Those who are passionate about feminism and the female experience may wish to pursue a graduate degree in Women's Studies to become academics, politicians, lawyers, or activists. Women's Studies is a highly interdisciplinary field, and programs can accordingly vary in their focus. Learn about some coursework you may expect to undertake in many programs and other degrees that you may also find helpful in achieving your goals.
General Graduate Degree Program Information
Master's programs generally last for two years; PhD programs may take five or more. Master's programs may or may not require a thesis; PhD programs usually involve the completion of a dissertation before the degree is awarded.
Women's Studies graduate programs call for at least an undergraduate degree (in any field) and may require an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. Some programs also require results of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for admission. The following courses are examples of typical offerings in the field.
Women's History/History of Feminism
These courses survey the history, influence, and struggles of women and feminist movements. Depending on your program's focus, these classes may cover a broad swath of history, anywhere from prehistory to modern times, or they may focus on a narrower period and culture. Women's Studies programs in the U.S. often focus on American feminism, though other courses may emphasize other areas. Either way, these courses emphasize the enormously diverse experiences of women across different cultures, teaching students to keep an open mind to difference.
Theories in Feminist Inquiry/Introduction to Feminist Theory
These courses expose students to the important writers, texts and concepts that have informed and shaped contemporary feminist thought. They are intended to give students a taste of the current state of Women's Studies, and the historical context that led it to where it is today. It also serves to teach students the necessary terms and vocabulary to communicate and understand the academic discourse within the field.
This broad category of courses exposes students to important works by queer and trans writers. They analyze contemporary queer literature in historical as well as artistic context, and the influence they have had in shaping modern gender identities. This type of course aids students in developing and improving the critical skills and knowledge base needed for success in rigorous graduate-level humanities courses, as well as in advanced academic research in Women's Studies.
Feminism in Education
This type of course is often required of PhD students who will be expected to serve as teaching assistants in undergraduate classes. It is designed to train graduate students to be effective instructors in the Women's Studies classroom. Students practice effectively leading discussions, designing daily class meetings, writing a syllabus, and addressing any pedagogical issues that may arise in class.
These courses are meant to introduce graduate students to methods of research in the field of Women's Studies. Students learn how to integrate different forms of qualitative research, such as focus groups, interviews, and surveys. A background in subjects such as statistics and psychology may be beneficial.
Related Graduate Degrees
M.A./PhD in Gender and Sexuality Studies
Women's Studies and Gender Studies are sometimes combined into one program. While Women's Studies obviously emphasizes the female experience, Gender Studies also looks at the influence, history, and experiences of men and nonbinary people.
J.D. (Juris Doctor)
A law degree is intended for those who wish to enter the legal profession as attorneys or judges. A number of universities offer dual programs that allow students to graduate with a J.D. and an M.A. in Women's Studies simultaneously, for those who wish to integrate advocacy for women into their law practice. J.D. programs last three years beyond the undergraduate degree and require the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).
M.P.P. (Master of Public Policy)
Public policy programs are designed to prepare people for careers in government, universities, and think tanks. These programs often admit individuals who have real-world experience in areas such as social work, non-profits, or politics, beyond having earned a related undergraduate degree.
M.S.W. (Master of Social Work)
This degree may be an ideal degree for those students who intend to work with women in the field of social work; these kinds of careers include professional social workers, in addition to counselors and academics. Some programs offer dual MSW/MA programs. Once you have completed this degree, you may wish to increase your specialization by earning a graduate certificate in Women's Studies.
Women's Studies is a broad and often influential field. Many graduate study opportunities exist that you may compare with your educational goals and personal interests.