Master of Arts in History

The program offers graduate-level instruction in U.S. history, European history, and World history. In addition to their geographic and chronological specialties, history department faculty are active scholars with expertise in a number of thematic areas, including social justice movements, slavery and emancipation, gender and sexuality, imperialism and religion.

The graduate history program provides students with a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree organized around diverse regions, periods and themes. 

Students 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 our graduate students.

SF State's Graduate Program in History Offers:

  • Nationally recognized M.A. program
  • Engaged faculty of teacher-scholars
  • Broad range of course offerings
  • Two-year M.A. allowing for in-depth and intensive study
  • Part- and full-time schedules
  • Support for various career goals Internship program at local historical archives, societies, and museums
  • TA and grader opportunities
  • Affordability
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The Setting

SF State and the Bay Area are rich in library and other academic resources. The campus library houses more than two million items. The Frank V. de Bellis Collection is a library-museum of classical and Italian authors and subjects representing the civilizations of ancient, Renaissance and modern Italy. The Labor Archives houses important collections for the study of labor in the American west. The Sutro Library, a branch of the California State Library located on the campus, contains a wide range of materials from the fifteenth century to the present.

Other Archives and Libraries located in the Bay Area

The Bay Area also contains many historical agencies where students can obtain on-site experience through an internship. Possibilities include archives, historical museums and agencies for architectural preservation.

Graduate students must take a minimum of 30 units of upper division and graduate coursework. Of these units, at least 21 must be graduate level work (i.e. courses numbered 700 and above). In addition to coursework, the student must satisfy a Culminating Experience Requirement (either a comprehensive examination or a master's thesis and oral defense of thesis) and the Professional Development Requirement.

Students entering the program as of Fall 2017 will have the degree requirements outlined below. Students entering before Fall 2017 can use the requirements in place when they entered OR the requirements below.

The M.A. 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 usually take an additional semester).

Some students who have heavy work or familial obligations choose to take longer than four semesters to complete the M.A. It is also possible to take off a single semester and return to the program without reapplying. The university requires that all M.A. students complete their program’s requirements within seven years.

Coursework

Distribution of courses for History M.A. Degree: 

  • HIST 700 (3 units)
  • HIST 705 (3 units)
  • HIST 710-850 (12 units)
  • Electives on advisement (9 units)
  • HIST 896EXM or 898 (3 units)

Total: 30 units (21 graduate units)

1. Courses common to all history graduate students (6 units)

History 700: History as a Field of Knowledge

  • This course should be taken in the first or second semester of study or in the semester immediately following the successful completion of any conditions attached to admission into the graduate program. It introduces students to history and historiography as practiced by professional historians as well as the reading and writing skills necessary for historical analysis.

History 705: Approaches to History

  • This course should be taken in the second or third semester of study. It introduces students to a specific approach to history through the analysis of historical monographs from a variety of time periods and places. Its specific focus will change from year to year.

Whenever possible, History 700 should be taken before History 705.

2. Graduate courses (12 units)

Students are required to take 12 additional graduate units (4 courses), generally from courses numbered History 701 to History 850 or History 899 (graduate-level proseminar/independent study). These courses should be distributed as follows:

  • At least one reading seminar
  • At least one research seminar
  • At least one seminar covering topics before 1800
  • At least one seminar covering topics after 1800
  • Seminars must cover at least two geographical fields selected among Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the United States.

Students may count a single course for both chronological and geographical distribution.

Students may substitute HIST 899 Independent Study for one of these requirements. This can include a proseminar (HIST 696) taken as HIST 899.

Courses may be repeated for credit provided the topic is not repeated.

3. Electives (9 units)

Students are required to take 9 additional units, which can be drawn from upper-division, proseminar, or graduate history courses. Under advisement, students are encouraged to design a program that best meets their academic and career goals.

4. Courses outside the department

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

Students who plan on including courses outside of the department in their program of study should consult with a graduate coordinator before enrolling in the course.

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

5. History 785: College Teaching of History

The department offers a course on College Teaching of History for students who are interested in university-level teaching, either as community college instructors or in Ph.D. programs. In this course, students are assigned teaching assistantship positions in lower- or upper-division courses while also meeting with other teaching assistants and the coordinator of the program to discuss pedagogy and methods in six required workshops.

To qualify for the program, students must have successfully completed History 700, have successfully completed 12 additional History units, and be carrying a 3.35 overall GPA.

