MA in American Studies


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The Master of Arts in American Studies provides students opportunities for pre-professional training in their chosen specialty. Through challenging courses and in-depth research, students delve into topics like architecture, popular music, immigration and borders and racial and gender equality in American culture.

The general MA option prepares students for a variety of careers or advanced work in another PhD program, while the museums and material culture concentration incorporates courses at the Smithsonian Institution.


MA Program Tracks

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General Studies Concentration (30 credits)

Students focus on cultural history and the analysis of cultural productions, including visual and textual materials, the social construction of identities and communities, transnational migrations and cultural flows, political and social movements, media and religious beliefs.

Museum statute of a man

Museums and Material Culture Concentration (30 credits)

Against the backdrop of cultural institutions like the Smithsonian Institution and the National Register of Historic Places, students gain expertise and pre-professional training in cultural resource management.


"GW’s location in Washington, D.C., is perfect for exploring and finding a job … I took a class at the National Museum of American History during my first semester and ended up working there all summer ."

Meghan Plate

MA '16

Application Requirements


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Prior to entering the MA program, candidates should have taken at least one yearlong course beyond the introductory level in American Studies or American social, cultural or intellectual history in preparation for graduate study. Applicants lacking this academic background can be admitted to the program with the understanding that they will take the appropriate courses as prerequisites during the first academic year in which they are enrolled; such prerequisite courses, however, do not count toward degree requirements.

Applicants should note that GW requires a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA from master’s program applicants. Learn more about recommendations and statement of purpose requirements on GW’s Graduate Program Finder. The GRE general exam is not required for the MA program.

See Application Requirements Details

Application Deadlines

Fall Admissions: April 1 (regular applications), February 1 (fellowship applications)

Spring Admissions: October 1

Scholarships and Funding


Required Seminar

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All MA students must complete at least two approved research seminars offered by the Department of American Studies or another academic department within GW.

During each seminar, students produce an original, 25–35 page, primary source-based research essay of publishable quality. Students should consult with the director of graduate studies each semester to identify appropriate courses for fulfilling this requirement.

Optional Thesis

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MA students are not required to complete a thesis. However, in exceptional circumstances and with the consent of the director of the student’s concentration (when applicable) and the potential thesis director, students may petition the director of graduate studies to substitute six credits of thesis research for two of their required courses.

Students interested in this option should meet with the director of graduate studies no later than the middle of the semester prior to the semester in which they plan to write the thesis. Permission will be granted according to the student’s academic performance, the quality of the research paper produced and the usefulness of the thesis as preparation for future professional work.

Suggested Plan of Study

To choose courses that will fulfill the requirements for the degree, students should meet with the graduate program advisor in their concentration at least once each semester. This faculty advisor will assist students in formulating a coherent program of study.

This plan of study is designed with full-time students in mind. Part-time students will have to adjust the schedule in consultation with the director of graduate studies to fit their individual program.

  • Complete three graduate seminars in American Studies or related departments (chosen in consultation with the director of graduate studies)
  • Complete one designated research seminar (suggested)
  • Complete four graduate seminars in American Studies or related departments. Full-time students should plan on three courses in the fall and one in the spring.
  • Complete all remaining research and core requirements

Course Requirements

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

Completion of course and other requirements in either general studies or in the museums and material culture concentration.

General studies—30 credits, including a 3-credit required course, 6 credits in research seminar courses, and 21 credits in elective courses; museums and material culture concentration—30 credits, including 6 credits in required courses, 6 credits in research seminars, and 18 credits in elective courses.

General studies requirements

AMST 6100Scope and Methods in American Studies
At least six credits in research seminars. This may include AMST 6195 taken twice or other approved research courses.
A minimum of 21 credits in elective courses pertaining to the study of American culture approved by the department. These may include graduate courses in anthropology, English, fine arts and art history, geography, history, media and public affairs, and political science.
An optional thesis (AMST 6999) may be undertaken for 6 credits as part of these 21 credits.

Concentration in museums and material culture requirements

This concentration, offered in association with the Smithsonian Institution, emphasizes the use of physical objects and spaces in historical research.

AMST 6100Scope and Methods in American Studies
AMST 6710American Material Culture
At least 6 credits in designated research seminars.
At least 18 additional credits in courses pertaining to the study of American culture, museum studies, and museum education