The History Department offers a master's program that qualifies students for employment in a number of fields, including teaching, government, and museum work. In past years a substantial number of people admitted to our program have ultimately gone on to pursue the Ph.D.
Prospective students should be aware that funding opportunities for masters students are limited, as Graduate School regulations stipulate that master's students in departments that offer doctorates cannot be awarded teaching assistantships or similar forms of funding.
For more information on applying to our graduate program, see the admissions page.
Tracks and Requirements
The History Department offers two separate M.A. tracks to meet the differing needs of our students:
1. Professional Track
The professional track is designed for both social studies teachers who need a master's degree for professional certification and those seeking advanced preparation for careers government service, journalism, and other fields that demand a combination of research, writing skills, and knowledge of the past. This program provides a stronger grounding in history than do master's programs in liberal studies and teaching. Students benefit from exposure to doctoral students, but are are not required to take courses designed for Ph.D. candidates.
The professional track is also open to individuals seeking personal enrichment, whether or not history is directly related to their occupation. Students may enter the program in either the fall or spring semester and may enroll on either a full- or part-time basis.
Students in this track can earn their degree either through coursework alone or by choosing to write a 6-credit master's thesis. The thesis will give students the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic of interest using primary sources.
Students can also take up to 6 credits of content-based pedagogy courses, and we hope to be able to offer such courses as Teaching American History through Popular Culture, Introduction to Economics Education, and Teaching Geography.
Students must begin the program in Fall semester.
• Three field seminars (9 credits)
• Two theme seminars (6 credits)
• The remaining 15 credits can be selected from Field Seminars, Theme Seminars, directed studies and graduate courses offered in conjunction with other departments (e.g., Sociology, Africana Studies, and Cultural Analysis and Theory); there is also an option for a Master's thesis (6 credits)
• Total credits: 30
2. Academic Track
The academic track is designed for individuals who aspire to a career in teaching
or writing history at the college level, but who are not yet ready to enter a Ph.D.
program. Students in the academic track are required to enroll in the two-semester
Core Seminar in historical theory and research and generally follow the course of
study of incoming doctoral (Ph.D.) students. Students are only admitted to this track
for studies beginning in the fall.
Students in this track are expected to develop a concentration in a region or period, or in an interdisciplinary field, and to conduct research in this area of concentration in the Core Seminar.
As with the professional track, students in the academic track can earn their degree either through coursework alone or by choosing to write a 6-credit master's thesis. The thesis will give students the opportunity to conduct independent research on a topic of interest using primary sources.
Students must begin the program in Fall semester.
• Core seminar (HIS 524/6 & 525/7—6 credits)
• Two field seminars (6 credits)
• Two theme seminars (6 credits)
• The remaining 12 credits can be selected from Field Seminars, Theme Seminars, directed studies and graduate courses offered in conjunction with other departments (e.g., Sociology, Africana Studies, and Cultural Analysis and Theory); there is also an option for a Master's thesis (6 credits)
• Total credits: 30
A. Core seminar (HIS 524/HIS526, HIS 525/HIS 527: 3 credits each semester): This course provides an intensive, year-long introduction to historical theory and research. It also familiarizes students with the thematic organization of the graduate program. All full-time students in the Academic Track of the master's program, as well as in the doctoral (Ph.D.) program, are required to take this course, which is offered only as a fall/spring sequence, during their first year.
B. Two or three field seminars (3 credits each): The department offers a number of Field Seminars designed to familiarize students with the history and historiography of specific regions and periods. These courses include: Medieval and Early Modern Europe (HIS 501) and Modern Europe (502); Early American History (521) and Modern American History (522); Colonial Latin America (541) and Modern Latin America (542), all of which are offered on a one- or two-year cycle. In addition, the following Field Seminars are offered in African and Asian history: Introduction to African and/or Asian History (562), South Asian History (563), Chinese History (564), and Japanese History (565); note that some of these Field Seminars may be offered slightly less frequently. Some Field Seminars are populated with students in the Master of Arts in Teaching program (M.A.T.), as well as with M.A. and Ph.D. students. Master's students in the Academic Track are required to take two field seminars, while master's students in the Professional Track are required to take three field seminars. Students interested in concentrating in the history of a specific region are encouraged, but not required, to complete both parts of the Field Seminar sequence for that region where available.
