Requirements for the M.A. Program in History

MA - History

Requirements for Admission to Classified Standing

Admission to classified standing for the MA - History requires that the undergraduate preparation of the applicant be comparable to that of a history major for the BA degree at San José State University. Included in this preparation must be one upper division or graduate course in historical method and a course in historiography may be required. The applicant who does not have this preparation must remove all deficiencies. Students who have a baccalaureate degree in a field other than history will be required to complete up to 16 units in upper division or graduate history courses. Units thus taken will not be counted toward the minimum 30 units required for the MA - History. Requirements and regulations change; thus, the department web site contains the most current information. Please reference it.

Requirements for Admission to Conditionally Classified Standing

A student who does not meet all requirements for admission in classified standing for the MA - History may be admitted in conditionally classified status. The Director of Graduate Studies will list on the admissions notification all deficiencies and courses that must be taken. Upon completing these requirements, the student must file a petition for a change of status to classified standing.

University Requirements

The applicant must also comply with all requirements of the university as outlined in this catalog and stated in subsequent policy changes (this refers both to admission and graduation procedures). The University requires that all graduate students demonstrate competency in written English as a condition for advancement to candidacy. Please refer to the SJSU catalog section titled "Competency in Written English" for details. For graduate courses that meet the competency in written English requirement, please refer to the Graduate Admissions and Program Evaluations website at

Completing the Course Requirements for the MA - History

Following admission to the university and the department, the student should consult the history department website and speak with the Director of Graduate Studies regarding degree requirements and a proposed degree program. Candidates must complete 20 units of course work in one of the following fields of study: United States History, European History or World History. Eight units may be taken in any field of history. Two units will focus on professional development. Specialists in European History and U.S. History may apply one World History colloquium (HIST 220) to their primary field, and World History specialists may apply one U.S. History colloquium (HIST 210) or one European History colloquium (HIST 209 or HIST 211) to their primary field. Five courses and the 2 units of professional development—22 units—must be completed at the graduate level. All students must retain a 3.0 average to remain in the program and either pass the comprehensive examination or complete a thesis to receive the degree.

Course Requirements

(Most graduate courses in history provide 4 units of University credit.)
Professional Development 2
HIST 298 to be completed during a student’s first semester
Colloquia 8–12
European History Primary Field
HIST 209 and HIST 211 8
United States History Primary Field
HIST 210 series 12
World History Primary Field
HIST 220 series 8
Seminars 8
Additional Graduate or Upper Division Courses 8–12
Total Units: 30

Thesis (Plan A) and Examination (Plan B) Options

In addition to the course of study outlined above, graduate students must take and pass a culminating examination (Plan B). On the exam the student is expected to demonstrate considerable breadth and depth of knowledge, a familiarity with historiographical issues and follow acceptable rules of grammar, spelling and literary style in presentation. The examination will be scheduled toward the end of the fall and spring semesters and students must pass the examination within three attempts or no degree will be awarded.

In some exceptional cases, students may substitute a thesis (Plan A) for this test. A thesis option will be considered only upon the nomination of a professor, who agrees to serve as the first reader. The student must demonstrate to the nominating professor, in a written proposal, that he or she is capable of completing a thesis, both in terms of research skills and writing ability and that he or she has sufficient time to undertake a major research and writing project. In addition, the proposed project must have intrinsic historical value. Demonstrating these points still does not obligate a professor to nominate or to serve as a first reader, and no reason need be given to a student for declining to supervise a thesis. Permission to write a thesis is also contingent on finding two other professors willing to be second and third readers respectively; they also serve entirely at their own discretion. Finally, the department’s graduate studies committee must approve all thesis proposals. After all three readers have signed the thesis, the candidate must submit it to the University for final approval.

A thesis committee has the option of terminating the thesis option if, in the opinion of the three readers, the candidate has shown him- or herself incapable or unwilling to write an acceptable thesis in a reasonable amount of time. In that situation the student will be required to take the Plan B comprehensive examination.

Language Requirement

All candidates for the general MA degree in history must demonstrate competency in one foreign language. The sole exception are students whose primary field is U.S. History, who may, if they do not wish to meet the language requirement, take two history graduate level courses in substitution.

The language competency requirement may be met in four ways:

  1. Through examination by a history faculty member with expertise in your language. The exam will be a translation of approximately 500 words to be completed in two hours with a dictionary allowed.
  2. By taking two years of a foreign language at a university or community college. An average grade "C" must have been attained, and the course work completed within five years of admission to the university.
  3. If your primary concentration is European History, you may also fulfill this requirement by taking one year of Greek and one year of Latin.
  4. By taking and passing the Educational Testing Service Graduate Foreign Language Exam.

Graduate Division Approval of Candidacy and Degree Program

At least one semester before a candidate expects to graduate, the student must complete the Advancement to Candidacy Application delineating the entire degree program, that is, the courses that the student has completed or expects to complete toward the MA. The candidate must submit the form to the Director of Graduate Studies and then to Graduate Studies and Research for final approval. Through this procedure, the student's entire program will be examined to determine whether it complies with all departmental and university requirements for the degree, including the university requirement for demonstrated competency in written English.