. Students explore current and past societies through a cultural, philosophical, and mythological framework. The program is ideally suited for students interested in pursuing further graduate or professional education and consists of 30 credit hours, with 18 credit hours earned through the Humanities concentration. 

Classes in the program cover topics like an advanced study in history, philosophy, political science, art, communications, and English. Students also complete a nine-credit-hour Interdisciplinary Core, which covers additional topics in literary theory, aesthetics, and an introduction to graduate humanities. 

Students must also pass a comprehensive examination or complete a capstone project to finish their degrees. All classes are taken online during 15-week terms, which begin every January, May, and August. In addition to the concentration in Humanities, the university offers the program with concentrations in Arts and Visual Media, Communication, Creative Writing, English, and Film Studies. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,600

#19 – Albertus Magnus College

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

New Haven, CT


The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Albertus Magnus College helps students thrive in our modern world through an understanding of the human condition. The program is geared toward students who love learning for the sake of understanding the world and those committed to life-long education. The program is delivered entirely online, with scheduled class discussions included in every course.

The degree consists of a total of 33 credits, 30 of which are in coursework, and the final three are earned through the program's capstone proposal, writing seminar, and the final project itself. Past final projects have focused on everything from poetry to musical compositions to works exploring the nature of art and mysticism.

Coursework explores topics in society and culture; arts and humanities; science; technology and environmental studies; and religion, philosophy, and moral choice. Up to six graduate credits may be transferred to the program. Qualified applicants need at least a 2.8 GPA from a regionally accredited university or college, and graduate entrance tests are not required. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $19,648

#18 – University of Toledo

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Toledo, OH


The University of Toledo developed its Master of Arts in Liberal Studies for students seeking advanced study skills that lead to successful careers. The program helps students build their research, problem-solving, communication, and critical-thinking skills that are required in the modern workplace.

The degree features at least 33 semester hours, and students may customize their degree plan by working with a faculty advisor. Coursework in the program includes seminars in the visual and performing arts, natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Students also choose five to six elective courses, which can be taken in a wide range of topics offered by the university.

The program concludes with an MLS thesis project worth three to six semester hours, and the program director must approve all thesis topics. The program welcomes applicants who have a 2.7 GPA or higher in their undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. The University of Toledo prides itself on delivering quality degree programs and, since 1872, has produced over 100,000 alumni. The school currently enrolls more than 20,000 students.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,429

#17 – University of Memphis 

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Memphis, TN


With the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from the University of Memphis, students gain a deep understanding of society and culture through an interdisciplinary course of study. The MALS program includes 33 semester hours and can be fully customized to meet each student's specific academic goals. All students are required to complete the program's core, which includes such courses as Foundations of Liberal Studies, Research/Independent Study, a Liberal Studies Seminar, and a Special Project. Up to 12 semester hours may be transferred to the program. 

To qualify for admission, applicants need a 2.75 GPA or higher on their bachelor's degree, along with two sealed letters of recommendation. Students also complete a Coordinated Study Grid outlining their intended course of study before being fully admitted. No test scores from a graduate admissions examination are required. In addition to its MALS, the University of Memphis offers an online Doctor of Liberal Studies, which is one of only three such online programs offered anywhere in the U.S. The university currently holds accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,054

#16 – Kent State University

Master of Liberal Studies

Kent, OH


Design a customized graduate program that's based on your academic goals with the Master of Liberal Studies from Kent State University. Offered both fully online and at the university's Kent, Ohio, campus, the 33-credit-hour program includes opportunities for internships and independent research.

The program has just two required courses: Liberal Studies Essay as well as Methods and Approaches to Multidisciplinary Studies. The remaining 27 credit hours are dedicated to electives from which students choose 12-15 credits offered by a single department within the university. Any remaining credits may be earned through any college or department at the university. Overall, at least 12 credit hours must be derived from coursework in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Applicants with at least a 3.0 GPA qualify for unconditional admission to the program; students who do not meet minimum requirements may need to submit a score from a graduate entrance examination or demonstrate their ability to study at the graduate level. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,310

#15 – Fort Hays State University

Master of Liberal Studies

Hays, KS


The Master of Liberal Studies from Fort Hays State University prepares students with the intellectual skills to succeed in any environment. The 31-credit degree includes concentrations in Global Studies, Literary Arts, and Health Sciences, among many others. New concentrations are in continual development, and students can work directly with faculty advisors to design a customized plan of study.

