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M.A. in History

Application for Fall 2024 Open until Feb. 15

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Program Overview

  • 2-year, full-time program
  • Thesis option or comprehensive exams
  • Choices from ancient to contemporary history
  • Geographic specialties
  • Research opportunities with internationally recognized faculty
  • Preparation for Ph.D. programs
  • Preparation for teaching, government, museum work, or policy research and advocacy

The History Department has two M.A. programs: a thesis option and a non-thesis option. The latter requires additional coursework and written comprehensive exams in lieu of a thesis. Under either option, students can choose from a wide variety of major fields, ranging from ancient to contemporary history and including many geographic areas. Degree requirements under either option can be completed in two academic years. Most M.A. students in the department choose the thesis option. Students should select this option if they plan to pursue a Ph.D. degree or other advanced academic training.

Career Opportunities: The M.A. program prepares students for a Ph.D. program in history or for a variety of careers, including positions in teaching, government, museum work, or policy research and advocacy.

Adviser & Planning Form

All M.A. students should have a faculty adviser, with whom they consult on a regular basis about their program of study. The adviser is a faculty member whose expertise coincides with the student’s major field of study. The M.A. fields are listed on the M.A. program page on the History Department website. Entering students have a provisional adviser. A student’s interests may evolve after beginning the M.A. program, and it is possible to change advisers. A student who changes his or her adviser should inform the graduate office. Any such change, of course, also involves consultation with the old and new advisers and securing their consent. See Faculty Research Areas.

In consultation with their adviser, M.A. students should complete the M.A. planning form (thesis or non-thesis) and file a copy with the History Department's graduate office. Student should update the planning form whenever making changes in their course of study. Students often fulfill degree requirements by taking different courses than originally expected. Such changes occur for many reasons, and it is always difficult, if not impossible, to know which courses will be offered a year or more in advance.

Keep a copy of the planning form on your computer and email copies to the graduate secretary and your faculty adviser. Each time you make a change in your planning form, email the revised version to both. However you maintain your planning form, please make sure that the History Department graduate office always has the current version.

Degree Requirements

Both thesis and non-thesis M.A. students must successfully complete a research seminar. For those working in U.S. history, the seminar is usually offered every year; for those in modern European history, every other year; for those in pre-modern fields and nonwestern history, by arrangement.

In general, M.A. students do not have to satisfy a language requirement. At the discretion of a thesis supervisor, however, a student may be required to demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English if necessary to his or her degree program, particularly in European, Latin American, and other non-US fields of history. Students who take a non-thesis M.A. degree have no language requirement. 

Thesis Option

The thesis option requires the completion of seven graduate-level courses, including a one-semester research seminar, plus a thesis. Thesis-option candidates must choose a major field (three courses) and a minor field (two courses) from the following areas of concentration:

  • United States
  • Modern Europe
  • Early Modern Europe
  • Antiquity/Medieval Europe
  • Latin America
  • Africa
  • Southeast Asia
  • East Asia
  • Middle East

Within these areas of concentration students develop a chronological, national, or thematic focus. This enables students to complete both the major and minor fields within the same area of concentration, although many students complete the major and minor fields in different areas of concentration. Students admitted to the Contemporary History Institute may use the two required courses in that program to satisfy the minor field.

Non-Thesis Option

The non-thesis option requires the completion of eight graduate-level courses:

  • Six courses split between two fields of three courses each
  • A historiography course
  • And a one-semester research seminar

At the end of the program the student must take written, comprehensive examinations in two fields of three courses he or she has selected. The exams will be based on the student’s coursework in those fields. The available fields are the same as those in the thesis option. (See the list above.)

Language Requirement

There is no language requirement under either option. However, a thesis supervisor may require a student to demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English if necessary for the completion of his or her degree program. This is typically the case in thesis-option fields outside U.S. or British history. For instance, a student pursuing a thesis-option M.A. in German history would be expected to use German language sources in writing his or her thesis.