FAQs

What can I do with an MA in history?  What do alumni of the program do?

An MA in history is a liberal arts degree that trains students in critical thinking, writing, and research methods that can be used in many different fields.  Our alumni work in a wide range of fields, including as museum curators, public historians, librarians, archivists, and editors.

Some of our MA students choose to continue their study of history at the PhD level.  We are proud of our success in getting students admitted to top-ranked PhD programs across the country including Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC Santa Cruz.

Other MA alumni teach history at the community college level in the Bay Area and beyond, and some are high school teachers.  For students interested in a teaching career, we offer a course (College Teaching of History) that combines pedagogical theory with training in the classroom.

Why should I come to SF State for my MA in history?

The MA program in history at SF State is highly ranked and nationally recognized.  We offer a broad range of courses organized around diverse regions, periods, and themes.  Students also have opportunities to customize the curriculum to meet their particular academic and career goals. Our engaged and dedicated faculty provide individual attention and mentorship of MA students.

Department of History faculty are also active scholars with expertise in a number of thematic areas, including social justice movements, slavery, gender and sexuality, imperialism, and religion.

The study of history in San Francisco also allows students to conduct research in on-campus archives, such as the Labor Archives and the Frank V. de Bellis Collection, as well as in outside archives, including the California Historical Society, the Bancroft Library, and the Hoover Institution.

How do I apply?

The CSU is updating its graduate admissions procedures this summer in order to offer fully online admissions. The new system will be available on August 1, 2017. To apply, you will need to submit transcripts, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a writing sample and a statement of purpose. All the nuts and bolts are explained in detail in the 'Apply' section of this website.

When do I apply?  When will I know if I got in?

There are two application cycles.  If you wish to enter in the fall semester, all materials must be submitted by February 15.  If you wish to enter in the spring semester, all materials must be submitted by October 15.  You will hear whether you have been admitted approximately one month after the deadline.

What are the requirements for admission?

To qualify for the program, you should have at least a 3.35 GPA in your last 60 units of degree study and at least a 4.0 on the analytical (writing) portion of the GRE.  If you do not meet these minimums, you may still qualify for conditional admission if your letters of recommendation and writing sample show exceptional promise.  The university does require a 3.0 GPA in order to forward your application to the department for consideration.

Can I still apply if I wasn’t a history major in college?

Yes!  But we do require that you have some background in history.  We ask that you have taken at least four upper-division courses in history (12 semester units; 20 quarter units), one of which was a course in historical methods.  Students who did not take history courses as undergraduates sometimes take additional coursework via Open University at SF State or elsewhere before applying.  If you are unsure whether you qualify for admission, please contact Prof. Sarah Curtis.

I am interested in earning an MA in history after pursuing a career.  Do you admit returning or older students?

The MA program in history enrolls students at all stages of life.  Although the majority have received a BA within the past five years, we have numerous students who take up graduate study in history after (or while) doing something else.  We find that returning and older students add a great deal to the classroom experience.

Who can I work with?  Who will be my advisor?

All tenure-track and tenured professors are also graduate faculty.  A full list can be found in the 'People' section of this website.  You can click on individual names for full faculty profiles.  You may also take upper-division classes or undergraduate seminars with adjunct faculty (lecturers), but they do not teach graduate seminars or serve on graduate exam or thesis committees.

All general advising for the MA program (requirements, paperwork, course selection) is done by the two graduate coordinators, Professors Sarah Curtis and Jessica Elkind.  Specific advice on fields of study, PhD programs, career options and so forth is done by all graduate faculty.  You will not be assigned a specific advisor, but you will form a committee of three faculty members for your comprehensive exams or thesis in your final semester.

What classes will I take?

The program consists of ten courses (30 units). Seven of these courses (21 units) must be graduate units (courses numbered 700 and above). All entering graduate students take History 700 (History as a Field of Knowledge and History 705 (Approaches to History). Students must complete four additional graduate courses (12 units) and three additional courses (12 units) chosen either from upper-division, proseminar (Hist 640, 642, 644), or graduate courses. All graduate students receive three graduate units for their comprehensive exams or thesis at the end of their program.

