If you've ever felt indecisive or unsure about deciding on a particular college major, a bachelor's in General Studies may be appealing to you. The ability to have more flexibility with your course schedule can often outweigh the uncertainties that come from the relative lack of structure found in a General Studies Major.
If you're not careful, this lack of structure can also come back to bite you on the job hunt. Since General Studies majors have much more freedom when it comes to deciding their classes, it's often up to them to show prospective employers exactly what it is they learned from their time in college.
However, that same freedom can sometimes make it easier for you to talk about what you specifically got out of college -- since no one has ever had quite the same class schedule as you, your experience was genuinely unique, and perhaps was even tailored to the kind of job you hoped to later have. But given this level of uncertainty, it can sometimes be difficult what particular job is best for you and your unique skills.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for General Studies Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as an General Studies Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
1. Skills for General Studies Majors
The particular skills developed over the course of a General Studies degree are typically specific to the courses that an individual decided to take -- if they concentrated in Art History, for example, their skills would include an understanding of aesthetics and color theory, historical knowledge, and an ability to analyze and identify a work of art based on looks alone.
As a result of this, no two General Studies majors are going to have the exact same skillset. However, they will develop certain meta-skills as a result of taking a larger, more general spread of classes than the average college student. Meta-skills are skills that help you understand how a person learns skills, and are generally context specific -- that is, these skills are transferable to a variety of different classes, fields, and even job industries.
Let's take a closer look at what some of these General Studies skills look like:
Understanding Discourses and Contexts
In a more common major, you're often working within the context of a single field. With General Studies, you're forced to work within a variety of different fields and departments, and you learn early on how to recognize what pieces of context you're missing and develop skills to help you cope with this lack of knowledge.
Applying Knowledge to Different Situations
After noticing the presence of these different contexts and discourses, you become skilled at applying the knowledge you have into whatever situation you find yourself in. Since each context uses knowledge in different ways, you end up having to find a lot of creative ways to utilize things you've learned in one discourse while working within another. This can make you a very well-rounded employee, one who is adept at thinking outside the box.
While those who have a more set major will have a pretty good idea of how to work with people within that major, a General Studies Major has to work with people from all across the various departments at any given school. Empathy and teamwork skills are developed quickly in this major, and these can come in handy no matter what industry you end up in after college.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting an General Studies Degree
Given that many students in the General Studies major have entered the department because they aren't sure yet what future career they'd like to have, internships are an excellent opportunity for anyone who is currently finishing or has already completed their General Studies bachelor's. While often unpaid, internships give you the opportunity to look at an industry up close and see how it operates on a day-to-day basis, which can help you decide if a job is right for you.
Since General Studies majors aren't tied to any particular set of job industries like most majors, the choices for internships are consequently broader. The only things preventing you from choosing one internship over another should be your own interests, your time/monetary status (again, most internships are unpaid, which can make going after them outside of college all the more difficult if you're in a tight financial situation), and the opportunities that are available to you based on your grades, location, or any other prerequisites the internship might have.
For this reason, taking a series of short internships while still in college might be a better use of your time than one or two longer internships, unless you've already got a career in mind.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
3. Available Jobs For General Studies Majors
Jobs for General Studies majors are tough to pin down, since they're often highly dependent on how a particular General Studies student decided to specialize. Industries like advertising, management, event planning, sales, law, and even the government are all potential options for General Studies majors, provided they took the right undergraduate courses.
The big thing with this major is being able to figure out how to frame and market your experience to your potential employer. Again, most employers have a good frame of reference for the kind of experience that a student would get in a more common major -- with General Studies, you may find that you have to lead them to the water before they can drink.
Of course, in order to convince an employer that you're a good fit for their company, you'll have to decide what kind of job you're even looking for in the first place.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent General Studies Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
A researcher employed by a corporation or university on either a permanent or temporary basis. Research assistants at first often complete more menial tasks for senior researchers, but learn important skills that they can later use when leading their own research in the future.
Law Clerks are the most junior members of a law firm who support attorneys and other higher ranking members by helping them prepare and organize legal drafts, undertake research into obscure laws, and help assemble materials needed for cases.
A business analyst is someone who analyzes an organization or business domain (real or hypothetical) and documents its business or processes or systems, assessing the business model or its integration with technology.
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for General Studies Majors
Look For Jobs With Lots of Training and Career Mobility
If you find yourself out of college and still unsure as to exactly what sort of job you'd like to have, look for entry level positions with a lot of training. One of the biggest impediments to finding a job with a bachelor's in General Studies is the lack of formalized training -- for this reason, it's helpful to find a position with an established company where you'll be trained well while still making money.
However, be sure to find a company where you have a lot of room to try out different positions -- if you enter a job where you're locked into a set role, it can make it tough to try new things if and when you decide that your role no longer interests you. For this reason it might be good to look for positions with a medium-sized but relatively newer company, a place where the roles aren't so set-in-stone that you have no way of trying new things, but where the company has still experienced enough success that you'll have a bit more job security than you might find at a start-up.
Get Some Additional Certifications (Outside General Studies)
We'll talk about advanced degrees in General Studies further down the page, but first a quick word about degrees and certifications outside of the General Studies major.
Additional skill certifications or even Master's degrees in a specific field of study can both be useful to a General Studies major when it comes to picking up some additional work-related skills, or even just to formalize a set of existing skills in a way that can be put on a resume. It's very likely that during your studies, you ended up taking classes where you learned skills related to a variety of different industries, but without other kinds of education or some sort of formal certification it can be difficult to demonstrate this experience to a potential employer.
As a General Education major, Certifications give you more control over the story that you tell employers about how you got to where you are today, and where you hope to go next. You can mention having studied any number of things or having any amount of undergraduate interests, but being able to then point to a Master's or a skill certification of some sort as proof that you maintained this interest and went on to explore it further is a valuable thing to take with you to any job interview.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in General Studies
Pursuing an advanced degree
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
When it comes to post-graduate General Studies education, Master's programs are few and far between, and Ph.Ds are rarer still. Most schools either assume that their General Studies majors will be going directly into the work force or will have specialized in one field or another before continuing their studies. Given that continuing education is essentially specializing in some aspect of a field or industry, higher education in General Studies can often be difficult to define.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with General Studies degree normally consider:
Master's in General Studies
- For those who are looking to specialize more than they have but would prefer their education to remain well-rounded, an MA in General Studies can help you dig a little deeper into some of your areas of interest from undergrad. These degrees often have preset concentrations, many of which skew toward the humanities or liberal arts
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in General Studies)
- Ph.Ds in General Studies typically do not exist -- Ph.Ds are very research intensive and so some sort of specialization is required in order to enter academia at this advanced level. However, if education is of interest to a General Studies major who has made it this far through the collegiate system, there are Ph.Ds in subjects like General Education that would allow a candidate to teach or study the pedagogy behind the General Education system itself
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
Association for General and Liberal Studies
A professional organization dedicated to improving the relevance of General and Liberal Studies majors in the workforce and helping its members continue their own education through the use of workshops, programs, and other association resources.
American Educational Research Association (AERA)
AERA is a research society whose goal is to improve education through research and academic study, and to increase public knowledge of education.
Enter "General Studies" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau Of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.