Episode 3: Liberal Arts Study and Technical Study

This episode is part of our series on understanding the world of college. In this episode, we talk about the difference between liberal arts study and technical study.

For detailed show notes including links to all the colleges mentioned in this episode, visit http://usacollegechat.org/3.

NYCollege Chat is a weekly podcast for parents and high school students about the world of college brought to you by Policy Studies in Education.

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This episode is part of our series on understanding the world of college and is focused on the difference between liberal arts study and technical study.

NYCollegeChat Episode 3 Liberal Arts Study and Technical Study

1. Liberal Arts Study Defined

A study of the liberal arts means that students study a variety of academic subjects, typically including literature, history, mathematics, fine arts, philosophy, biological or physical sciences, foreign languages, and the social sciences, like psychology or sociology. Sometimes these subjects as a group are called the “arts and sciences” or “humanities and sciences.”

A “liberal arts college” usually refers to a relatively small, private four-year college, where a student studies a variety of courses in the liberal arts and chooses to major in one of them.

2. Technical Study Defined

Technical study usually focuses on one or more specific career fields, such as engineering, computer studies, construction trades, fashion design, and more. Technical study can be done at proprietary colleges, two-year colleges, four-year colleges, or universities. Two of our nation’s best universities specialize in technical study—Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Caltech (California Institute of Technology).

A “technical college” usually refers to a two-year college that offers associate’s degrees in specific career fields. Some technical colleges require students to take some liberal arts courses in their first year or two of study; others do not. Some technical colleges even offer a two-year degree in liberal arts—undoubtedly because some students just have not made a career decision yet.

3. Choosing Liberal Arts or Technical Study

Some people believe that all students should start out in the liberal arts so that they have a well-rounded education and so that they can sample many fields of study—including those that are not available to most high school students—before settling in on one.

Some people believe that students who are set on a specific career field when they leave high school should be able to pursue it immediately in college and thus move onto that career path faster.

Keep in mind that either liberal arts study or technical study can be pursued at two-year and four-year, public and private institutions, depending on a student’s circumstances. So a student has to make two important decisions: both the right institution and the right course of study.

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