Asian Studies Graduate Programs

Asian studies is a broad, interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the continent of Asia, its countries, culture, and peoples. Here, we cover the broad coursework you can expect to encounter, as well as the admissions requirements for many master's degree programs.

Asian studies might be a worthwhile academic pursuit for students who are drawn to the cultures of Asia. Asian studies analyzes the culture, language, religion, and history of the countries in the continent of Asia. In this article, we will address some of the coursework common to master's degree programs in Asian studies and conclude with typical admissions requirements.

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General Asian Studies Graduate Program Information

Master's degree programs in Asian studies tend to span from 2-4 semesters, and a thesis or other type of written report is usually required for program completion. Additionally, Asian studies programs may expect (or strongly encourage) students to undertake research at a university in an Asian country. As the geographic region and breadth of the field is incredibly diverse, coursework you will encounter in any given Asian studies program may vary depending on your program's focus and your own personal choice of region as a specialty. Some of the topics you may encounter during your course of study are outlined below.

Asian Languages

Most Asian studies graduate programs will require students to demonstrate proficiency in at least one major language of Asia, and therefore you should expect to enroll in language courses of some kind. These languages may include but are not limited to Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Japanese. You may also have the opportunity to take coursework in other languages that are relevant to the region, such as Tagalog, Nepali, or Sanskrit.

Asian History

A strong historical foundation is necessary to proper understanding and contextualizing of Asian culture, and you should expect to undertake a fair amount of historical coursework in an Asian studies program. You will read a variety of primary and secondary sources and likely produce related historical analyses. These courses may be broad and cover the development of Asian civilizations from ancient times to present, or they may be more specific, addressing a single country, region, or time period.

Asian Art and Literature

These courses expose students to the art, literature, and material culture of Asia. They could cover anything from ancient religious art to contemporary cinema, or might focus on a single country, culture, or time period. In some cases, these classes may be conducted entirely in the target language.

Asian Politics and Government

Often hosted in tandem with political science programs, these cover the contemporary and historic politics and political thought in Asia. Coursework may involve the analysis of current or historical Asian political and governmental policy, usually of a specific country or region. You may also learn about international relations between specific countries or regions of Asia.

Asian Religion/Philosophy

You will read, analyze, and discuss the seminal works and traditions shaping Asian spiritual practice and belief. Like many courses in Asian studies, these classes may be conducted in the target language or in English translation. These classes may be surveys intended to introduce you to Asian religions at large, or you may focus on a single religion, school of thought, or philosopher.

Program Admission Requirements

Like most master's degree programs, you'll need a bachelor's degree in order to be considered for admission to an Asian studies program. While no specific bachelor's is required, students in Asian studies will normally be expected to be proficient enough in relevant languages to take part in classes, and some universities may require students to have taken previous Asian language coursework if they are not native speakers. You will need to provide transcripts from all previous educational institutions.

Most graduate programs will ask applicants to compose a brief personal statement describing their reasons for pursuing a master's degree, speaking to previous coursework or professional experience relevant to Asian studies. You may also be asked to submit an academic writing sample. You will often need to provide your scores for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test. If you are not a native speaker of English, you should expect to take the TOEFL. Finally, most programs will ask for letters of recommendation (2-3 is the standard).

Asian studies is an incredibly broad and diverse field of academic pursuit. Whatever your personal goals in the field are, you can likely find a program with a concentration in your Asian region of interest.

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