C. Two theme seminars (3 credits each). The theme seminars are the heart of the department's commitment to the theoretically informed, interdisciplinary study of history. Topics, approaches, and instructors vary, but these seminars generally fall within the rubric of our program's thematic clusters: Gender, Race, and Sexuality; Nation-State, Civil Society, and Popular Politics; Empire, Colonialism, and Globalization; and Environment, Health, Science, and Technology. Master's students in both the Professional and Academic Tracks are required to take two theme seminars. A minimum of two theme seminars are offered each semester. Topics change regularly, and students are free to choose among the theme seminars being offered.
D. Directed readings for M.A. candidates (HIS 584/HIS 585, 3 credits each): Three credits of directed readings will normally be taken in the Fall of the initial year, to enable the student to meet regularly with his or her Advisor and address any deficiencies in preparation for the graduate program. The course may be repeated with the same or other members of the faculty as an elective in later semesters.
E. Four or Five Electives (3 credits each): The remaining 15 credits (for students in the Professional Track) or 12 credits (for students in the Academic Track) can be selected from Field Seminars, Theme Seminars, the graduate courses offered in conjunction with other departments (e.g., Sociology, English, Art History, Africana Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, and Cultural Analysis and Theory), and Directed Readings. Directed Readings may or may not be in connection with preparation for the Oral Exam or for an optional Master's Thesis (see below).
2. Oral Examination
By the time the student has completed 24 credits (e.g. fall semester of his/her second year for a full-time student), he or she must secure the agreement of two faculty members (one of whom must be the student's Advisor) to serve on the orals examination committee. The Advisor will examine the student in his or her major geopolitical field (Modern Europe, Colonial North America, etc.); the second faculty member will examine the student in a complementary field (usually based on a theme seminar). The exam will be taken at the end of the student's course of study. At least two months before the student's desired date for the Oral Exam, the student will present the members of his or her orals committee with a list of books and topics to be examined. Students may enroll in a Directed Readings course (sometimes termed an Orals workshop) to prepare for the examination. Students are responsible for arranging a mutually acceptable date and time for the exam (and for notifying the Graduate Program Coordinator well in advance so that the necessary paperwork can be processed). The exam will last approximately one hour, and it will be graded as "pass with distinction," "pass," or "fail." In the event of failure, the student may petition to take the exam a second time at a later date.
3. Master's Thesis Option
Students may elect to write a master's thesis. While there is no specified length for this, the expectation is that the thesis will be in the range of 40 to 70 pages. Students pursuing this option must enroll in HIS 586 (Orals and Thesis Preparation for M.A. Candidates) and/or HIS 584/585 (Directed Readings for M.A. Candidates). The thesis writing will be supervised by the student's Advisor, and—for students pursuing this option—a substantial portion of the oral examination will be devoted to the defense of the thesis.
4. Language Requirement
Master's students with a concentration in European history must pass a written exam in an appropriate foreign language. Students in Latin American history must pass a written exam in Spanish or Portuguese. The other areas of concentration currently do not require a foreign language for the master's degree.
5. Master's Students Seeking to Enter the Ph.D. Program
Master's students seeking to enter the Ph.D. Program must submit a formal application to the Graduate School. Admission into the Ph.D. program is not guaranteed. Meanwhile, M.A. students are welcome and indeed encouraged to participate in all departmental activities (see below).
6. Advising and Evaluation
When students are accepted into the master's program, they are assigned a first-year Advisor based on the areas of interest indicated by the student in his or her application. Students may change Advisors with the permission of the Graduate Director (of course, the permission of the faculty member who is to be the new Advisor is also required, as is the permission of the original Advisor).
Advisors will meet with new students to discuss program requirements and the student's individual course of study, and they will meet with their advisees on a regular basis as they progress through the program. Ideally, students should consult with their Advisors about their course of study (including general course selection, language requirements, and enrollment in courses outside the department) at the beginning of each semester.
For a complete description of departmental policies on evaluation, including probation and dismissal, see here.