Students may substitute HIST 785 College Teaching of History for one graduate seminar if they complete their teaching assistantship in an upper-division course.  If they complete the teaching assistantship in a lower-division course, they may substitute it for an elective course.  Alternatively, they may use HIST 785 for Professional Development credit (see below).

Professional Development

Each M.A. candidate is expected to have one skill to aid in her or his study of history and to prepare for future study or employment. In many cases, this skill will be a reading knowledge of a foreign language, but the department offers some alternatives to language study, as outlined below.  The courses taken for this requirement are in addition to the 30 units of historical study.

Students must file a Completion of Specified Graduate Requirements form when they have completed their Professional Development requirement. It is the responsibility of each student to inform the graduate coordinators that he or she has satisfied this requirement (this includes students who are native speakers of a language other than English). Once the student has done so, one of the graduate coordinators will prepare this form on behalf of the student.

The department strongly urges students planning to apply for a Ph.D. in the future to begin their study of the appropriate languages for their field.

Professional Development course options:

  • Two semesters (at least 3 units each) of foreign language on the intermediate level or above.  Evaluation may be by either coursework or examination.  Native speakers of a language other than English are exempt from this requirement.
    • To complete the requirement through coursework, the student should take (or have taken) at least six semester units of advanced-level courses (through at least the second semester of the second year) in a given language. Comprehension of the language needs to be current; the coursework must have been completed within the last seven years. The courses do not have to be completed at SF State; community colleges usually offer the level of coursework that will satisfy the language requirement.
    • To complete the requirement through examination, students must pass a translation examination administered by the faculty of the Department of History once a semester (typically during the first or second week of classes.)

OR

  • Two semesters (at least 3 units each) drawn from the following courses:
    • History 303 (Introduction to Oral and Public History: The Bay Area)*
    • History 304 Teaching History With Comics
    • History 660  (Digital History)*
    • History 785 (College Teaching of History)*
    • History 880 (Historical Internship)
    • History 890 (Ex Post Facto): managing editors only
    • Relevant courses in Museum Studies, Academic Advising, Statistics, Computer Science, Geography, Linguistics (see Graduate Coordinators for list of courses)

*These courses may be included in the 30-unit history program if the Professional Development requirement is fulfilled in some other way.

Culminating Experience

Each M.A. student will complete a culminating experience in his or her final semester. Students must possess a minimum grade point average of 3.0 when they enroll in the Culminating Experience, and they may have no remaining Incompletes at that time.

The Culminating Experience choices are:

  • M.A. Comprehensive Examination (History 896EXM)
  • M.A. Thesis (History 898)

Whether a student chooses the comprehensive examination or the thesis option depends on his or her personal and career goals. The graduate coordinators are happy to discuss the pros and cons of each option.

Comprehensive Examination in History (History 896EXM)

Most history M.A. candidates take the Comprehensive Examination. This written examination is given toward the end of each semester, the exact date varying according to the academic calendar.  In the semester prior to taking the exam, the student will select an examining committee of three members of the graduate history faculty. The members of the exam committee will be selected from faculty from whom the student has taken substantial coursework, usually at least one graduate seminar. Students should consult with the graduate coordinators as to the composition of their committee.  Once faculty members have agreed to serve on a student’s exam committee, the student must submit a Culminating Experience form.

The committee will create, read, and evaluate the exam, assigning it to one of the following categories: Pass with Distinction, Pass, or Fail. Throughout the semester the student is obliged to meet periodically with her or his examining committee to discuss readings and preparations for the exam.

Sample copies of previous examinations can be obtained from the Graduate Coordinators. At the beginning of the semester in which the exam is to be taken, the candidate must sign up for History 896EXM.

If a student initially fails the examination, he or she may repeat the exam once and only once.

Thesis Option (History 898)

Students wishing to write a thesis must first confer with one of the Graduate Coordinators. The purpose of this conference is to review the student's academic record. Students will be asked to demonstrate their capacity and preparation for writing a thesis in two ways: (1) they must possess an excellent academic record with a pattern of coursework that demonstrates not only a breadth of training but also a background for doing the proposed work; (2) they must have completed a graduate research seminar with a grade of no lower than A-. The appropriateness of the general topic in terms of available faculty and potential library and archival resources will also be considered at this first meeting.

