African Studies Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

African studies degree programs examine the traditions and experiences of Africans and individuals of African descent. Curricula in African studies are offered as both bachelor's and master's degree programs, as well as certificates.

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Essential Information

In the U.S., programs in African studies are offered at the bachelor's and master's levels. Undergraduate and graduate certificates may also be available.

Bachelor's degree programs in African studies consist of class lectures and internships, and guide students in examining African culture as well as art and literature.

Master's-level programs might emphasize world affairs and current issues, and generally allow students to conduct independent research in African studies leading to a thesis project. Applicants seeking admission into a Master of Arts in African Studies program must hold a bachelor's degree and present satisfactory scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Many programs also require letters of recommendation, a college essay and a resume detailing academic and professional experiences related to African studies.

African studies certificates are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels and are usually taken alongside a bachelor's and master's course of study. They emphasize the social sciences and humanities, and could offer unique study opportunities in an African country.

Bachelor's Degree in African Studies

A bachelor's degree in African studies focuses broadly on the past and present social, political and economic changes affecting members of the African community in North America (United States and Canada), Africa, the Caribbean, South America and Europe. The curriculum combines classroom instruction, internships, and research, community and civic projects. A typical bachelor's program offers students standard general education classes along with general electives in history, religion, politics, literature and economics.

Common courses include:

  • Pre-colonial African history
  • Harlem renaissance studies
  • African art history
  • African American literature
  • Caribbean literature
  • African archaeology

Master's Degree in African Studies

Master's degree programs in African studies allow students to choose an area of concentration where they develop original research for a thesis. Research work may be conducted in such areas as music, dance, language, literature, public health or urban planning, and may be performed individually or in groups.

Common courses include:

  • African world affairs
  • African contemporary issues
  • African language studies
  • Urban and rural development
  • Public health issues

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Certificate in African Studies

Certificate programs allow students to study the social, historical, cultural, economic and political issues of Africa through classroom lecture, conferences and workshops. Besides coursework, students have the opportunity to study abroad in Africa. They may travel for an academic year, summer or semester and visit such areas as Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and Morocco. African studies certificate programs require approximately 12-18 credits with heavy concentration in the social sciences and humanities.

Common courses include:

  • African music
  • African American dance
  • African international relations
  • African policy and law
  • African political studies
  • African civilization studies

Popular Career Options

Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in African studies may find entry-level work with civil rights organizations, government agencies, political action groups, social services agencies and public relations firms. Positions may include the following:

  • Marketing executives
  • Public relations assistants
  • Community organizers
  • Public interest advocates
  • Social workers

Graduates with a bachelor's degree who want to further their education and receive higher-paying positions may go on to acquire master's degrees in African studies. Holders of a Master of Arts in African Studies may find positions at hospitals, law firms and museums in such titles as:

  • Public health coordinators
  • Psychologists
  • Lawyers
  • Museum curators

Employment Outlook and Salary

After graduation, individuals with a doctoral certificate in African studies may find employment at colleges, universities or museums. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 13% increase in jobs for postsecondary teachers, including college professors, between 2014-2024. This job growth is faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS projected five percent (slower-than-average) job growth for museum technicians and conservators during the same period. Historians, the BLS projected, could expect below-average growth of 2% from 2014-2024 (

As of May 2015, the median annual wage for area, ethnic and cultural studies professors was $72,300 per year; historians earned a median annual salary of $55,800, and museum technicians and conservators earned a median salary of $40,340.

Students can pursue an interest in African studies as part of a bachelor's or master's degree program, or through certificate programs. After graduation, students may find employment in the areas of government, education, and law.

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