Arts & Humanities vs Liberal Arts: Curriculum (Subjects) and Job Prospects

Students and parents are often confused between courses on Arts and Humanities and Liberal Arts. The first thing to keep in mind is Arts and Humanities is a component of Liberal Arts. Just like all alkalis are bases but not all bases are alkalis, all Arts and Humanities courses are part of Liberal Arts, but not all Liberal Arts programs are Humanities. Interestingly Liberal Arts program – which is the study of humanity’s history, physical world and the natural laws of science – comprises humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics. Arts and Humanities on the other hand is an academic discipline that study aspects of human society and culture.

Let’s see the differences more explicitly now –


Arts and Humanities

It is said that humanities and arts is fundamental to all human cultures since time immemorial and its study can build intense intercultural understanding. Study of this discipline is believed to prepare students to think critically, express clearly, work creatively, analyze new information and achieve success in today’s world – qualities that will enable them to acquire a high degree of professional flexibility and acceptableness.

It is a vast area of study encompassing subjects like history, English, Bengali, Political Science, Sociology, General, Hindi, History, Film Studies, Journalism & Mass Communication, Communicative English, Philosophy, Psychology, Sanskrit, Education, Urdu, Persian, Sociology, photography, archaeology, law, library science and performing arts et al.

Liberal arts

Liberal arts, a multidisciplinary course incorporating an array of subjects from different disciplines like – humanities, science and commerce – is fast gaining ground in India today. The course enables study of a host of subjects prior to zeroing down on the one to do major in. The eclectic mix of subjects in Liberal arts may be sociology, history, mathematics, philosophy, ancient Indian literature, and business communication.

According to academics, the multidisciplinary approach liberal arts courses along with an interactive approach of teaching help students ask questions, think critically and analyse topics while also improving their communication skills. In addition to class discussions, these courses often involve field trips, PPT presentations, learning through audio visual aids including movies and hands-on projects.

Admission process

Arts and Humanities

Many colleges take an entrance test, which is followed by a personal interview by the faculty of the respective departments one applies to. However, to take the test, students must meet the cut-off list as released by the Universities. Those applying for diploma courses, also have to write and qualify the entrance exam held by the colleges or universities. In some universities and colleges of India admission to arts and humanities departments is purely merit based and depends on the numbers attained in plus two board exams. Course fee varies between rupees 60,500 to 2.57 Lakh.

Liberal arts

In India Liberal arts is typically a three-year undergraduate program , while some selected universities today offer a fourth year optional program.

Admission to these courses is mostly through Aptitude test, On-the-spot essay, Group Discussion, and In-person Interview. That said, meticulous deliberation of academic records and extra-curricular activities are also done. An admission essay is also a part of the process.

Points to consider –

Liberal arts course does not always get you to a degree in it. You will actually graduate in the subject you major in, i.e. B.A. in English or B.Sc. in mathematics. It is important to cautiously mull over the numerous subjects offered by the institutes for doing majors. Also in India there are certain universities which do have dedicated departments for liberal arts, but many institutes do not and their curricula are developed into the courses they offer.

In India, liberal arts programs are primarily offered by the private colleges and universities. However, some courses are also available at certain public institutions. You must consider both before deciding. Course fee for private universities will be something between 4 lakh to 8 lakh INR per year. Attractive scholarships are available at private institutions.

Career prospects

Arts and Humanities

Career in Psychology

Options are counsellors, research analysts, clinical psychologists, child psychologists, human resource specialists, lecturer/professors, life coaches, career counsellors, substance abuse counsellors, therapists, forensic psychologists

Career in Law

Options available are litigation, tax laws, intellectual property rights, international human tights, civil law, criminal law, corporate counsel, Indian legal services. Graduates work in law firms, legal publishing and media or become lecturers.

 Career in History

Explore diverse options including working as an Archivist, Lecturer, Analyst or Lobbyist. Go into research in areas like mythology, dynasties, civilizations, politics, culture, etc. Working with publishing houses as editors or columnists is great another option.

Career in Archaeology

Options include being a Numismatist (study of old currency), Epigraphist (study of manuscripts), Archivist, Museologist. Other options include working in the domains of art conservation and restoration.

Career in Political Science

Options include working as research assistant, political analyst or lobbyist. You can also be a diplomat, intelligence specialist, or work with organizations like World Bank, United Nations, World Health Organization (WHO), et al.

Career in Sociology

You can be a counselor, or work as a policy analyst in the government, consultant of private/ public organizations in their HR department. Career fields include Market Research, Public Relations, and Media Strategy.

Career in Mass Communication & Journalism

Explore fields like journalism, public relations, content writing, copywriting, editing, advertising, event management, broadcasting etc. You can also be into media production houses and make documentaries and videos.

Career in Foreign Languages

Options include translator, lexicographer, teacher, forensic linguist, writer, or join foreign diplomats and embassies, international bodies, publishing houses, etc.

Career in Economics

Work in banks, research organisations, financial institutions, government ministries or insurance and accountancy Firms. Roles include Risk Advisory Associate, Analyst, Research Assistant, Policy Maker, etc.

Common career opportunities

  • Event Management
  • Civil Services
  • Social Services/ Social Work
  • Museology
  • Habitat Policy and Practice
  • Cartography
  • Anthropology
  • Film-Making
  • Gerontology
  • Rural Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Development
  • Photography
  • Advertising Sales Agent
  • Technical Writer
  • Artist
  • Travel Agent
  • Interpreter and/or Translator
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Linguist

Liberal Arts

Indian parents continue to be sceptic about the career prospects in liberal arts or humanities compared to a degree in engineering or medicine and often force their children to take up science after plus two. However, there is a now a shift in the mindset. With universities offering liberal arts programs which are backed by reputed industry names like that of Anand Mahindra,  things are looking up for this branch of study.

Today sectors like banking, media & advertising, consulting, research, public relations, teaching, civil services and the social development are offering attractive job opportunities for liberal arts graduates.

Top corporate companies like Deloitte, PwC, McKinsey & Company, EY, Bloomberg Quint, BCG, Max Healthcare, HDFC AMC, TCS Consulting, ITC Hotels, Federal Bank now enrol graduates in liberal arts

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