Students who successfully pass this initial screening must then submit a well-conceived research design to proposed members of the thesis committee. This prospectus must include the following items:

  1. A clear identification of the problem to be studied. The student should indicate the significance and importance of the problem as well as the aims and objectives of the study.  A brief review of the literature should also be appended.
  2. As precise a description as possible of the materials to be used in the thesis.  The student should indicate here why this body of material is potentially useful and what the difficulties in using this material might be.
  3. A statement of the methodology or approach to be employed in thesis.
  4. A timetable for the completion of the project.

This research design will be the basis of a one-hour oral discussion, with all members of the committee present. If the committee formally approves the research design, they will then sign the Culminating Experience Form, which the student may then file. Students must submit their ATC to the Graduate Division before they file their Culminating Experience form. After both forms have been filed and approved, the Graduate Division will allow a student to sign up for History 898.

Students must observe specific regulations in preparing and filing the thesis. Detailed format instructions are contained in the publication Guidelines for Preparation and Submission of Theses/Written Creative Works provided by the Graduate Studies Division.  Students should review these guidelines before they begin submitting draft chapters of their thesis to their committee.

Enrollment in Hist. 898 is good for a full calendar year. At the end of the first semester, the student still working on his or her thesis will receive a grade of WP—“Work in Progress.” Students writing theses do not need to pay an additional fee for the subsequent semester.  Special forms, available from the Library or from the Graduate Coordinators, will allow them to request library privileges in the second semester of thesis work.  When the thesis has been approved by the candidate’s committee and accepted by the Graduate Division, the Graduate Coordinator will submit to the Registrar’s office a grade change from a “WP” to a “CR” (credit) for the units of course 898.

Different faculty members may have varying expectations about the process of mentoring a thesis candidate, so it is important for students to find out what their committee members require. Typically, the chair of the committee may want to approve drafts of individual chapters, while the second and third readers may prefer to wait until an overall draft is complete. At any rate, students should make sure that they get their final rough draft to their committee in plenty of time for them to read and evaluate the work before returning it to them for revisions. Students who wish to graduate in December MUST have a complete draft to their committee by October 15; students who plan to graduate in May MUST have their draft to their committee by March 15.

Transfer of Credits

The university will generally accept, with the graduate coordinators’ approval, up to six semester units of earned credit through a combination of SF State Open University, any extension credit courses, and transfer work from other universities.

Graduate Standards

The Graduate Division requires a 3.0 (B) average in all post-baccalaureate work before the M.A. degree can be awarded. The Department of History expects its M.A. candidates to earn an A or B in all courses taken as part of the master's program. No course in which the grade fell below a B- can be included on the Graduate Approved Program. Only 30% of a student's units can be taken on the basis of Credit/No Credit.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One: assessment of the writing sample based on graduate-level rubrics; completion of writing component of GRE with a score of 4.0 or better.

Level Two: satisfactorily completing the writing requirements in History 700.

Deadline for Filing Graduation Documents

Students are responsible for informing themselves of and meeting the deadlines for the filing of all University documents and forms. These deadlines are listed in the University Calendar printed in the Bulletin and on the Graduate Studies website. The following forms or items must be submitted to the University before the granting of the degree — most, but not all, of these forms are to be filed with the Graduate Division office:

  1. Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) form
  2. Culminating Experience form
  3. Completion of Specified Graduate Requirements form (for auxiliary skill requirement
  4. Completion of Specified Graduate Requirements form (for exams or thesis)
  5. Thesis, if appropriate
  6. Application for the Degree

Filing the Advancement to the Candidacy Form (ATC)

Each student must prepare, in consultation with the graduate coordinators, an Advancement to Candidacy Form (ATC). The ATC form, which can be obtained online from the Graduate Studies website , should be filled out and filed in the penultimate semester of graduate work (with no more than six units remaining to be completed). Be sure to review the university requirements for the ATC.

The ATC lists the specific courses to be fulfilled by the graduate student before the degree is awarded; it includes all history classes (and approved non-departmental classes) taken for the degree, along with the classes still to be completed in the final semester. This form is to be downloaded, printed, and signed by a graduate coordinator (as the "advisor") and the department chair (as the "school committee"). After the ATC is signed and filed, the student should prepare and submit the Proposal for Culminating Experience in order to set up a formal committee either to take the Comprehensive Examination or write the Thesis. Students must possess a minimum grade point average of 3.0 when they enroll in the Culminating Experience and by departmental regulations, they may have no remaining Incompletes at that time.

In addition to the minimum thirty units of coursework for the master's degree, the ATC also contains certification that the student has met the university's first level written English proficiency requirement, and indicates how the second level requirement will be met. In the Department of History, the first level requirement is satisfied by a score of 4.0 or higher in the essay portion of the GRE and the second level by successfully completing the writing requirements of History 700.

