Native American Studies Degree Program Summaries

Interdisciplinary programs in Native American studies are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. At each degree level, students expand their knowledge of native languages as well as literature and art.

Essential Information

Associate's degree programs typically offer general education courses in addition to core Native American studies topics. Graduates of the associate's program might transfer their credits to a 4-year undergraduate degree program, which provides an opportunity for more in-depth study. Master's degree programs could include areas of concentration alongside advanced coursework. Students at this level must often complete thesis-related research.

  • Program Levels in Native American Studies: Associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees
  • Prerequisites: Associate's and bachelor's degrees typically require a high school diploma or equivalent; a master's level degree requires a bachelor's degree in a related field, and sometimes letters of recommendation or writing samples.
  • Program Length: Associate' degrees typically take two years, bachelor's degrees four years, and master's degrees around two years or more.
  • Other Requirements: Some programs may require internships or field experience working with local tribes, schools, museums, or organizations; thesis for graduate programs

Associate's Degree in Native American Studies

An associate's degree in Native American studies can prepare graduates to work with indigenous populations. Programs are designed to provide students with an understanding cultural changes that have occurred throughout history, as well as social, political and economic issues that affect modern tribal communities. Some programs provide the opportunity for students to learn how to speak Lakota (Sioux) or Ojibwemowin (Ojibwe) languages. Core Native American studies courses may also include interdisciplinary topics such as:

  • American History
  • Art and art history
  • Literature
  • Indigenous culture
  • Contemporary tribal issues

Bachelor's Degree in Native American Studies

A 4-year bachelor's degree in Native American studies may consist of classroom instruction, an undergraduate research project and an internship. Internships may be completed locally at tribal schools and museums, or nationally through such organizations as the National Congress of American Indians, the Seneca Gaming Corporation or the Smithsonian Institution. Bachelor's degree programs might include a range of Native American studies courses, such as:

  • Education
  • Tribal government
  • Religion
  • Cultural preservation techniques
  • Storytelling

Master's Degree in Native American Studies

Master's degree programs in Native American studies usually involve completion of an original research project or thesis. Students may choose an area of concentration, such as art history, education, folklore, law, linguistics, sociology or anthropology. Graduate degree programs offer advanced cross-disciplinary courses, including:

  • Federal policies
  • Tribal economic development
  • Prehistoric art
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Archaeology

Popular Career Options

Career options vary depending on the candidate's degree level.

  • Graduates with an associate degree in Native American studies may find entry-level employment in various industries. Possible jobs include social workers, artists, filmmakers, and assistant museum curators.
  • Career opportunities for individuals with a bachelor's degree in Native American studies exist in the areas of government, education and law. Such positions include community service managers, Native American affairs advocates, tribal schoolteachers, museum program coordinators, and tribal legal assistants.
  • Individuals with a master's degree in Native American studies may find employment at 2-year colleges or museums. Graduates may also find employment with a tribal community in such areas as social service, government and education. Furthermore, a master's degree in Native American studies could lead to a career teaching at a community college.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 13% increase in jobs for college professors and other postsecondary teachers between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS also forecast 5% (about as fast as the average for all occupations) job growth for museum technicians and conservators during the same period.

The BLS reported that the May 2015 mean wage for ethnic studies professors was $81,700, while historians earned $61,120. As of May 2015, the BLS also listed the mean salary of museum technicians as $44,880.

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