Master of Arts in History
The Master of Arts program in History at Virginia Tech provides advanced training in the professional practice of historical scholarship and pedagogy. Our relatively small program is distinguished by its innovative learning environment, where students work closely with faculty in their particular area of specialization. The opportunity to pursue original research is complemented by coursework that provides a grounding in historical methodology combined with broad chronological and geographical content knowledge. Because research and writing are fundamental tenets of the discipline of history, most students complete a thesis as part of their plan of study. In certain cases, a non-thesis option is available as well. The MA requires 30 hours of graduate-level coursework in history and related fields. Most students complete the degree requirements in two years.
Our MA program serves three primary constituencies, preparing students for further graduate work at the doctoral level, for service in a range of public history fields, and for careers as secondary school educators. By preparing broadly-trained practitioners with specialized research expertise, the MA in history also offers an excellent foundation for careers in public relations, journalism, law, and public service. Quite apart from its vocational promise, the serious study of history – a foundational discipline in the humanities – is a source of intellectual enrichment and a lifelong endeavor.
Interdisciplinary Options and PhD Preparation
Interdisciplinarity is a core value of our MA degree and we encourage students to engage in the several interdisciplinary programs with History Department affiliation. Students with advanced proficiency in French, Spanish, or German who have interest and expertise in history are encouraged to apply to the department’s Area Studies Program. The area studies concentration offers an interdisciplinary curriculum in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and the Department of Geography.
The department of history is also an anchor department for the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT), an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech. Students with research interests informed by social or critical theory may pursue a graduate certificate by taking courses approved by the ASPECT program as part of their MA courseload. Students with a special interest in the history of science and technology may arrange to complete a graduate certificate in Science and Technology Studies (STS) through the Department of Science and Technology in Society. Graduates of our MA program are well situated to apply for admission to the PhD programs in ASPECT or STS.
Students interested in advancing to a PhD program are closely mentored in the demands of graduate research and professional etiquette. We encourage students to present their research at professional conferences. Each year the History Graduate Student Association organizes and hosts a conference that attracts graduate students nationally. An annual PhD “bootcamp” for MA students offers advice and guidance through the application process for PhD programs.
Public History through the MA Program
Our graduate program offers specialized training for students seeking careers in public history, preparing them to interpret the past for the public through work in museums, archives, government, and in consulting. In addition to pursuing coursework in public history, oral history, digital history, and historic preservation, students have the opportunity to participate in internship programs with regional public history organizations. Public history training is also advisable for students wishing a broad training in history while making themselves attractive candidates in an ever-narrowing academic job market.
Students in history and in other graduate programs at Virginia Tech also can elect to pursue a specialized 12-credit hour Graduate Certificate in Public History. This certificate complements the Master’s degree and does not add additional time or credit hours to the degree requirements. (For more information about studying public history at the MA level or on the Graduate Certificate in Public History: http://www.history.vt.edu/graduate_students/publichistory.htm )
Secondary Education Option
Students interested in a career in teaching at the secondary school level should consider dual enrollment in History and the graduate licensure program in Social Studies Education <http://www.soe.vt.edu/socialstudiesed/maed.html> , which includes a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. The dual Masters degree program is an intensive program that positions graduates to teach dual enrollment/ dual credit history courses (where high school students receive simultaneous academic credit from both a community college and their high school) and Advanced Placement courses. Students must meet requirements for admission to both programs. Usually a three-year program, many students are able to complete the requirements in two years through summer coursework.
Students wishing to pursue a master’s degree at Virginia Tech are eligible for funding support from the program. Each year the program awards graduate assistantships with tuition remission to a few highly-qualified applicants. These assistantships offer students pre-professional training in historical pedagogy or historical research as they support the work of individual faculty members. Advanced students with graduate assistantships may, if qualified, teach an undergraduate survey course during their last semester in the program. Students interested in careers in library or archival administration should ask to be considered for a Graduate Assistantship in Special Collections at Virginia Tech’s Newman Library.
Applicants with research interests in the causes and consequences of the American Civil War, broadly construed, are encouraged to apply for a Virginia Center for Civil War Studies(VCCWS) Scholarship. Candidates for these scholarships may pursue a wide variety of research approaches (including social, political, cultural, military, or economic history) and topics (including—but not limited to—race, slavery, gender, memory and memorialization, violence, political protest, science and medicine, transformations in everyday life, industrialization). One or two scholarships, in the amount of $5,000 each, will be awarded annually and may be renewed for a second year. Holders of these scholarships are also eligible to hold graduate assistantships. Students who wish to be considered for a VCCWS scholarship should complete the application process for admission to the M.A. program in the Department of History and fill out the separate VCCWS Scholarship application form.
The Value of a Master’s Degree from the
American Historical Association
- Retrieving the Master’s Degree from the Dustbin of History - Prepared by Philip M. Katz for the AHA's Committee on the Master’s Degree in History.
- Function of the Master’s Degree in Teaching History - by Helen Grady
- The MA and a Career in Historic Preservation - by Daniel Vivian
- Another View of the Master's Degree: Switching Institutions on the Way to a PhD by Philip M. Katz