African Studies Graduate Programs

Graduate programs covering the academic study of Africa may be found at many universities. In this article we will give a broad strokes outline of the kinds of coursework you can expect to find and conclude with the typical admissions requirements.

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African (sometimes called Africana) studies is the academic study of the continent of Africa and its people. In this article, we will explore some of the graduate degree programs and coursework you can expect to see in African studies, along with the standard admissions requirements.

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General African Studies Graduate Program Information

The length of programs in African studies varies. Masters programs usually take 1-2 years, whereas PhD programs may take three years or more and are usually contingent upon completion and defense of a scholarly dissertation. You can expect specific course titles and focuses to vary widely. However, the broad categories found in many programs are outlined below.

African Art and Literature

In this type of course, students will analyze and discuss the enormous variety of art, material culture, and literature to come out of Africa and African peoples abroad. These classes may be co-listed with related departments, such as English or Art History, or they may take place entirely within an African studies context. The focus of such courses is sometimes on a specific artist medium, movement, or region.

African History

Courses such as this are intended to introduce students to the unique history of various African countries and peoples. You can expect to undertake a wide variety of historical readings of both primary and secondary sources. Classes may require historical analyses as topics for your writing.

Women's Studies/Gender Studies

Women's Studies and Gender Studies, two slightly different fields of study that are often co-listed, analyze the history and influence of women and women's movements, as well as the concept of gender, in general. In an African studies program, these courses may examine the influence of African women and analyze the concept and function of gender in various African cultures.

Political Science

As the name implies, political science is the study of politics and government. From an African studies perspective, the political science coursework you can expect to encounter may examine the colonial history of different African regions, the current political state of individual countries, and the position of Africa as a whole in world geopolitics. They may also analyze practices important to Africa, such as developmental aid and foreign economic investment.

African Languages

The African continent is home to an enormous variety of languages, and therefore students may find it worthwhile to study one or more African language, such as Amharic, Swahili, or Yoruba. The goals of such courses range from a simple introduction to the language, to advanced linguistic or literary analysis. Some African studies graduate programs require students to demonstrate proficiency in an African language, through coursework and a reading exam, before a degree will be awarded.

Program Admission Requirements

All graduate programs (Masters and PhD) will expect at least an undergraduate degree (completed or anticipated) from their applicants. Some African studies graduate programs may explicitly require a minimum undergraduate GPA, such as 3.0. You will need to submit official transcripts of all previously completed coursework. Most graduate programs will ask applicants to submit a personal statement or statement of purpose, a recent sample of academic writing, and as many as 3 letters of recommendation. Recent scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test may be required. PhD programs in particular are interested in a good 'fit' between the student's interest and the areas of focus of the faculty, and if you are interested in that degree you will likely need to submit an example of scholarly writing on your topic of interest.

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