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Degree Tracks

Plan A or Plan B

Graduate students can pursue either a thesis or exam track toward a master’s degree in American Studies. The thesis track is generally recommended, as it allows students to complete a substantial research and writing project and to develop closer relationships with their advisors, both of which tend to be helpful in professional job placements and applications for subsequent graduate education. In some instances, however, the exam option, in which students develop expertise in two fields of specialization, makes more sense. Each track requires a distinct academic plan and has its own coursework requirements.

Plan A—Thesis

Plan A students must complete twenty-four credits (8 regular courses) of graduate coursework, including the core sequence (AMST 600, 601, 603), at least TWO other graduate courses in American Studies, and THREE courses in either American Studies or a related field. In addition, Plan A students must take SIX credits of AMST 700 during the research and writing phase upon approval of the thesis proposal. At the end of the process, students must defend their theses before the committee. For more information on the thesis, see the MA Thesis (Plan A) section.

Plan B—Exams

Plan B students must complete thirty credits (10 regular courses) of graduate coursework, including the core sequence (AMST 600, 601, 603), at least THREE other graduate courses in American Studies, and FOUR courses either in American Studies or a related field. In addition, Plan B students must take a written and oral exam in two fields of their choice. For more information of the exams, see the MA Exams (Plan B) section.

MA Curriculum Map


  Plan A Plan B
Required courses AMST 600-603 (9 credits) AMST 600-603 (9 credits)
Electives 2 AMST (6 credits)
3 AMST or allied (9 credits)
3 AMST (9 credits)
4 AMST or allied (12 credits)
Capstone  Thesis (6 credits)  Field Exams
Total Credits  30  30



 Semester All Students   Credits
 Year 1, Fall AMST 600-601 (1 elective)  9
 Year 1, Spring AMST 603 (2 electives)  9
  Plan A Plan B  
 Year 2, Fall  2 electives 2 electives  6
 Year 2, Spring  Thesis 2 courses
Field Exams


MA Coursework Guidelines

  • Students may apply only ONE 400-level undergraduate course to their electives credit. The 400-level course must be approved by the Graduate Chair.
  • All outside electives have to be approved by the Graduate Chair.
  • Only courses taken for a grade will be counted toward a graduate degree.
  • If a student has completed her coursework but has not yet taken her exams or had her thesis topic approved, she can maintain registration status by enrolling for ONE credit of AMST 500 with the graduate chair on a CR/NC basis. Note that financial aid, student employment, and U.S. State Department regulations could require some students to enroll for as many as EIGHT credits in order to maintain registration status. See Maintaining Enrollment Status.
  • Master’s degrees should be completed within two years (or four full-time semesters of study). Delayed students will be placed on departmental probationary status in their sixth semester of full-time study.
  • Students must in addition comply with all rules and regulations of the Office of Graduate Education.

MA Course Waivers

Students who have completed graduate work at another research university in American Studies or a related field can appeal to the Graduate Chair to import outside course credits and apply them toward their degree. In such cases, students will have to show evidence of rigor of the courses and their compatibility with American Studies by providing syllabi and work completed by the student. Except in rare circumstances, no more than NINE outside credits (three regular classes) can be counted toward a student’s MA degree. In no circumstances, may students waive any of the required core courses (AMST 600, AMST 601, AMST 603).

Dual Degree Students

American Studies has two dual master’s degree programs, one with Ehwa Woman’s University in Korea and the other with Library and Information Science at UH Mānoa. Please consult the descriptions on those programs for more information.