MA in Liberal Studies

MA Liberal Studies FAQ

Q. What is the MA in Liberal Studies?
A. The M.A. in Liberal Studies Program is an interdisciplinary 36-credit degree program that offers students the opportunity to design a course of study focusing on a specific issue that relates to their personal or career goals.

Q. What can I do with a MALS degree?
A. Most of our students are presently employed and are using the MA in Liberal Studies to get positions of greater responsibility and pay at their present organization (e.g., teaching, hospital administration, and support positions in higher education). Our other students have been able to use their degrees, combined with their prior job experience, to find employment in the non-profit and/or service sector, e.g. support staff in education, social work, and healthcare. Some others have used what they learn in the program to start a small business, including one who is running an after-school program. Finally, several students have either been admitted to or are presently applying to Ph.D. programs. MALS teaches writing, research and critical thinking skills that are valuable in most management and entrepreneurial positions. It also enables students to hone in on specific issues that dovetail with their career goals.

Q. What are the unique features of MALS?
A. MALS has many features that distinguish it from most other MA programs, including:

  • An opportunity for students to tailor their program to their specific academic interests
  • Hands-on advising to help guide students in their choice of electives, ensuring that their coursework aligns closely with their scholarly interests and life goals.
  • MALS operates on a "cohort" model: we only admit students in the fall, and they are able to get to know and learn from each over during the first year of coursework
  • Up to 6 college credits for life experience (see "Prior Learning Assessment" below)

Q. What is the MALS curriculum?
A. Students take a 12-credit core of Liberal Studies courses and 18-21 credits of graduate electives in various disciplines, including Sociology, Latin American Studies, Africana Studies, Health, and Education. The individualized course of study is designed by the student in consultation with an advisor and is suited to their own interests and professional needs. The final requirement is to write a 3-credit capstone or a 6-credit master's thesis under the supervision of a faculty member.

Q. What's the difference between a capstone and a thesis?
A. Both are the culmination of the program and both require you to apply the different approaches you learned during your coursework to a single research-based topic. Both also enable you to work one-on-one with an advisor (typically someone you've already had in a course), with input from a second reader. The thesis is a longer written project (at least 50 pages) for which you receive 6 credits instead of 3. The capstone is a shorter project; it can either be a traditional research paper (ca 25 pages), or something "outside the box" such as a grant proposal, a business plan, or a music or art project.

Q. What are Prior Learning Assessment (Life Experience) credits and how do I get them?
A. College credit for prior learning is based on your ability to demonstrate learning of an academic nature that has taken place outside a traditional classroom, such as volunteer activities or employment. This needs to be directly connected to your course of study in the MALS program. To receive credit for this (either 3 or 6 credits), students must complete a portfolio that documents their learning and have it evaluated by the appropriate academic department. The credits awarded count as electives and do not count towards Lehman College residency requirements.

Q. Can I take my electives at other CUNY colleges?
A. Yes. CUNY's "epermit" system allows you to take a certain number of courses from other CUNY colleges (including the Graduate Center), subject to approval by the course's instructor and the academic director of MALS.

Q. Can I take online courses?
A. The four core courses generally meet face to face; this is integral to our cohort model. Apart from these classes, students are free to select as many online courses as electives as they can find, either at Lehman or at other CUNY colleges. Most of the MALS-eligible disciplines offer a wide range of online courses.

Q. How long will it take me to complete my degree?
A. Most MALS students combine their coursework with full-time employment and take, on average, two courses (6 credits) per semester. It takes three years to complete the degree on this schedule (less with summer or winter courses). Students who take four courses per semester can finish the degree in three semesters. Students with prior MA- level coursework can sometimes transfer credits (see below), which also shortens the time to degree.

Q. What are the admission requirements?
A. The basic admission requirements are as follows:

  • A bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA (grade point average) or its foreign equivalent at an accredited college or university
  • Submission of a personal statement
  • Submission of a tentative course list related to the area intended to be pursued as a concentration
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Application fee: $125 (Waived for Lehman alumni)
  • No GREs required

Q. What should I write in my personal statement?
A. You should tell us why you have decided to pursue a MALS degree and what you hope to accomplish with it, both while you're pursuing the degree and after you finish.. This should include at least some discussion of your previous coursework and (if relevant) your employment history and/or volunteer activities.

Q. What is an "Area of Concentration"?
A. This is not the same as an undergraduate major. You cannot, for instance, pick Psychology or Sociology as your area of concentration. Instead, it should be a topic or problem that can be studied from more than one disciplinary perspective. For instance, if you're interested in the provision of healthcare, you could take courses in Anthropology, Health Education, Sociology, and History that provide you with different "angles" on this topic. A full list of departments that offer MALS-eligible electives is provided on our website.

Q. Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?
A. Ideally, at least one of your letters should be from a professor who knows you well and can discuss your academic qualifications. If you have been out of school for a long time, you should ask an employer or other associate who can discuss your writing ability and your ability to meet deadlines.

Q. What if my undergraduate GPA is below 3.0?
A. In exceptional cases students with a cumulative undergraduate GPA below 3.0 may apply special petition. You should indicate any extenuating circumstances and be prepared to provide a writing sample.

Q. Can I transfer credits from other MA programs?
A. Yes, in some cases. Up to 12 transfer credits can be approved on a case-by-case basis by the Academic Director of MALS and the Graduate Studies Office. You must have received at least a B in the course and the course needs to qualify as "liberal studies."

Q. How much does it cost to attend Lehman College and is there any financial aid available?
A. Please click here for current information about Lehman College tuition and fees.

Unfortunately, there is no special financial aid available for MALS students. Students are encouraged to apply for Pell and TAP grants. For further information regarding dates, eligibility, forms, and documentation required or financial aid, call or visit Lehman’s Financial Aid Office, located in Shuster Hall 136.