For their remaining coursework, students choose a program of study that meets their personal and career goals. It should include reading and research seminars, as well as seminars before and after 1800, and seminars in at least two geographical fields. 

In general, MA students take two courses for graduate credit and one upper-division course each of their first three semesters. 

View a list of recently offered graduate seminars.

Full information on the program requirements can be found in the 'Program Requirements' section of this website.

Can I take courses outside of the Department of History?

You may take up to two courses (6 units) outside of the SF State Department of History to include in your 30-unit program.  This includes courses in other departments (provided they have historical content) and at other universities.  Students often take a course or two in departments such as International Relations, Political Science, Classics, Sexuality Studies, or Women and Gender Studies.  We also have an agreement with UC Berkeley that allows you to take a limited number of courses there for no additional charge.

Any language or other courses taken to fulfill the auxiliary skill requirement fall outside of the 6-unit maximum.

What is the Auxiliary Skill requirement?

Each MA candidate is expected to have one skill to aid in her or his historical study. In almost all cases, this skill will be a reading knowledge of a foreign language; but, upon advisement, a candidate may design a two-semester course of study in another skill (such as statistics) that is relevant to his or her research.

Most graduate programs in history, including ours, require students to have intermediate facility in a language other than English.  This is because historians regularly use primary and secondary sources in other languages to do their work.  This is even true of specialists in US history.  If you are native speaker of another language or have already studied another language at a university-level through the second year, you have already fulfilled the language requirement. 

If not, you can take the coursework at SF State (or elsewhere) or pass a translation exam if you have an equivalent knowledge of the language (3-4 years of high school instruction, for example). 

We strongly urge students planning to apply for a PhD in the future to begin their study of the appropriate languages for their field.

 

What other activities does the Department of History offer?

The graduate students in the department are usually a tight-knit group.  Most are members of the History Students Association (also open to undergraduates), which organizes social and scholarly events such as workshops, movie nights, and so forth.  Graduate students also publish Ex Post Facto, a journal that showcases student essays and articles, and organize a student conference every spring.

The graduate advisors offer fall workshops on applying to PhD programs and writing statements of purpose.  We also offer occasional roundtables on high school and community college teaching and on alternative careers for historians.

During the academic year, there are also talks and panels on issues of historical interest, for example, the Jules Tygiel Forum on World Affairs in September, Constitution Day, and a full agenda of events sponsored by the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability Studies

How long will it take me to finish the MA?

The MA program is designed to be completed in two years.  In their first three semesters, students usually take three courses (or 9 units) plus any language study.  During their final semester, students prepare for and take comprehensive exams or write a thesis (thesis writers often take an additional semester).

Some students who have heavy work or familial obligations choose to take longer than four semesters to complete the MA.   It is also possible to take off a single semester and return to the program without reapplying.  The university requires that all MA students complete their program’s requirements within seven years (very few students ever run up against this rule!).

How can I pay for the MA?

The Department of History has a small amount of money available for fellowships ranging between $1,000 and $2,500 to help defray tuition costs.  All entering and continuing students are considered automatically for these fellowships; no specific application is necessary.  All students can also apply to grade exams for lower-division surveys for a small stipend.  The department also supports student travel to conferences at which they are presenting papers. 

History MA students have also been successful in winning university and college fellowships.  You can find more information on these scholarships as well a addtional scholarships offered through Academic Works.

All applicants are urged to contact the Office of Financial Aid to determine their eligibility for grants, loans, and work-study funding.

There are a limited number of tuition scholarships for students applying from out-of-state.

Many students continue to work part-time while enrolled in the program.  Graduate seminars are usually scheduled after 4 p.m. in order to accommodate work schedules.

Who can I talk to if I have more questions about the program?

Please email one of the graduate advisors: Professor Sarah Curtis or Professor Jessica Elkind