Students earn 21 credit hours through their concentration coursework, with an additional ten gained through the program's core classes. The core includes such courses as an Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, Ways of Knowing in Comparative Perspective, Information Literacy, and Origins and Implications of the Knowledge Society. Students complete the program with a non-credit comprehensive examination.

Fort Hays State holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, and the university is a member of the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs. In addition to completing the degree online, some courses may be offered at the university's Hays, KS, campus.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $3,497

#14 – Rutgers University-Camden 

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Camden, NJ


Rutgers University-Camden offers its Master of Arts in Liberal Studies to students in search of an interdisciplinary degree with a broad range of customization. The program features courses in literature, history, philosophy, religion, social sciences, the arts, and more. While most students choose to complete the degree entirely online, the university does offer several classes at its Camden, NJ, campus.

The program also offers optional academic concentrations in Philosophy and Religion, World History and Politics, American Studies, and Creative Arts and Literature. Within all concentrations, students must take at least two humanities courses, two social science courses, and one non-western, gender, monitories course. Students also complete a capstone project to earn the MALS degree. Past capstone projects have included literature analyses, narrative works, research projects, and more.

Qualified applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA from their undergraduate studies; however, no graduate entrance tests are required. The university holds accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,848

#13 – University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Master of Arts in Applied Arts and Sciences

Greensboro, NC


Become an expert in learning and integrating knowledge from multiple disciplines with the Master of Arts in Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This master's program is designed to help students use data effectively and build creative thinking and collaboration skills. The program is project-based, meaning students are exposed to concepts in systems thinking, design thinking, and data analysis.

Students complete 33 credit hours in seven-week-long courses, and most students can finish the fully-online degree within 18 months. The degree is customizable and features several themes of learning, including Conflict and Change, the Human Experience, Human Rights and Social Justice, and Sustainability. To qualify for admission, students need a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA along with three professional references. Students do not need to provide a score from the Graduate Record Examination. The program enrolls students for start dates in fall, spring, and summer.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,219

#12 – Texas Christian University

Master of Liberal Arts

Fort Worth, TX


Take your love of learning and knowledge to the next level with the Master of Liberal Arts from Texas Christian University. This program helps students develop their writing and critical thinking skills through a rigorous online curriculum. The program contains 30 hours of coursework, 12 of which must be from MLA courses designated as Perspectives on Society. Students study issues in contemporary American society, culture and diversity, and world cultures and societies.

While all classes can be taken online, TCU offers several courses at its Fort Worth, Texas, campus. The program accepts students with a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, and up to six credits may be transferred toward the degree. Students complete such courses as Superheroes Across Global Contexts, Native Americans and the Environment, and Journalism in the Movies, to name just a few. The university holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $27,990

#11 – University of Michigan-Flint 

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies in American Culture

Flint, MI


The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies in American Culture from the University of Michigan-Flint helps students to grow intellectually. The interdisciplinary program gives students multiple opportunities for independent study, in addition to research and creative projects that are based on the student's academic interests. Students can also complete a research thesis based on their academic areas of expertise, giving them the chance to continue their studies at the doctoral level. Students can also enroll in the program as full-time or part-time learners, allowing them to complete the degree on their timeline.

Additionally, several of the program's courses can concurrently count toward an optional Graduate Certificate in Business. Students earn 33 credits in total, with 18 credits earned in the program's core and research courses. Typical classes include offerings like The American Character, Research Foundations, and the U.S. in Comparative Perspective. Currently, the program offers 25 courses that count toward the MALS degree.

Students at UM-Flint also select 15 credits of electives, which include such classes as Black America Since the Civil War, the History of Ethnicity and Race in the U.S., and Drama and Social Theory. Qualified applicants to the program need a minimum 3.0 GPA from their bachelor's education and at least 24 credit hours from humanities and social sciences courses.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,413

#10 – Nova Southeastern University

Master of Arts in Cross-Disciplinary Studies

Fort Lauderdale, FL


Learn to integrate a broad range of perspectives and grow your understanding of society with the Master of Arts in Cross-Disciplinary Studies from Nova Southeastern University. Students explore topics ranging from gender and diversity to culture, environmental studies, health sciences, human rights, and more.