If the ATC lists transfer classes (up to six units of transfer credit are permissible), then a Transfer Unit Evaluation Form must be submitted along with the ATC.

Validity of Advancement to Candidacy Program

The Advancement to Candidacy form (ATC) on file with the Graduate Division will be valid only during the time a student is enrolled and retains continuing registration eligibility in the University.  [Students lose continuing registration ability when they are absent from the University for more than one term.]  Students who lose their continuing registration eligibility will have their filed ATC program voided.  Students wishing to renew their work toward the graduate degree will need to be readmitted to classified standing in the department and to file a new ATC that meets current requirements (or to file a Request to Activate Previously Filed Documents if no new curriculum requirements are in effect), and will be subject to any new policies and procedures implemented during their absence from the University.  There is one exception.  If the only degree requirement pending is the completion of the thesis, and it is within the seven year limit, a student does not have to apply for readmission, but only has to complete the thesis and file for graduation.

Time Limitations for the M.A. Thesis

All students who select to write a thesis as their “Culminating Experience Requirement” must register for the 898 course (only once). If you do not complete the thesis at the end of the semester or summer session of registration, you will be issued a grade of WP (Work in Progress) or an NC (no credit) grade if progress has been unsatisfactory. When the thesis has been approved by the candidate’s committee and accepted by Graduate Division, the graduate coordinator will submit to the registrar’s office a grade change from a “WP” to a “CR” (credit) for the units of course 898.

Remember that you have (only) seven years for the completion of all degree requirements, including the submission of the “Application for Graduate Degree.”

Recent and Current M.A. Seminars

  • Culture and Society in Early America
  • Ideology in the American Revolutionary Era
  • Transition to Capitalism in America
  • American Religious History, 1607-1877
  • Slavery and Emancipation in the Americas
  • Protest, Reform & Politics: Researching the American Past
  • Readings in Gilded Age & Progressive Era History
  • Gender and Sexuality in the U.S.
  • Race and Ethnicity in the Twentieth Century U.S.
  • The U.S. and the Cold War
  • American Empire
  • Popular Culture in American Society
  • Imperial Collapse: Rome and Beyond
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Imagining the Middle Ages
  • The Medieval Mediterranean
  • The Black Death
  • Crime and Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe
  • Church and Society in Europe, 1500 – 1800 
  • The Old Regime and the French Revolution
  • Culture and Society in the Belle Epoque
  • Class and Gender in Nineteenth-Century Europe
  • France/North Africa, 1700-2000
  • Modernity and the Islamic World
  • Social and Cultural History of Africa
  • Gender, Religion, and the Fantastic in Early Modern China 
  • Readings in Southeast Asia
  • Historical Soundscapes
  • Decolonizing History
  • Globalization, 1968-2008
  • Toward a Global History of Sexuality
  • History of Bodies, Bodies of History

Deadlines for Applications:

  • Applications for Fall 2021 - deadline extended to April 25th.
  • Applications for Spring 2022 are due October 15.

Admission Requirements

A prospective student must fulfill the general University requirements as stated on the Graduate Studies website. In addition to the general requirements, the Department of History has established its own, more specialized requirements, which are described below.

To be considered for admission to the M.A. in history all applicants must have a degree in history or at least four upper-division courses in history (12 semester units; 20 quarter units), including one course in historical methods, and 3.35 GPA in the final sixty units of coursework. If the student's undergraduate work meets the department’s criteria AND shows promise of a successful completion of the graduate program, he or she will be admitted to the program.

Most applicants will be admitted to Classified standing. For students whose application is deemed by the department to have some weaknesses, Conditional admission may apply and students will be informed as to what those conditions are in their letter of admission. 

If the student's undergraduate record shows little promise of satisfactory work at the graduate level or insufficient training in history, the department will recommend that admission be denied. Students who do not meet the requirements for Classified standing or who are denied admission for Conditional standing, may wish to apply to the University through Open University/College of Extended Learning in order to correct deficiencies in their record.  The graduate coordinators can provide more information about this option.

Application Procedure

To apply, you must do so online at Cal State Apply. The following materials will be required for your application.

