For More Information

For further information about the graduate program, contact the graduate program head:

Professor David Engerman
History Department, MS 036
Brandeis University
Waltham, MA  02454-9110
(781) 736-2281

M.A. in American History

IMPORTANT NOTICE (May 2009):  The History Department is in the process of reorganizing its graduate programs to best reflect the intellectual direction of historical scholarship today and build on our historic strengths.  Applications for the new program will be due on January 15, 2010.  Please stay tuned for a detailed announcement about the requirements of our new MA and PhD programs in History in September 2009.

The Graduate Program in American History offers a one-year Master of Arts degree. Its curriculum is designed to help students gain a comprehensive understanding of American history, as well as mastery of historical research and writing. The program is small and highly selective. Its flexible course of study allows students to work closely with distinguished faculty in independent reading and research courses. Required coursework focuses on directed research and a critical approach to chronology and problems of historiography.

Why Earn an M.A. in American History?

Apart from intellectual curiosity and gratification, there are some practical reasons to seek the M.A. degree:
  • Enhanced credentials for doctoral program: The M.A. will significantly enhance your qualifications if you plan to pursue a full-time doctoral program; this can be especially useful if you seek to enter graduate school in a field outside your undergraduate major.
  • Material benefits: Having the M.A. significantly enhances your qualifications and pay in most public and private organizations.
  • Test the water: The one-year M. A. can help you decide whether the academic path is right for you — before you invest a great deal of time and resources in a multiyear doctoral program.
  • Transferable skills: The emphasis on research and writing will give you skills that are critical for every career path.

Why Brandeis?

It is certainly possible to earn an M.A. at many fine institutions, but there are compelling reasons why you should consider studying at Brandeis:

  • First-class training: The American History program is a highly selective program that trains students in the broad field of American history, problems in historiography and critical thinking, research and writing skills.
  • Dedicated mentoring: Brandeis is a small research university with an emphasis on small classes and genuine mentorship; each student has the opportunity to work closely with a distinguished scholar.
  • Scholarships: To enable qualified students to attend Brandeis, the graduate school has a need-based scholarship fund that allows a partial reduction in the cost of tuition and fees.
  • Intellectual diversity: Brandeis has an array of graduate programs that complement and overlap with the graduate program in American history, including politics, Near Eastern and Judaic studies, sociology, and English and American literature. Faculty in the African and Afro-American studies and American studies departments play key roles in the program. The program also complements the comparative history program in the Brandeis history department; this graduate program provides traditional disciplinary training with a comparative perspective that is fundamental to a broader understanding of the issues, patterns and dynamics of change. 
  • Career support: The Office of Career Services helps to identify opportunities, design an effective resume and prepare for interviews.
  • Library resources: Library resources include our own Goldfarb Library, a collection of exceptional strength in American history. In addition, the Boston Library Consortium  allows graduate students to use books in major libraries throughout the area. Graduate students have full access to many nearby manuscript repositories. Brandeis is within easy commuting distance of some of the very best public and private libraries in the United States, including the Boston Athenaeum, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Boston Public Library and the American Antiquarian Society.
  • Boston: Brandeis students partake of the rich intellectual and cultural environment of the Boston area — from a plethora of events at area universities to the array of museums and other institutions in metropolitan Boston. The Boston Area Graduate History Network is a recently formed consortium of graduate history programs. It facilitates cross-registration in courses offered by different institutions, and publicizes seminars, talks and other events of interest to students of history.

The M. A. Curriculum

Degree requirements include:

  • Full-time residence at the university for two consecutive semesters
  • Successful completion of a year-long independent research project, the two-semester Colloquium in American History and four elective courses
  • Reading knowledge of a foreign language demonstrated by passing a written translation examination

Recent Placements

  • Matriculation in a doctoral program
  • Education (secondary-school teaching, with higher rank and salary)
  • Government research and policy-making


Admission is by vote of the Executive Committee. The deadline for  M.A. candidates is April 30, and review of applications is on a rolling basis.

To apply, visit the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Web site and download and complete an electronic application. The application requires a writing sample, transcripts, letters of recommendation, Graduate Record Examination scores and a personal statement.