The program includes 11 courses totaling 33 credits. Students complete four core courses, along with a practicum and six electives. The program also requires the development of a three-to-five-page narrative final portfolio project. Core courses in the curriculum include Interdisciplinary Theories and Perspectives and Interdisciplinary Research and Writing. Several concentrations are also offered in the program, such as Information Systems and Society, as well as Institutional Assessment, among several others detailed on the school's website.

To meet the program's practicum requirement, students also take part in at least 130 hours of hands-on learning at a site of their choosing; this community-based learning approach aids students in developing relevant professional and career-based skills. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,932

#9 – California State University, Northridge

Master of Arts in Humanities

Northridge, CA


Add value to your workplace, community, and beyond as a multidisciplinary thinker with the Master of Arts in Humanities from California State University, Northridge. CSUN's program can be completed over 20 months, and all classes are offered online. Students in the course of their studies focus on critical thinking, discussion, and reflection on a wide variety of topics. Students explore subjects related to what ‘living the good life' means, what constitutes a just society, and how meaningful cultural differences are.

The program is delivered in a cohort format, giving students opportunities for online collaboration and in-depth discussions with classmates. The curriculum includes courses on the body and mind connection, identity, culture, family issues, and more. Students also complete a three-unit capstone project, along with two units of directed studies. Additionally, all students need to pass a comprehensive examination to earn the degree. Individuals with a 2.5 GPA or higher from their undergraduate studies are encouraged to apply to the program. No graduate entrance test is required for admission. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,176

#8 – Dallas Baptist University 

Master of Liberal Arts

Dallas, TX


Explore the world from diverse perspectives with the Master of Liberal Arts degree from Dallas Baptist University. This master's program is designed to meet a wide range of academic goals. A dozen concentrations are offered in the program, including Art, Christian Studies, East Asian Studies, Fine Arts, Political Science, History Instruction, and more.

The program includes 30 credit hours covering an interdisciplinary core sequence and courses in the concentration track. Students may also opt for a multidisciplinary route that can consist of any combination of graduate courses offered by the university. To gain full-admission to the degree program, applicants need a GPA of 3.0 or higher from their bachelor's studies.

Applicants failing to meet minimum admission requirements may be admitted on a provisional basis, which allows them to complete up to 12 credit hours of courses while working toward full admission. The program at DBU is an approved member of the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs.

Graduate Tuition/Fees:$16,308

#7 – University of North Carolina Wilmington

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Wilmington, NC


Explore humanity with a wealth of multidisciplinary knowledge gained through the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. UNCW's program features an innovative curriculum that focuses on social concerns and cultural systems, science and the environment, and arts and literature. The university also offers graduate certificates in Liberal Studies with concentrations in Conflict Management and Resolution as well as Women's and Gender Studies.

All students in the MALS program complete a final project, which is achieved through an online, asynchronous class in which students produce a written portfolio project. Before enrolling, students residing outside of North Carolina must check with the university's Distance Education website to ensure UNCW can administer classes in their state. UNCW has offered its graduate liberal studies programs online since 2009, and the university continues to provide traditional, classroom-based versions of the degree and certificate to this day.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $4,626

#6 – Arizona State University

Master of Liberal Studies

Tempe, AZ


Enhance your career opportunities while building a new understanding of society and culture with the Master of Liberal Studies from Arizona State University. This program is offered by ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and includes 30 total credit hours. Students complete a sequence of ten classes during their studies, with each class lasting seven and a half weeks.

Students earn nine credit hours through required courses, which cover topics in social issues, religion and culture, ethics, and film and media studies. A further 18 credits are earned through electives selected by the student. Finally, a three-credit applied project serves as the degree's culminating experience. Students can also focus their studies in one of three emphasis areas: Borders, Gender, Religion, and Culture; and Science, Nature, and Creative Nonfiction Writing.

