African American Studies Degree Program Info by Level

Students interested in majoring in African American studies can find degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. These programs consist of studies in the humanities and soft sciences.

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Essential Information

African American studies is an academic study area offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels, and combines studies from sociology, history, economics and anthropology. Each African American studies program focuses on issues like the Diaspora, Civil War, emancipation and African American culture.

To enter a bachelor's degree program, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED certificate.

When applying for entrance into a master's program, students must have a bachelor's degree, letters of recommendation, a personal statement essay and satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). These programs generally require the completion of a thesis and comprehensive exam prior to graduation.

The prerequisites for a doctoral degree include a master's degree, letters of reference, a statement of goals, a writing sample, GRE scores, and a resume. To complete their degree, doctoral students must pass qualifying examinations and complete a dissertation.


Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies

This bachelor's degree program is interdisciplinary and focuses on the history of people of African descent in the United States. The curriculum examines the history of slavery in the United States, the Civil Rights movement and more. Learners investigate the repercussions of the Diaspora, African-Americans' migration from their homeland. Other focus areas are the association between identity and race, African-American literature and the influence of African culture on the United States. The program combines coursework from a variety of academic disciplines including history, literature, political science and the humanities.

Topics of discussion in African American studies courses include:

  • Emancipation
  • African American music
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • Nationalism
  • Ethnography

Master of Arts in African American Studies

Drawing studies from departments of history, anthropology and sociology, the program offers specialized study in African American life, culture and art. Students delve into colonialism, the slave trade, the economic history of African Americans, artistic movements and race, women and gender. Graduate courses include studies in drama, literature and economics.

Course topics in the program are:

  • Inequality
  • Poverty
  • Discrimination
  • Social stratification
  • Imperialism

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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in African American Studies

Designed for future educators, historians, sociologists and political scientists, the program explores the African American experience, from the earliest days of the Diaspora to the socioeconomic condition of African Americans in the 21st century. Students investigate African American scholarship, art and cultural studies, policies and laws that led to emancipation and equality. Coursework examines the struggle for equality, politics in the United States that shaped African American life and the contributions of African American literature, music and art on American culture.

Other focus areas are:

  • Black power
  • Slave resistance
  • Abolitionism
  • Affirmative action
  • Migration

Popular Career Options

Graduates with a Bachelor's degree can pursue careers in education, politics and social services. Some career options for graduate are:

  • Human services worker
  • Activist
  • Community organizer

Career options for graduates with a master's degree include jobs at social services agencies, non-profit organizations, schools and more. Prospective job titles for graduates are:

  • Museum curator
  • Historian
  • Public administrator

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Historians held 3,010 positions in the U.S. in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and jobs in this profession were expected to grow 2% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that historians earned a median annual salary of $55,800 in May 2015. Post-secondary teachers held 191,220 jobs that same year and earned a median salary of $63,000 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Programs in African American studies are available at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Career options vary by education level, but most graduates go on to careers in social work and education.

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