Master of Arts in American Studies

The Master of Arts program in American studies requires a minimum of 36 s.h. of graduate credit. The Department of American Studies typically awards M.A.s under the "Master's Portfolio" option. The "Master's Thesis" option is available only under exceptional circumstances, and the student must petition the Director of Graduate Studies for permission to pursue this option.

The Department of American Studies offers a 2-year M.A. degree program which is separate from the Ph.D. program but which can also provide an entrée into the Ph.D. program at the conclusion of the M.A. degree. M.A. students are fully funded for both years. The requirements for the M.A. degree include four required American Studies courses, five elective courses and an M.A. portfolio. The portfolio includes a research paper (usually a redrafted seminar or course paper); faculty evaluations; and a statement of self-evaluation and reflection, or purpose. For M.A. students who wish to go on for a Ph.D. in the American Studies Department, the M.A. portfolio serves as their application to the Ph.D. program. Student admitted to Iowa’s Ph.D. program with the M.A. are funded for an additional three years, graduating with a total of five years of funded graduate work (i.e. four semesters in the M.A. and six semesters in the Ph.D. program). M.A. students work closely with a graduate advisor to design their plan of study, and in the second year, to design and complete the portfolio. The opportunities available to students in the Ph.D. program are also available to M.A. students, including optional certificates in the Digital Humanities; African American Studies; or Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies; and individual development plans directed towards social justice, public engagement or public service careers; as well as certificates in College teaching. Like the Ph.D. students, American Studies M.A. students engage in interdisciplinary inquiry and practice the art of analyzing cultural materials in light of historical change, social justice and socio-cultural identities, communications media, and the operations of power across transnational, domestic/national and community contexts.

Listed below are the general categories of coursework required to earn the degree; for more specific information on courses, curriculum, and requirements of the Master of Arts in American studies, visit the UI General Catalog.

Degree Requirements
Title Hours
Interdisciplinary Research in American Studies (taken twice in consecutive years) 6
Two graduate seminars in American Studies 6
Five courses in the interdisciplinary field of concentration 15
Additional Upper-Level Electives 9
Master's Portfolio (see below) -
Total Hours 36

Important Deadlines

Application Deadline: January 1st (for all programs)


Admission decisions are based on prior academic performance, letters of reference, and the applicant's statement about background and purpose. Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College on the Graduate College website. For more information, see the Graduate Admissions Process page.

Master's Portfolio

The Master’s Portfolio must include:

  • Research Paper: A graduate seminar paper that demonstrates your skills as a research scholar and writer, and represents your strongest work to date (25-30 pages in length, including bibliography).
  • Faculty Evaluations for all courses taken in the first full year of graduate study.
  • Self-evaluation: This essay summarizes the methods and materials of American studies that have shaped your interdisciplinary work in the field and states how your M.A. work has contributed to, challenged, or complicated your goals and ambitions beyond the M.A. (5 pages in length).

The Master’s Portfolio will be assembled under the guidance of the M.A. candidate’s advisor. It will be submitted no later than the 1st of December of the student’s 3rd semester in residency. The Master’s Portfolio will be evaluated on an S-U basis by a 3-person American Studies faculty committee. Students whose Master’s Portfolio receives a U may resubmit the Portfolio in the 4th semester in residency. The Master’s Portfolio will serve as the application for admission to the Ph.D. program in American Studies for those M.A. students who wish to apply. Candidates applying for the Ph.D. program will be informed by the end of the Fall semester in which their M.A. Portfolio is submitted whether or not they have been accepted into the Ph.D. program - with admission being contingent on successful completion of the M.A. degree in the 4th semester of residency.