Career Preparation

What do our alumni say?

SF State history faculty are proud that our alumni speak highly of the program, even years after graduation.  Here are some representative comments about how the program helped them grow intellectually.

“Accepted to the MA program, I embarked on a truly life-changing five-semester journey. Rigorous, demanding, and immensely gratifying, the program fundamentally reshaped my worldview, provided a deep foundation for critical thought and analysis, and galvanized my work ethic such that I felt beyond confident stepping into the workforce upon graduation.”
Ron Alper, MA 

“I started the MA program in history at SFSU because back then I was somehow thinking that I needed to learn how to read history if I wanted to pursue a career in social sciences. The MA program taught me not only how to read history but also why it is really important to know how to read history.  Because I was an international student and it was the first time I was away from my country, I had millions of questions in my mind that the faculty never hesitated to answer.  I remember Prof. Loomis explaining to me the difference between the Muni and BART.  Thanks to their support, I spent two great years there, learned a lot and enjoyed learning a lot.”
Ceren Demirdögdü, MA

“I have always loved history but it wasn't until I got to SF State that I really could understand the subject. Getting my BA made me learn how to read history, but it was through the MA program that I learned how to understand the study of history. I found the faculty would always take the time for my questions. It wasn't easy but I truly believe that taking the MA program was one of my most rewarding periods of my life.”
Ivan Sordo, MA

“The MA program certainly changed how I think of history and what it means to be a historian. I consider my time in the program one of the most intellectually rewarding things I've done.  I had plenty of opportunities to work on improving my writing skills as well as developing critical thinking skills. The graduate seminars, and especially History 700 (History as a Field of Knowledge) exposed me to a range of theories and methodologies to bring to bear not just in the course of researching topics in history, but in viewing and thinking about many topics wherever they come up. I also want to add that none of this would have been possible without the superb mentorship from the history department faculty.”
Peter Spangler, MA 

What can you do with an MA in history from SF State?

SF State’s MA program in history prepares students for a variety of careers, in public history, teaching (secondary and university level), in publishing, and law, among others.  We have increased our commitment to career preparation by a Professional Development requirement, consisting of at least two courses in a skill to aid in the study of history and to prepare for future study or employment.  For students intending PhD study, this skill might be a foreign language, but students can also choose from courses in digital history, oral and public history, college teaching, Museum Studies, or an internship at a local historical association, archive, or museum.  After graduation, some students choose to apply to PhD programs or earn teaching credentials, but the majority use their MA in history in a wide variety of fields where skills in critical thinking, research, and writing are especially valuable.

The department has an active internship program.  We also provide career workshops and maintain contacts with alumni who can act as mentors to current students.

Below are some paths that MA history alumni have chosen.

PhD Programs

Over the years, the SF State MA program in history has been successful in placing our students in some of the top doctoral programs in the U.S., including Columbia, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, and UC Santa Cruz.  In 2004, the American Historical Association conducted a study that found that SF State’s history department sent more students to PhD programs than any other MA-only-granting institution.  (We came in fourth, but the top three were PhD-granting institutions.)  The AHA has not repeated the study since, so we don’t know how our numbers hold up, but feedback from our alumni suggest that our program prepares students exceptionally well for doctoral study. 

Here are some comments from recent alumni:

"My two and a half years as an MA student at San Francisco State University provided me with a comprehensive introduction to many of the key questions, debates, and methodologies of the historical discipline over the past one hundred fifty years and, equally as important, opened up an intellectual world of curiosity and exploration which continues to impact and shape my professional development and worldview in positive ways. By the time I arrived at UC Santa Barbara, where I am now pursuing my PhD in modern Italian history, I was able to carry myself with confidence in my reading and research seminars, due largely to my professional development while at SFSU." 
Brian Griffith, MA 200x, PhD candidate in Italian history, UC Santa Barbara

"Collaborating with the wonderful faculty in the history department was invaluable in helping me to find my voice and develop my role as an historical scholar. It is no understatement to say that I would not be where I am without my time at SFSU.”
Julie M. Powell, MA, Phd Candidate in Modern European History at The Ohio State University.

“The History program at SF State definitely prepared me for the rigors of PhD level work. I learned how to conduct independent, original research while also gaining a strong background in the historiography of Africa and modern European imperialism. The program gave me a solid understanding of historical methods and theory and also gave me ample time to improve my writing. I was able to publish a chapter in an edited volume that was based on a seminar paper I wrote while I was in the program. Upon entering the PhD program at Stanford I felt I was more prepared than many of my peers due to the training I had at SFSU. I also learned the importance of networking and discussing your work with people from disparate fields. I had an amazingly supportive and talented cohort during my time there. Six years later, many of my fellow SFSU History MA graduates remain close friends and trusted colleagues. We regularly share information, discuss our work and support each other as we pursue our various career goals.” 
Rachael Hill, MA, PhD candidate, Stanford University

"My Master of Arts in U.S. History from SF State has proved to be an invaluable asset as I earn my PhD in U.S. History from UC Berkeley. The rigorous academic coursework of SF State's M.A. program in History allowed me an opportunity not only to hone my analytical skills, but also to determine whether academia, as a profession, was the right fit for me.  Additionally, the faculty and staff that make up SF State's History Department provided fantastic academic advice and professional guidance throughout my two and a half years in the program.  Honestly, I do not believe I would have been accepted at UC Berkeley, or be as successful within my program as I am currently, if I had not previously earned my M.A. in U.S. History from SF State."
Russ Weber, MA, PhD student, UC Berkeley

Community College Teaching

Some of our alumni have chosen to teach history at the community college level, for which an MA degree is sufficient.  We currently have alumni in full-time positions at Santa Rosa Junior College, Diablo Valley College, City College of San Francisco, Cañada College, and Ohlone College, and in part-time positions in the Bay Area and beyond.

