If you are interested in working to support and understand the LGBT population, an M.A. in LGBT Studies (sometimes called Gender and/or Sexuality Studies) may be a good fit for you. LGBT Studies is a broad, emerging field, and therefore programs will vary in their focus. Those who work in this field may go on to become academics, counselors, doctors, lawyers, and activists. In this article, we have listed some groundwork you can expect to cover in most any program, as well as other degrees that may also be relevant to your interests.
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General Master's Degree Program Information
M.A. programs generally last for at least two years. All master's programs require at least an undergraduate degree, sometimes look for an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, and often require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
As mentioned, course offerings in LGBT Studies can vary widely depending on the individual program's focus and goals. Your core coursework will cover at least the topics listed below, though their titles may vary, and multiple subjects may be combined into a single survey course.
History of Gender and Sexuality
These humanities-oriented courses examine the perception and expression of sexuality and gender identity from a historical perspective. Depending on your instructor, you might cover a broad spectrum of history, from ancient to contemporary times, or you may focus on a narrower period and culture. Either way, you will analyze cultural depictions of gender and sexuality through such representations as literature, poetry, and mass media. These courses emphasize the diverse and malleable views different cultures and time periods have towards the concept of gender and sexuality.
Psychology of Gender and Sexuality
These science and research-based courses examine gender expectations and their effects on individuals, contemporary research on neurological gender differences, and theories of gender development. You may read, analyze and discuss topics such as psychosexual development, romantic love and sexual desire, asexuality, nonbinary gender, and attempts to change or manipulate one's sexual or gender identity. You should expect to take many such courses if the program is aimed towards individuals working in mental health or social work.
These courses introduce students to fiction, poetry, and essays by gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors. They analyze contemporary queer literature in historical context, and how they shaped modern LGBT identities. The primary aim of these types of courses is to help students develop and improve the critical skills and knowledge base needed for success in higher level LGBT humanities courses, and in academic research.
Key Theories and Concepts in LGBT Studies
These courses are intended to get students 'up to speed' on the current state of discourse in LGBT Studies. Important theories and concepts, as well as controversies, will be read, analyzed, and discussed. You will also be introduced to writings by the key academic thinkers who influenced the creation of the field of LGBT Studies. These courses are important for those who wish to go into academia and need the necessary knowledge base.
These courses serve as an introduction to methods of research and research design in LGBT Studies. Students are introduced to methods of qualitative research, such as interviewing, surveys, and archival analysis. You will also learn how to come up with research questions, create implementation plans, select strategies, and document your results. Depending on the focus of your program, you may also have to do coursework in related subjects such as statistics.
Related Master's Degrees
M.A. Women's Studies
Women's Studies and LGBT Studies (usually called Gender Studies) are closely intertwined, and often programs will be combined. The critical distinction is that while LGBT Studies covers male and nonbinary people, Women's Studies specifically focuses on the experiences and influence of women, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans.
M.A./M.S. in Psychology
This degree (sometimes called an M.Psych) may be an ideal degree for those who wish to advocate for LGBT people in the mental health space, whether as therapists, counselors, or academics. These degrees generally last two to three years, with the M.S. option generally requiring more hard science and math coursework. Once you have completed this degree, you may wish to earn a certificate in LGBT Studies from one of the number of schools that offer them to mental health professionals.
J.D. (Juris Doctor)
A law degree is intended for those intending to enter the legal profession, though occasionally JDs also teach law school. A number of universities offer dual JD/MA programs for those intending to legally advocate for the LGBT population. Additionally, there are several professional organizations (such as Lambda Legal) for attorneys acting in this field. J.D. programs last three years, require an undergraduate degree in any field, the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test), and an admissions essay.
M.P.P. (Master of Public Policy)
If you are considering effecting meaningful change from the top down, the M.P.P. may be the degree for you. This is a professional degree in the field of public policy analysis. M.P.P. programs are designed to prepare students for jobs in government, research institutes, and advocacy organizations. M.P.P. programs often require an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject and may look favorably upon several years of relevant work experience in areas such as politics, government, or community organizing.
LGBT Studies is a broad field with many possible areas of concentration. Whatever your interests or career goals, there will likely be a program that is a good fit for you.