Published Date

January 1, 2014

Resource Type

For Departments, Program of Study

AHA Topics

Academic Departmental Affairs, Graduate Education, Teaching & Learning

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

By Daniel McInerney

Institution: Utah State University
Degree Name: Master of Arts/Master of Science in History
Location: Logan, UT
Year: 2014

Purpose of the Degree

As the American Historical Association notes, the study of History draws on an evolving set of rules and tools that allow us to interpret the past with clarity and rigor. Sound historical argument is based on primary-source evidence, sophisticated selection and analysis of information, an appreciation for shifting interpretive arguments, and a deliberative stance to explain change and continuity over time.

History is crucial to individual and social self-understanding, requiring effective communication to make the past accessible for multiple audiences. History is a profoundly public pursuit, essential to active, informed citizenship. And History is a craft with a set of professional ethics and standards that demand peer review, citation, and toleration for the provisional nature of knowledge.

Characteristics of the Program

Distinctive features of Utah State University’s History master’s program:

  • faculty recognized by Utah State University’s 2012 “Department Teaching Excellence Award”
  • faculty specialization in a wide range of fields including North American West, European, African, Environmental, Latin American, Religious, and Asian history
  • special programs in Religious Studies
  • home to 4 academic journals: The Western Historical Quarterly, PloutarchosMediterranean Studies, and the Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies
  • graduate internship program with the Western Historical Quarterly
  • graduate assistantships to work with faculty in undergraduate survey courses
  • research work in USU’s Special Collections
  • multiple options in thesis plans and in degree (MA or MS)

The Department’s programs not only provide specialized academic training. We also prepare students to work in a wide variety of fields, developing the ability to:

  • investigate problems
  • analyze information
  • identify reliable sources
  • contextualize complex questions
  • communicate conclusions in a clear and thoughtful manner

Such skills are in demand by employers in many areas. Our graduates manage multi-national companies and local businesses, serve in many public capacities (including Congress), run charitable organizations, administer university services, work in military intelligence, train as medical doctors, and teach history.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Many students are preparing to teach in public schools and universities. Others find employment as “applied” historians. Some qualify to be curators and archivists in museums and libraries, classifying and preserving materials, setting up exhibits, and working with researchers. Others work as preservation historians for historical societies, collecting data and working to preserve historic sites.

Historians also work as editors and researchers in publishing or consult on sets and clothing in the making of films. Some work as biographers while others collect information on family lineage. History is an excellent major for students planning to work in international relations, journalism, or management. Students preparing for law school, advanced business degrees, and management or sales training also benefit from a history degree. History is also a good major for those preparing to work in the growing information management field.

Educational Style

Students in the masters degree program choose from a range of degrees, each of which serve a variety of needs and aspirations:

  • Master of Arts: Students who intend to continue their education in a PhD program are encouraged to apply for the MA degree (requiring the demonstration of foreign language ability plus the completion of a major research project).
  • Master of Science: MS students complete a major research project and also take a 3-credit graduate-level course in a field relevant to their program of study. Relevant courses might include museum studies, archives, computer science, statistics, natural resources/environment, anthropology, or other applied science.
  • Master of Social Science: Students in this program are required to take Hist 6000 and Hist 6970, write a major research paper and submit a portfolio of their graduate writing that consists of two distinct pieces of work from 2 minor fields.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

The master’s program develops historical knowledge, thinking, and skills beyond the bachelor’s level – and adds two other area of competency related to pedagogy and professional identity:

  • Historical Knowledge
    • Develop a focused body of historical information
    • Appraise a wide-ranging body of historiographical materials
  • Historical Thinking
    • Contextualize specialized study in a reflective, varied, and rigorous manner
    • Articulate complex historical arguments in one’s specialized field of study
  • Historical Skills
    • Master research skills through a substantial project that: (a) makes an original contribution to historical knowledge and understanding: (b) establishes an interpretive position and proves an argument (not simply “reporting facts” or telling stories”); and (c) employing Chicago Manual of Style citation form
    • Master archival skills employing varied & pertinent primary source collections and utilizing a broad range of library materials, services, and specialists
    • Master written presentations, achieving a superior quality of writing both in terms of mechanics and in developing a cogent, persuasive argument
    • Master oral presentations by leading discussions, delivering papers, and defending one’s research
    • Master editorial skills (as a fellow or intern with the Western Historical Quarterly), selecting, preparing, and copyreading manuscripts and communicating with scholars in the process of editorial revisions
    • Master time management by completing degree projects in 2-year time frame
  • Historical Pedagogy
    • Develop (as graduate assistants or teaching interns) an understanding of the cognitive processes involved in teaching and learning history
    • Appraise the ways in which learners attain an understanding of history
    • Deliver presentations to audiences of specialists and non-specialists
  • Historical Identity
    • Forge a professional identity as a historian by:
      • joining professional societies that best fit one’s research interests
      • subscribing to discussion groups that best fit one’s research interests
      • attending professional conferences
      • presenting papers at professional conferences
      • communicating with national and international colleagues in the field
      • engaging with internship projects suitable to one’s area of study
      • complying with the ethical standards and practices of the discipline