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History M.A.

Organized in the 1920s, the Master of Arts in History program at the University of Maryland provides broad and intensive instruction in bibliography, research, and writing in various fields of historical study.

History M.A. Program Overview

The History M.A. degree may constitute a step toward doctoral research or preparation for a variety of other fields, such as archives administration, museum scholarship and exhibitions, public history, primary or secondary school teaching, law, or international relations.

Admission to the Master of Arts program is offered to highly qualified applicants holding at least a bachelor's degree, normally in history or a related discipline. Application and admissions procedures are described on the department's website.

The M.A. degree program requires a total of thirty semester hours of coursework and research credits and the submission of one or two original research papers. In addition, M.A. students must successfully defend a thesis or pass a written examination (the non-thesis option).

The anticipated period for completion is two years of full-time study. The degree must be completed in five years.

General Requirements:

General program requirements are coursework and either the degree-by-thesis option or the degree-by-examination option


About the History M.A.

Course Requirements

All M.A. students must complete a minimum of 30 credits. The mandatory course requirements are as follows:

  • History and Contemporary Theory (HIST 601; 3 credits)
  • Field General Seminar(s) (HIST 608; 3-9 credits)
    • 608J-K (East Asia)
    • 608G-I (Latin America)
    • 606F (Science and Technology)
    • 608E (Women's and Gender History)
    • 608D (Middle East)
    • 608C (Modern Europe)
    • 608A-B (United States)
    • Equivalent seminars in other fields
  • Research Seminar (HIST 8XX; 3 credits)

There is no general language requirement for the M.A. degree, but certain fields may require demonstrated language competency and/or special skills. 

All M.A. students must take at least 12 credits in a “major field” within history, including at least 3 credits of general seminar in that field and at least 3 credits of Research seminar in that field.  In certain fields, students may take more than one General Seminar in that field.   Often students take “research seminars” as independent study courses with faculty in their fields.  Typically students take other readings courses in their fields or in other fields that interest them.

Special Notes

  • Courses completed during previous post-baccalaureate degree programs at other institutions or as an "advanced special student" at the University of Maryland may be considered to satisfy course requirements.
  • Requests for course requirement waivers, equivalency and credit transfers should be directed to the Director of Graduate Studies. A request must include the course syllabus and transcripts showing the final grade. The endorsement of the advisor is typically sought.
  • Up to nine credit hours of major and minor field readings courses may be taken at the 400 level.  Students seeking to take a 400 level course for graduate credit should consult the instructor of record to discuss course expectations before registering.


The degree-by-thesis option addresses the needs of two types of students. First, it offers students who are taking the M.A. as a terminal degree the opportunity to master historical scholarship and historiography, while also pursuing an intensive, original research project. Second, the thesis option can help students assess their aptitude for research and writing at the doctoral level.

Students who opt for the degree-by-thesis must complete at least twelve credit hours in one of the approved major fields (see Fields of Study). Three to nine of these credit hours must be in the appropriate General Seminar(s) and an additional three must be in 800-level research seminars. The students take an additional six hours of HIST 799 (Master's Thesis Research).

In consultation with the advisor, the student develops an original research project that will require substantive analysis of primary materials, in addition to full engagement with the existing relevant scholarship. Archival and bibliographic research may last several months and be conducted in the College Park region or farther away. Writing may take an additional several months.  Typically the M.A. thesis is 60-80 pages long. 

All thesis research, including oral history research, must be conducted in accordance with University rules as well as professional and legal standards. In some instances, M.A. students might be required to submit a précis of the thesis or other materials to the Institutional Review Board of the University of Maryland or another institution. In Spring 2006, the campus IRB issued a finding that oral history does not enjoy a blanket exclusion from IRB review. It is, therefore, essential that all research projects involving oral history and other forms of research that fall under human subjects research protocols be cleared by the IRB.

In an open oral defense of the thesis, normally lasting not longer than two hours, the student must obtain approval by a majority of a Thesis Examining Committee consisting of at least three members of the Graduate Faculty, chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student's advisor. The advisor chairs the committee. At the conclusion of the oral defense, the committee will determine whether the thesis is satisfactory as submitted or if revisions must be undertaken before the thesis will be officially accepted. If the student has expressed the desire to continue on to the doctoral program at Maryland, the thesis committee will also make a recommendation to the Graduate Committee about the student's admission to the Ph.D. program.

There is no minor field requirement or comprehensive examination for students who select the degree-by-thesiis option.


The degree-by-examination (a.k.a. "non-thesis") option likewise addresses the needs of two types of students. For students seeking a terminal-degree M.A., the option offers a flexible mixture of course work and research seminars, affording the opportunity both to attain a broad general understanding of historical scholarship and to pursue original research. For students who wish to pursue the Ph.D. degree at Maryland or elsewhere, the option prepares students for various aspects of a doctoral program, including reading courses and seminars in a major field, comprehensive examinations, and advanced research and writing.

Students who opt for the degree-by-examination must complete at least 12 credit hours in one of the approved major fields (see Fields of Study). Three to nine of these credit hours must be in the appropriate General Seminar(s) and an additional six must be in 800-level research seminars.