Qualified MLS applicants need a GPA of at least 3.0 earned in the second half of their bachelor's degree and are not required to submit a test score from a graduate entrance examination. Arizona State University boasts one of the largest enrollments of any college in the nation, with more than 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,240

#5 – University of South Dakota

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies

Vermillion, SD


The Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of South Dakota is a customizable degree designed to broaden the career potential for engaged students. The curriculum includes 32 credit hours, which are earned through two or three disciplines, a research methods course, and one course focusing on applied learning. Required courses include Ethical Leadership, Independent Study, and an internship course worth between one and six credit hours.

Students also have the option to complete a graduate thesis, which can qualify them for further study at the doctoral level. All students also complete an oral examination after the program, assessing their mastery of the program's primary learning objectives and their communication and critical-thinking proficiency. Applicants to the program need a minimum bachelor's degree GPA of 2.7 or higher to qualify for admission. In addition to the online MAIS degree, the university also offers online graduate degree programs in Accountancy, Business Administration, and Public Administration, among others.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,553

#4 – Salve Regina University

Master of Arts in Humanities

Newport, RI


The Master of Arts in Humanities from Salve Regina University delivers a multidisciplinary degree that expands students' understanding of civilization. The program combines perspectives from the arts, ethics, history, language and literature, philosophy, and religion to help learners gain a broad view of society and culture.

Several concentrations are available within the degree program, including Humanitarian Assistance as well as Peace and Justice, in addition to others. The program also includes an internship component or field-based study and an action-oriented thesis. With research required in the curriculum, students are qualified to pursue a Ph.D. in the humanities following graduation from the MAH program.

The program is comprised of 12 courses worth 36 credits exploring topics such as research methods, ethics, comparative literature, and global traditions. Optional electives include the History of Technology, the Philosophical Foundations of Politics, Justice, and Order in International Relations, and many others. The university accepts applications from students with a bachelor's degree from an accredited university, and no graduate admissions tests are required. Applications are due by July 1 to enroll in the program's fall semester.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,170

#3 – Liberty University

Master of Arts in Global Studies

Lynchburg, VA


Study cultures and customs in great depth with the Master of Arts in Global Studies from Liberty University. Students at Liberty prepare for a variety of careers by investigating the cultures, beliefs, and worldviews of people across the globe. The degree is offered entirely online through a series of eight-week courses. Students earn a total of 36 credit hours, up to half of which may come from transfer credits.

With a strong focus on communication, the program's curriculum helps students to develop cross-cultural competencies. Sample courses include a Global Studies Survey, Intercultural Communication, Cultural Anthropology, and Orality – The Power of a Story. To apply, students do not need to submit a score from the Graduate Record Examination.

Offered by Liberty's Rawlings School of Divinity, the MAGS program is just one of several online graduate degrees. Other degree options include Executive Leadership, Human Services Counseling, Public Health, School Counseling, and Divinity, to name a few. The university has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,217

#2 – Johns Hopkins University 

Master of Liberal Arts

Baltimore, MD


The Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University is a program developed to help students build a broad perspective on humanity and civilization. First established in 1962, the MLA program is designed to enhance students' educational experiences by introducing a wide range of ideas and concepts, which learners study through ten online courses over 12-24 months. The program is customizable, and students work with faculty advisors to develop a plan of study suited to their goals.

All participants complete one interdisciplinary core course followed either by eight classes, for those selecting the Graduate Project option, or by nine classes, for those choosing the Portfolio option. An optional internship is also available. Admission to the program is granted to individuals with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, and applications are accepted year-round on a rolling basis. The university also offers a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies in the Liberal Arts for students who already hold a graduate degree and are interested in a liberal arts education.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $52,170

#1 – Stony Brook University 

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Stony Brook, NY


Study a wide range of disciplines with the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Stony Brook University. Students find the degree both academically and personally fulfilling thanks to a combination of intellectually stimulating courses and professional preparation. The program is housed within the university's School of Professional Development and is offered in both fully online and face-to-face formats.

Students earn a total of 33 credits for the degree, beginning with a 15-credit liberal studies core, which covers topics in professional communication and thinking, global and cultural awareness, and leadership. Students also complete a thematically related concentration worth 15 credits, which is designed by the student in conjunction with a faculty advisor.

The program concludes with a three-credit capstone seminar culminating in a research paper. Students may also take part in an optional internship experience. Admission is granted to applicants with at least a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate degree, and no graduate admissions test is required. Stony Brook University holds accreditation from the Middle States Association Commission on Higher Education.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,870