MA in History


History student sits in a lecture hall.


The Master of Arts in History prepares students for a broad range of professions, from teaching high school students to pursuing doctoral study to conducting historical research in the private sector. M.A. students can combine core faculty courses, consortium classes and courses from other departments for a personalized program of study.

All MA students may choose to specialize in a particular area of history in consultation with the MA advisor and relevant faculty members. Surrounded by museums and archival institutions, students have access to the best historical research tools and conference opportunities in the world.

Application Deadlines

Fall Semester: April 1 (February 1 for fellowship applicants)

Spring Semester: October 1

Please visit the Office of Graduate Admissions for the most up to date information regarding our application process.



  • Historic Preservation
  • History and Public Policy
  • Imperial and Colonial Studies
  • U.S. Legal History
  • An original concentration, with departmental approval

When registering for classes, students should prioritize 6000-level reading and research courses taught by faculty members specializing in areas close to their chosen concentration. Students concentrating in Imperial and Colonial Studies should take the required HIST 6128 and 6050 the first semester they are offered, since they are taught only in alternate years.


Course Requirements

Notes: M.A. students who are in their first semester at GW must take HIST 6005, a historical methods course.

All M.A. history students in history must take two research seminars. A research seminar is a graduate course that includes a research paper. If it is not clear from the course title, ask the instructor whether it is a research seminar.

Pending approval of the instructor, students may earn graduate credit for undergraduate courses at the 3000-level by completing additional work. Typically, this entails extra reading and more sophisticated paper assignments.

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

 Visit the program website for additional information.

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

A minimum of 36 credits in upper-division undergraduate and graduate-level courses, including completion of a 9-credit focus area*. Remaining credits are selected in consultation with the advisor (see below).

Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.3 to remain in good standing and to earn the degree.

HIST 6005History and Historians (taken in the first semester)
Thesis option (6 credits)
HIST 6999Thesis Research
Non-thesis option (6 credits)
Students choosing the non-thesis option must complete two research seminars for which a research paper is required.
For all students, remaining credits are selected in consultation with the advisor. Up to 9 credits in undergraduate courses may be taken for graduate credit. To receive graduate credit for an undergraduate course, the course must be taken at the 3000 level or above and the student must arrange with the instructor for extra work. Unless otherwise stated under one of the focus areas listed below, a maximum of 6 credits in approved courses may be taken outside of the Department of History. Students may take up to three courses (9 credits) as part of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan area.
Focus areas
Students may choose to complete one of the following focus areas as part of their program of study.
Historic preservation
The historic preservation focus area combines courses in U.S. history and historic preservation. A minimum of 18 credits in courses in U.S. social history, U.S. urban history, man-made America, and the seminar sequence in historic preservation is required.
Imperial and colonial studies
The imperial and colonial studies focus areas emphasizes the comparative study of empires. HIST 6128 and HIST 6050, a 15-credit major regional field, and a 6 to 9 credit minor regional field are required. Up to 9 credits may be taken in related disciplines outside of the Department of History. Students should take HIST 6128 and HIST 6050 in the first semester they are offered, as they are taught only in alternate years.
Public policy
The public policy focus areas emphasizes the study of history as it relates to the analysis and conduct of public policy. An internship completed in conjunction with HIST 6012 is required. One-third of the coursework for this focus areas is taken outside the Department of History in a discipline relevant to the student’s policy interests.
U.S. legal history
The U.S. legal history focus areas combines a major field in U.S. history with a focus in U.S. legal history. Students may take up to 9 credits in courses in legal history offered by the Law School.

*A field of focus is centered on a specific period, region, or theme. Students work with the MA advisor to decide the specifics of their field of focus.