Published Date

January 1, 2014

Resource Type

For Departments, Program of Study

AHA Topics

Academic Departmental Affairs, Teaching & Learning, The History Major, Undergraduate Education

This resource was developed as part of the AHA’s Tuning project.

Institution: Bergen Community College
Degree Name: Associate of Arts with History Option
Location: Bergen, NJ
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

The study of History, as outlined by the American Historical Association, provides students with a set of guidelines and skills to better interpret the past and the complexity of the human experience across time and space. Those who study history respect the need to base explanations of continuity and change over time on evidence from multiple sources and to utilize accepted research, analytical, and citation practices. In doing so, they gain intellectual skills and a foundation in historical knowledge that promote lifelong learning and civic engagement. Bergen Community College’s History department developed the AA with History Option in order to more intentionally develop in students the knowledge, values, and skills that are unique to the study of history while still complimenting and supporting those acquired in other liberal arts disciplines. As a community college, BCC’s mission is to serve the greater community and instill civic values and recognition of cultural diversity. The study of history helps to fulfill this mission by preparing students to become productive, responsible, and knowledgeable citizens of their world.

Characteristics of the Program

In the first year of the program, students are required to take two survey courses in either Western Civilization, European History, US History, or Latin American History. During this first year they are also expected to take a History elective and a Geography course in addition to courses in general education. In the second year, students are expected to take electives in history, the social sciences, and Humanities. History electives include survey courses in Women’s History, Asian History, and Diplomatic history and also a special topics courses such as Genocide and Holocaust. History majors are also encouraged to take courses offered in history through the School of Honors. The BCC History department is a large department that includes faculty who specialize in the fields of US History, European History, Medieval History, Latin American History, and Women’s History.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

History degree graduates are well poised to continue their education at a four year institution and also to enter the job market. An AA degree with a History Option is easily transferable to all public and private colleges that accept transfer students. Those who continue on to earn a BA in history often pursue careers in education, government and non-profit, international relations and security, law, journalism and literature, film and entertainment, museums and historic preservation, business and finance. A 2010 study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that employers are looking for employees who display the very skills that a degree in history at BCC provides, including the ability to:

  1. Communicate effectively in written and oral format
  2. Employ critical thinking and reasoning
  3. Research, assess, organize and contextualize information from multiple sources
  4. Consider an issue or question from a variety of perspectives and recognize bias
  5. Acknowledge the ethical component of decisions
  6. Display civic knowledge and actively engage in the community
  7. Recognize and respect cultural and ethnic diversity within and outside the US

Because it expects proficiency in these skills, a degree in history can be a valuable asset for those entering both four year colleges and the job market.

Educational Style

All History courses emphasize an understanding of historical events, cause and effect, continuity and change through both lecture and class discussion. History courses will also emphasize: reading and analysis of primary and secondary sources, written expression in the form of essay exams and/or papers, verbal expression of ideas through online or in-class presentations and discussions, civic engagement and community involvement. The department also supports several “high impact” pedagogical practices including: linking history courses to English composition courses that function as intensive writing workshops for the history course, offering special topics courses that provide deeper analysis of a period or region for students interested in continuing as history majors in four year colleges, and providing Honors history courses that require the equivalent of a capstone project, ie construction of a substantial independent research paper of suitable quality for presentation at student conferences.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

Students who graduate with an AA in History will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate, in both written and oral discussion, the ability to consider a diversity of viewpoints, construct and defend a thesis, and revise it effectively as new evidence demands.
  2. Read and comprehend a variety of primary and secondary sources, evaluate their perspective and bias, and contextualize them with appropriate detail.
  3. Develop a methodological practice of identifying, gathering, evaluating, analyzing, synthesizing, interpreting, and citing historical evidence.
  4. Narrate, in written or oral form, an event from the past in a way that recognizes different perspectives and multiple causation and rejects inevitability.
  5. Recognize the important political, intellectual, social, and cultural forces that have shaped our past.
  6. Identify examples of historical change and continuity over time and evaluate their historical significance.
  7. Temper moral judgment in historical interpretation with an understanding of historical perspective and the significance of changing cultural context.
Sarah Shurts
Sarah Shurts

Bergen Community College