Master of Arts in History

Program Overview

The Department of History is not accepting applications at this time. Please contact Director of Graduate Education Kathy Hilliard [] with questions.

Our Master of Arts program provides beginning graduate scholars the chance to pursue their own areas of interest, studying and researching the past under the personal direction of leading historians. Students participate in challenging seminars, complete a thesis or project grounded in original research, and have the opportunity to interact with other historians through talks, colloquia, conferences, and internships.

Completion of an MA thesis or project culminates students’ achievements at the MA level. This capstone allows degree candidates to demonstrate original research and mastery of professional methods. Successful completion of the MA degree provides students with skills and professionalization vital for success at the doctoral level, opens doors to professional careers in history-related fields, and frequently leads to the publication of research in historical journals and other forms.


First semester of Residence:

All new students shall confer with the Director of Graduate Education (DoGE) during the registration period.  The DoGE serves as the student’s advisor until a major advisor is selected.

Second semester of Residence:

Each student shall choose a tenure-line faculty member as their major advisor. Together they must select an advisory Program of Study (POS) Committee. This committee shall consist of at least three members, including the student’s advisor and one member who comes from outside the Department of History. Following consultation with the advisory committee, the student must submit a Program of Study. The committee members coordinate the examination procedures, and should come to a clear understanding with the candidate well before oral examinations on the areas to be examined. (See detailed descriptions of options under Plans I-III.) All committee members participate in the oral examination.


While pursuing their course work, students must be mindful of the following general requirements of their study:

  • Maximum course load: 12 credits per semester; graduate teaching assistants may take no more than 9 credits.

  • Grades: A student must earn grades of ‘B’ or higher in all work at the graduate level in order to remain in good standing. Grades lower than ‘B’ will be cause for departmental review of the student’s status.

  • Coursework: At least 30 credits of acceptable work, at least 21 of which must be in history. Students may take up to 9 credits of 400-level courses for graduate credit, or in rare cases 6 credits of 400-level courses and 3 credits of 300-level courses, although no history graduate student may take a 300-level history course for graduate credit. Also, no history graduate student may use Hist 490, 495, or 498 for graduate credit, and no more than 6 credits of History 590, Special Topics, may be included in the minimum 30 credits submitted for the degree.


There are two plans for meeting requirements for the MA degree. Plan I is recommended for students intending to continue on to a Ph.D. program, either immediately or at some point after the MA, although students seeking a terminal MA may also pursue Plan I if they desire. This plan emphasizes field readings and original research. Plan II is intended for students seeking a terminal master’s degree and is designed for students pursuing or currently employed outside of academia such as those in secondary education, public history, and community and regional planning. It emphasizes field readings, some research, and specially-designed projects appropriate to a student’s particular goals.

Plan I – Thesis Option

This plan requires students to complete at least 24-27 credits of course work and 3-6 credits of research (HIST 699) leading to a master’s thesis. In consultation with their major professor and with the approval of their POS committee, students will elect to undertake either a longer thesis (usually 60-90 pages, 6 credits of HIST 699) or a shorter thesis (ca. 30 pages, 3 credits of HIST 699). A longer thesis is a multi-chapter work. A shorter thesis aims at producing the equivalent of a publishable scholarly article. As part of their course work, students who undertake a longer thesis must complete at least 9 credits in graduate seminars, 3 credits of which must be in a research seminar (see below). Students who undertake a shorter thesis must complete at least 12 credits in graduate seminars, 6 credits of which must be in research seminars.

Plan II – Non-Thesis Option

This plan requires students to complete at least 24 credits of course work and 6 credits of “creative component” (HIST 599). The creative component will consist of two parts: extending a seminar paper through additional original research (3 credits), and another project appropriate to the student’s educational or career goals, developed in consultation with the major professor and approved by the POS committee (e.g. this might include the development of a history-focused website, a museum exhibit, or a course design). As part of their course work, students must complete at least 9 credits in graduate seminars, 3 credits of which must be in a research seminar (see below).

Graduate Seminars

Graduate seminars are defined as 500- and 600-level courses which generally fall into one of two categories: 1) readings seminars that focus on major works of scholarship in particular fields and 2) research seminars that involve significant original research. Directed readings and individualized special topics courses do not count as seminars.


Oral exam

Following completion of all coursework and of the the research component, for students following Plan I, or the creative component, for students following Plan II, the student shall schedule an oral defense before the advisory committee following rules and timelines defined by the Graduate College. This will consist of a two-hour exam, and the committee will award a “no pass,” “weak pass,” “pass,” or “pass with distinction.” Students who fail the exam can retake it in the following semester, but a second failure will result in dismissal from the program.


A student may take a minor field, which will usually consist of 9 credits of 400- and 500-level courses in a complementary discipline or combination of disciplines. If all credits are taken in history, the student, in consultation with the major professor, should select a distribution of courses outside the major emphasis.


  1. During the registration period of the first semester in residence, students will confer with the Director of Graduate Education.
  2. Early in the second semester of residence, students must select a major professor and, in consultation with the major professor, a Program of Study (POS) Committee
  3. Early in the second semester of residence, in consultation with the POS Committee, the student must submit a Program of Study (POS)
  4. Early in the second semester of residence, students must select their thesis topic or the topics for their creative components, depending on the program they pursue.
  5. By the middle of the semester preceding the semester of graduation, a student must submit a diploma slip.


Graduate students in the History Department’s Master’s Degree Program may be dismissed for the following reasons:

  1. Failure to identify a major professor and committee of study within twelve months of admission.
  2. Failure to file a Program of Study form within twelve months of admission.
  3. Failure to earn a grade of B or above in any course.
  4. Inability to meet program requirements in a timely manner.
  5. Failure to complete the degree requirements in three years or five summer sessions.
  6. The Director of Graduate Education will notify the student in writing of his or her deficiencies and meet to decide the disposition of the case. The student will be notified in writing of the outcome.
  7. Dismissals may be appealed to the Chair of the History Department, who will notify the student in writing of the outcome.
  8. The dismissal of part-time students will be determined by the program director in consultation with the program committee.


The History Department is unfortunately not able to guarantee any funding for students in the general MA program. Departmental resources are limited, and priority is given to students in the more specialized RATE program. If some funding opportunities remain after those obligations are met, the department may offer funding to select MA program students on a competitive basis. Because departmental needs, as well as resources, change from year to year, funding offered in one year may not be continued into the next.