Students who opt for the degree-by-examination must pass a four-hour, written examination based on the student's coursework and/or a set of readings devised by the student in consultation with the advisor. Typically the reading list for the M.A. comprehensive exam is about 50 books.  It is the expectation that M.A. non-thesis students take the examination in the fourth semester of full-time study.

At or about the time that the student registers for graduation, the degree-by-examination student will present two 800-level research papers to the M.A. examining committee for its approval. The examining committee will review the papers, the M.A. examination, and the student's entire record in the M.A. program to make a final determination for degree conferral. If the student has expressed the desire to continue on to the doctoral program at Maryland, the committee will also make a recommendation to the Graduate Committee about the student's admission to the Ph.D. program.

Guidelines for Master of Arts Degree Examinations

All written examinations are administered twice a year, in October and April.

The examination committee consists of three members of the graduate faculty, typically all members of the history faculty. The student's advisor chairs the examination committee. The Director of Graduate Studies designates the other committee members, in consultation with the advisor and the student. Each committee member may contribute questions for the examination.

The examination will be graded pass or fail.

Students should consult their advisors and the Director of Graduate Studies for additional guidelines on the expectations for and the grading of examinations.

The two possible options are pass and fail. Students who do not pass on the first attempt may retake the examination without prior approval. After a second failure, the student must petition for re-examination.

Petition for Re-Examination

In the case of failure of a written examination (Degree-by-Examination option only) or a language examination, the student may petition the Graduate Committee to take the examination a second time. If the petition is approved, the student must retake the examination when it is next offered.

Advising and Committees

Each student admitted to the M.A. program will select an advisor in history who is a member of the graduate faculty and whose intellectual interests are compatible with the student's plan of study. All graduate students are required to choose an advisor by November 1 of their first semester. If they do not choose an advisor by that date, the DGS will appoint one for them. The faculty advisor is responsible for advising the student, approving course selection each semester, monitoring the student's progress, and informing the student of the nature and timing of examinations and other evaluations. The advisor, in consultation with the student, will be responsible for constituting the advisory, thesis, and examination committees. The advisor will also represent the student to the Graduate Committee, as appropriate.

The advisory committee, to be constituted no later than the spring semester of the first year of study, consists of the student's advisor and two faculty members in appropriate fields, chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student and the advisor.  At the conclusion of the first year of study, all students will make available to the advisory committee a transcript of coursework and major written work completed during the first year. The Director of Graduate Studies will provide the advisory committee with additional relevant information, such as teaching assistantship evaluations. Upon review of the appropriate materials, the advisory committee will then recommend to the Graduate Committee continuation, modification, or, as appropriate, termination of the student's program.

After the first year of study, the advisory committee may convene to discuss progress-to-degree. The advisor has primary responsibility for determining the need for an advisory committee review, but a student has the right to request formal review.

The advisory committee ordinarily serves as the M.A. thesis or examination committee, but substitutions are possible, provided that all members of the M.A. thesis or examination committee are members of the Graduate Faculty and that the student's advisor serves as the committee chair.

M.A. students may change advisors at any moment of their studies, registering the change with the Director of Graduate Studies.

A change of advisor or of the composition of the advisory committee must be recorded in the student's electronic file.

Registration and Degree Progress

Continuous Registration

All graduate students must register for courses and pay associated tuition and fees each semester, not including summer and winter sessions, until the degree is awarded.

Master of Arts students who will be away from the university for up to one year may request a waiver of continuous registration and its associated tuition and fees. Waivers shall be granted only if the student is making satisfactory progress toward the degree and can complete the degree requirements within the required time limits. Interruptions in continuous registration cannot be used to justify an extension to time-to-degree requirements.

The Graduate School makes available an official Leave-of-Absence for Childbearing, Adoption, Illness, and Dependent Care. The Dean of the Graduate School must approve the leave. The time-to-degree clock is suspended during an approved leave-of-absence.

Additional information on Continuous Registration and Leave-of-Absence policies is published online in the Graduate Catalog.


Whether a full- or part-time student, all students admitted to the Master of Arts program must complete all degree requirements in five (5) years from initial enrollment.


All students in the M.A. program will be expected to demonstrate steady progress towards the completion of degree requirements. At a minimum, the Graduate School requires students to maintain a B average in all graduate courses. However, the Department of History expects a higher level of performance.

Failure to make satisfactory progress-to-degree or to maintain the expected grade point average may result in the suspension or loss of departmental funding, the denial of a petition for extensions, and, in extreme cases, a recommendation for dismissal.

Extensions and Waivers

The Graduate Committee will consider petitions for waivers to departmental guidelines. Petitions for waivers to Graduate School requirements must be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School, using the appropriate form. In most instances, the petitioning student will be required to provide a rationale for the waiver request, and, as appropriate, a convincing plan of study. The advice of the student's advisor may be sought. The advisor will be required to endorse any waiver request that involves extensions to overall time-to-degree as well as the major benchmarks of progress-to-degree.

All petitions should be directed to the Director of Graduate Studies. The Director of Graduate Studies, and in some cases the Dean of the Graduate School, will notify the student of his/her disposition of petitions for extensions.

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Jodi Hall

Graduate Coordinator, History

2131 Francis Scott Key Hall
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-4268