  1. Application fee (currently at $55, fee waivers are available).
  2. An unofficial copy of all transcripts.
    • The online system will prompt you to upload unofficial copies of transcripts from all the undergraduate and graduate institutions you have attended.  (If admitted and matriculated, you will be asked to furnish official transcripts.)  This includes SF State transcripts if you have previously taken classes at the university.
  3. Three letters of recommendation.
    • There is no set form for these letters but the letter should include information about the student’s abilities (research skills, reasoning and analytical ability, writing skills, maturity, etc.) and likelihood of success in a graduate program, written on official letterhead.  Ideally, these letters should be written by professors who are familiar with the applicant's skills and potentials. Letters from employers and others who know you are acceptable, but they are not as useful to us in gauging your academic potential. Please request letters of recommendation as early as possible, using the WebAdmit system. You will enter your recommenders’ names and e-mail and they will receive a message asking them to upload a letter directly to the system.  This can be done before you complete your application. Recommenders will have one week after the deadline to submit letters.
  4. Writing sample, preferably a 10-20 page history research paper, which includes footnotes and a bibliography.
  5. Statement of Purpose
    • The statement of purpose (maximum of 1000 words) should tell us a little bit about you including why you are interested in history and your development and preparation as a historian to this point. Also describe your planned field(s) of study and career goals as you see them now. Finally, tell us why you think San Francisco State would be good place for you to continue your intellectual development.
  6. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.
    • The GRE is recommended but not required for admission. Students taking the GRE should have their scores sent directly to the university with the SF State institution code of 4694. A 4.0 or above on the essay (analytical) portion of the GRE fulfills the university Level I writing requirement. Students who score below a 4.0 on this portion of the exam or who choose not to submit GRE scores should pay special attention to the quality of their writing sample (see #4 above), which will be evaluated not only for admission but also to fulfill this requirement.

Tips for navigating the online system:

There are four sections in the online application, but you can opt out of the following:

  • In Academic History section, opt out of transcript entry and GPA entry.
  • In Supporting Materials section, opt out of all supporting materials.  
  • For Statement of Purpose section, write “Uploaded to Program Materials Section.”
  • In Program Materials section, click on Documents tab to upload unofficial transcripts, statement of purpose, writing sample, test score report (if desired), and any other documents. Click on Questions tab to answer questions.

Please also see the admissions information on the Graduate Studies webpage for additional tips. Staff in Graduate Studies can also help you with any technical issues you might encounter with the WebAdmit system.

Registering

  1. Expressing your intent to register: If you decide to attend San Francisco State once you are admitted you need to inform the university and the department of your intent to register. Within two weeks of receiving your letter of admission to the university, you must notify the university of your intent to register by going to SF State Global Login and following the instructions.
  2. Register for Class: logon to MySFSU and click on Registration Time for your 24 hour priority registration.

Further Questions?

Contact Professor Sarah Curtis (scurtis@sfsu.edu).

FAQs

We are here to answer any questions you may have.  Please view our FAQs list to see if your question is already answered.

Financing Your Master of Arts Degree

University Financial Aid and Fellowships

The SF State history department is now part of the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) which enables students in 16 Western states and territories to enroll in participating public graduate programs as nonresidents, yet pay the lower resident tuition rate.

Many graduate students, especially those supporting themselves, benefit from university financial aid. For application information, contact the Office of Financial Aid. The priority date for filing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is in early March; we encourage applicants to do so even if they have not yet heard about admission.

SF State also has an active Fellowships Office that can help graduate students apply for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, as well as system-wide scholarships and fellowships offered by the California State University system.

The Division of Graduate Studies provides information on significant financial aid opportunities, including the Graduate Equity Fellowship for outstanding students from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds and the Provost Scholar Award for outstanding out-of-state students. It has also partnered with University Housing to provide a limited number of affordable housing units for graduate students.

History graduate students have also been successful in winning fellowships offered by the College of Liberal and Creative Arts. To do a search for such fellowships, consult the online database, Academic Works.

The graduate coordinators distribute information about outside fellowships or history-related employment opportunities to graduate students via the graduate student listserve when they become available.

Department of History Financial Aid and Fellowships

The Department of History has a number of fellowships in the range of $1,000 to $3,000 per academic year to enable students to enter and complete the MA program.  All entering and continuing students will automatically be considered for these fellowships.Beginning in Fall 2018, students will have to apply for these fellowships via Academic Works, a university application system.  For the Robert Pasker-Laurie Pitman Fellowship and the Shirley Barnett Memoiral Scholarship, the deadline is October 15 for Spring admission and February 15 for Fall admission.  For the continuing student fellowships, the department will inform students of the relevant deadlines.

