Program Overview

Program Overview


  • One-on-one mentoring from nationally recognized faculty
  • Individualized program plans that balance disciplinary training with personal interests and degree goals
  • Three choices of culminating projects, Comprehensive exams, thesis, or Teaching unit (for secondary teachers), let students tailor their programs to their future goals
  • Evening classes accommodate work and family schedules
  • Cost effective

Additional Opportunities and Resources

  • Opportunities to work as writing tutors and undergraduate course facilitators
  • Opportunity to participate in the History Graduate Student Association, which has organized student conferences, hosted guest speakers and films, and sponsored professional development events
  • Our department is home to The History Teacherthe largest circulating peer-reviewed history journal in the U.S. Each year, one history M.A. student serves as an intern for the journal, learning the details of academic publishing from the inside.
  • Institutional support available for conference travel and research

Program Details and Options

The History M.A. requires 10 three-unit classes (30 units) including directed studies associated with the culminating projects (comprehensive exams, thesis, teaching unit). Students typically choose to take two courses per semester, but have the option of adjusting their course loads to accommodate work schedules, etc.

All students are required to take three core courses: History 501 – Historical Thinking, History 502 – Historical Writing and Research, and History 590 – Comparative History. In addition, each student takes three courses in each of two fields (U.S. History, World History, Modern European History or Ancient and Medieval History) and one elective. Field specific courses include one historiography course (History 510) in each field of concentration and a research seminar in one of the two fields. Typically, one or two of the field-specific courses and/or the elective are directed studies connected to a student’s culminating project.

Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive exams provide students with a breadth of knowledge within each of their two areas of concentration. Students put together a faculty committee for each field, develop a reading list with those faculty, and write a take-home exam. Most students take History 595 (Directed Study – Exam Preparation) in preparation. 


The thesis offers students the opportunity to produce a piece of historical research. Theses are usually written in one of the student’s two fields of concentration and in close consultation with a committee of three faculty members. The thesis option is best suited for students with a clear research agenda and strong writing skills. All thesis students are required to prepare and defend a prospectus of their intended research to the department. If a student chooses to pursue a thesis that requires non-English language sources, they will be required to demonstrate reading knowledge of the appropriate language(s). A thesis can be good preparation for those intending to pursue a Ph.D., but is not required for further graduate work.

Teaching Emphasis

The emphasis in teaching history is intended primarily for secondary teachers who are seeking a graduate degree in history as opposed to one in education. In some cases, it is also appropriate for M.A. students planning to teach history at the community college level. 

This emphasis in teaching, a unique and distinctive program in California, provides candidates with deep understanding of current research in the expanding field of historical thinking and teaching about history. By developing a two-week teaching unit, candidates implement current research, historiography, and methods into classroom pedagogic practice. The teaching unit including lesson plans, teaching materials, and assessments, as well as a historiography of the scholarship of the topic(s) the student has chosen in consultation with their committee. After teaching the unit, the student writes and action research plan of their teaching practice with an analysis of student work from a component of the teaching unit and a detailed planned description for future revisions. Teachers who complete this project will have a finished, tested unit to carry back for use in their classrooms as well as a framework for developing units in the future.

For more details about courses and requirements for each culminating project, please refer to the Graduate Handbook.