Here’s what they have to say about their preparation:

“I embarked upon an academic career after a decade working in the corporate world, enrolling at San Francisco State University in 2002. At SFSU I earned a B.A. in European History in 2003 and an M.A. in World History in 2005.  The best decision I ever made was to enroll at San Francisco State to change careers. I purposely left a well paid corporate career to teach history and I’ve never looked back. I rate the SFSU History Department very highly and have fond memories of learning in the department.”
John Corbally, MA, instructor, Diablo Valley College

"Taking comprehensive courses at San Francisco State, where I could learn about History as a both a field of academic inquiry and as a teaching practice, gave me a strong foundation for the classroom and beyond"
Aliyah Dunn-Salahuddin, MA, department chair, African-American Studies, City College of San Francisco

Secondary School Teaching

The SF State history MA program trains middle- and high-school history teachers, both working and aspiring.  Those with a teaching credential typically seek employment in public schools; those without in private schools.  An MA is not necessary for a secondary-school teaching career but it enhances knowledge and increases teachers’ pay.

Here’s what our alumni who teach high school or middle school found valuable about their MA degree:

“The most valuable aspect of the MA program is the professors. The small class sizes and accessibility of the faculty allowed me to work closely with professors who pushed me to develop my critical thinking skills and dive into research that I believed was beyond my capabilities.  I emerged from the program a deeper thinker and a far better writer. In my own profession, as a high school history teacher, I apply these skills daily to impart the same joy of history to my own students while also encouraging historical research and analysis.”
Sloane Berman Meyer, MA, teacher, Oakwood High School

Public History

Public history refers to a variety of careers that interpret history for the wider public, for example in museums, historical associations, or oral history programs.  There is no one path to a public history career, but most public historians have at least an MA in history.   

Here are the paths of some of our MA alumni:

"I entered the Master’s in History Program at San Francisco State as a part-time student during a time of transition in my life. I was raising young children and hoping to find both intellectual stimulation and a path into a career in academia or education.  The program far exceeded my expectations, offering top notch faculty who value teaching as well as research, thought-provoking lectures, and challenging literature and research seminars. My advisors provided me with the encouragement and guidance to apply to history PhD programs. I graduated with my PhD from Stanford in 2016.  I’m now working in the field managing a thriving oral history program and preparing the manuscript for my first book."
Natalie Marine Street, MA, PhD Stanford University 2016

“Since 2007, I’ve served as the Deputy Command Historian for the Defense Language Institute at the historic Presidio of Monterey.  As an Army historian, my duties have included writing about DLI and the Army on the Central Coast, helping to manage an archive, representing the Army to the public, and interpreting historic sites and monuments.  The last duty is probably what I am best known for and which I myself enjoy the most doing, which is sharing history with others at the place where its tangible remains are most evident.  Aside from my thesis, what I gained most from my time at SFSU was the knowledge that determination and a good game plan can overcome most obstacles.”
Cameron Binkley, MA 

“I am a proud graduate of SFSU’s Master’s program in History. After SFSU, I continued my studies at the University of Southern California where I earned my doctorate in history in 2000. I went on to publish several articles and books, including, Contacts Desired: Gay and Lesbian Communications and Community, 1940s-1970s (Chicago, 2006). After working as an adjunct instructor at SFSU and UC Berkeley, I accepted a position as a historian/interviewer with what is now called the Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. Since March 2016, I have been the Charles B. Faulhaber Director of the Oral History Center. My studies in history -- at the undergraduate, Master’s, Doctorate levels -- developed in me the skills and knowledge essential to being successful in the work that I currently do. From conducting substantive oral history interviews on a wide variety of topics to running a research office that exists on external funding from foundations and individual donors, I am required to engage with a wide variety of people, to listen closely and learn, and to be able to communicate the value of historical research to people who don’t always understand it themselves. Excellent education in history -- like the kind you get at SFSU -- provides you with the skills to be able to communicate the importance of historical knowledge to the broader public.”
Martin Meeker, MA

Academic publishing:

Academic publishing is another career opportunity for history MA graduates:

As a Subject Matter Expert at Cengage Learning, I collaborate with members of the History Product Team, including editorial, digital production, and back-end engineers, to create the most engaging, interactive, effective, and compelling digital learning solutions for use in history courses in the higher education space. As such, I’ve created a suite of completely digital, primary source-based, activity-driven US History courses that are fundamentally changing the way students learn history by simultaneously helping them satisfy a course’s learning objectives and advancing their proficiency in essential 21st-century skills such as digital literacy and critical thinking.  What did I learn in the history department at SFSU that serves me today?  

The ability to methodically and thoughtfully, yet quickly, digest and synthesize massive amounts of content and data; a true sense of collaboration and collegiality, two of the most sought after “soft skills” by HR departments; impeccable writing skills, a cornerstone of effective communication in the digital realm; an abiding respect for the coexistence of theory and practice.

Ron Alper, MA