The Robert Pasker-Laurie Pitman Fellowship for Entering Graduate Students 
Support for one to six incoming students with the strongest academic records and best writing samples. 

The Shirley Barnett Memorial Scholarship
Support for up to four incoming students over the age of 40 for up to five semesters.

The Jacques Hymans Graduate Fellowship
Support for a current student who is both academically successful and a contributor to the department. 

The History Department Graduate Fellowship
Support for one to six current students who have been academically successful.

The department also provides the Herodotus Fund for Graduate Travel in History to assist graduate students to travel both domestically and internationally for presenting papers and doing research. Students who have had papers accepted at peer-reviewed conferences should contact the department chair about these funds.

Housing

A limited amount of university housing is available to graduate students.

Graduate Assistantships

The department has need of qualified graduate students as assistants for lower-division survey classes. Their major duty is to grade exams or papers, with the total time of 35 hours per course per semester. If you are interested, stop by the Department of History office and ask for an application. If you have further questions, contact Professor Sarah Crabtree by email at slc123@sfsu.edu.

What Do Our Alumni Say?

San Francisco State University 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 M.A. 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, M.A. 

“I started the M.A. program in history at SF State 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 M.A. 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, M.A.

“I have always loved history but it wasn't until I got to SF State that I really could understand the subject. Getting my B.A. made me learn how to read history, but it was through the M.A. 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 M.A. program was one of my most rewarding periods of my life.”
Ivan Sordo, M.A. 

“The M.A. 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, M.A. 

What can you do with an M.A. in History from SF State?

SF State’s M.A. 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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. programs or earn teaching credentials, but the majority use their M.A. 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 M.A. history alumni have chosen.

Ph.D. Programs

Over the years, the SF State M.A. 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 Ph.D. programs than any other M.A. only-granting institution (we came in fourth, but the top three were Ph.D.-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 M.A. 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 Ph.D. 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 SF State." 
Brian Griffith, M.A., Ph.D. 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 SF State.”
Julie M. Powell, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate in Modern European History at The Ohio State University.

“The History program at SF State definitely prepared me for the rigors of Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. program at Stanford I felt I was more prepared than many of my peers due to the training I had at SF State. 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 SF State History M.A. 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, M.A., Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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, M.A., Ph.D. student, UC Berkeley

Community College Teaching

Some of our alumni have chosen to teach history at the community college level, for which an M.A. 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 SF State 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 SF State History Department very highly and have fond memories of learning in the department.”
John Corbally, M.A., 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, M.A., department chair, African-American Studies, City College of San Francisco

Secondary School Teaching

The SF State history M.A. 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 M.A. 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 M.A. degree:

“The most valuable aspect of the M.A. 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, M.A., 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 M.A. in history.   

Here are the paths of some of our M.A. 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 Ph.D. programs. I graduated with my Ph.D. 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, M.A., PhD Stanford University 

“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 SF State was the knowledge that determination and a good game plan can overcome most obstacles.”
Cameron Binkley, M.A. 

“I am a proud graduate of SF State’s Master’s program in History. After SF State, 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 SF State 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 SF State — provides you with the skills to be able to communicate the importance of historical knowledge to the broader public.”
Martin Meeker, M.A.

Academic Publishing

Academic publishing is another career opportunity for history M.A. 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 SF State 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, M.A.

Graduate Faculty
Name Field of Study
Maziar Behrooz Modern Middle East, Iran-Iraq
Chris Chekuri Medieval and Early Modern South Asia
Dennis Campbell Ancient World
Sarah Crabtree Early American, Atlantic World, Women, and Gender
Sarah Curtis Nineteenth Century Europe, France, Women and Gender
Anthony D'Agostino Soviet Union, Modern Russia, 20th Century Europe, Diplomatic
Jessica Elkind US Foreign Relations, Southeast Asia
Trevor Getz Modern Africa, Gender
Pi-Ching Hsu China, Taiwan, Gender and Intellectual History
Catherine Kudlick Disability, Gender, Medicine (US and Europe)
Laura Lisy-Wagner Early Modern Europe, Gender and Sexuality
Kym Morrison

Latin America, Cuba, Brazil

Charles Postel U.S Politics, Progressive Era
Jarbel Rodriguez Medieval, Renaissance
Marc Stein U.S. Law, Politics, Sexuality, Gender, Race, Social Movements
Felicia Viator California, Race Relations, Popular Culture
Eva Sheppard Wolf Revolutionary and Early National US, Race and Slavery