University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of History

Graduate Program

Masters in History (MA)

Requirements for Admissions

Applicants should have an undergraduate major in history or in a related field of the humanities or social sciences with the equivalent of a minor in history. They must take the Graduate Record Examination and submit with the application a sample of writing, such as a research paper done in an undergraduate history course, demonstrating the use of primary sources.

To be considered for admission, a candidate must have a grade point average of 3.0 (B) in his or her last two years of undergraduate study, with evidence of better work (B+/3.3) in history. Students will normally score above the 65th percentile on the Graduate Record Examination Verbal section, but this score will never be the sole determining factor in admissions decisions. These guidelines suggest a minimum level and do not imply that all students attaining that minimum will be admitted. The undergraduate record, letters of recommendation, and the writing sample will be major factors in evaluating applications, especially when the department is considering an exception to the above general guidelines.

Accelerated Master's Program in History

History majors in their third year of undergraduate standing at UVM may apply to the department for the Accelerated Master’s Program (AMP) in history. Students accepted into the program will, during their senior year, work simultaneously on their B.A. and M.A. requirements, toward which they may count up to six concurrent credits.  NOTE: Undergraduates can only apply to the AMP program in their third year of the BA; seniors are not eligible for admission.

Application Deadline

Applicants seeking financial aid in the form of fellowships or assistantships for the upcoming fall semester, and all applicants to the AMP program, must have their completed application submitted by February 15th. No applications for admission to the program for the upcoming fall semester will be accepted after May 1st. In those rare instances when a student seeks admission for the spring semester, applications must be submitted by November 1st.

Studies Committee

Each student enrolled in a master's program is required to have a studies committee. The committee will be created by the student in consultation with individual faculty members and the Director of Graduate Studies. The committee should be in place by the end of the first semester of study and will normally consist of two professors from the history department who are also appointed to the graduate faculty. One member of the committee (usually a professor with research interests directly related to those of the student) will serve as the primary advisor. The purpose of the committee is to supervise the graduate student's program and to review that program at regular intervals. For those students pursuing the thesis option M.A. (see below), the studies committee will form the core of the thesis committee (with the addition of a chair from another academic department).

Program of Study

Students, in consultation with their advisor and their studies committee, will work out a program of study each semester. There are two possible tracks for fulfilling the requirements for the MA degree (thesis and non-thesis options). During their first year of study, all students enrolled in the MA program are required to take graduate historiography (HST 301). The thesis option requires 24 credit hours of 200 and 300 level courses, 6 credit hours of HST 391(thesis research), satisfactory performance on the comprehensive examination, and successful completion and defense of a Master's thesis. The non-thesis option requires 30 credit hours of 200 and 300 level work and the successful completion of the comprehensive examination. Students may also, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and individual faculty members, complete independent study (Readings and Research) courses that involve the creation of individualized reading lists and regular meetings with faculty instructors. On occasion, instructors may require students enrolled in Readings and Research courses to attend lectures in relevant undergraduate classes offered at the 100 level. With the consent of the student’s advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, six hours of the required course work for the M.A. may be taken in related fields outside of the history department. Students must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.3 (B+) each semester. Students failing to maintain this average will be dismissed from the program.

Options for Teachers

The MA program regularly accepts students who are currently teaching at the secondary or community college level, and who want to pursue advanced study in history.  Although most students do enroll in the program full-time, it is possible to pursue the MA on a part-time basis, usually taking one course a semester in order to complete all requirements within five years.  Seminars are generally scheduled in the late afternoon or early evening, to accommodate diverse schedules.  To further fit the needs of teachers, many seminars offer the option of preparing a syllabus or detailed unit plan as a final project; in addition, the comprehensive exams can be used to prepare syllabi, unit, and/or lesson plans.

Comprehensive Examination

Graduate students must pass a written or oral comprehensive examination during their course of study. Comprehensive examinations will be administered to full-time students by the beginning of their fourth semester of study. Full-time students may elect to take these exams in late September, late November/early December or in late January of the second year of study. For part-time students, the examinations will be administered after they have completed 21 hours of coursework. The scheduling for the examinations will be arranged through the Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with individual faculty members.

MA candidates are tested in two areas of history, to be determined by the individual student (in consultation with his or her advisor) by the conclusion of their first year of study. Students are required to pursue at least one thematic/methodological field (e.g. Colonialism and Nationalism in the Modern World, Gender and Sexuality in History, Comparative Slavery, Jewish History, Holocaust Studies, History of Tourism, African Diasporas, Diplomatic History, etc.) and one geographical/chronological field (e.g. medieval France, modern Europe, Colonial America, modern West Africa, early modern Europe, modern Japan, Renaissance Europe, modern Middle East, etc.) The two areas must be supervised by different members of the history faculty. In general, students will prepare for comprehensive examinations by taking specific courses in their field of study (either seminars or Readings and Research courses) and by pursuing independent reading.

Various options are available for the examination fields, ranging from the preparation of a syllabus for a semester-long class, detailed lesson plans for particular units, a take-home historiographical essay, or a timed response to questions, or an oral exam of not more than two hours (conducted by the student’s two committee members plus a third faculty member from the history department.)  In all cases, the exam will represent a culminating and cumulative exercise.

Candidates failing the Comprehensive Examination must re-take it at a time determined in consultation with the student’s advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. In most instances, reexamination will occur within one month though, on occasion, students may be asked to postpone until the next semester. Students failing the examination twice will be dismissed from the program.

Thesis Option

All graduate students within the program are eligible to pursue either the thesis or the non-thesis option.

The thesis is designed to demonstrate a candidate's knowledge of the literature on a specific historical subject, ability to locate and use primary source material, and success in arriving at and formulating meaningful conclusions that conform to the professional standards and expectations of the discipline. Normally, the thesis should not exceed 100 pages in length. Students are encouraged to choose their seminar work in areas in which they might find a topic of interest to develop a thesis. Students should not normally enroll for thesis research until after completion of at least one semester of course work. In creating committees of study, students should be sure to include at least one member of the faculty who has sufficient expertise in the field that the candidate intends to pursue thesis work.

At the start of their third semester of study (usually September 1), candidates must submit a written proposal for a thesis topic and have it approved by the faculty member who has agreed to act as thesis advisor. Part-time thesis students must submit the thesis proposal after they have completed 21 credit hours. As a final step in the process, the proposal will be reviewed and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and the Department of History’s Graduate Studies Committee.

Upon completion of the thesis, the candidate will be examined orally by a committee composed of the thesis advisor and two other faculty members, one of whom (serving as chair) must be a member of another department. It is the candidate's responsibility to arrange for this examination (normally no more than two-hours in length) in consultation with his or her thesis advisor.

Non-thesis Option

The non-thesis option is designed to give MA students the broadest possible exposure to a diverse range of coursework and professors. With the exception of the thesis, non-thesis students pursue the same course of study as thesis-option students. Furthermore, because non-thesis students generally take two additional seminars during their time at the University of Vermont, they usually produce more seminar papers (25-30 page essays based on primary and secondary research) than their thesis-option colleagues. Students pursuing the non-thesis course of study thus receive numerous opportunities to conduct independent research on a variety of smaller topics. As an option, therefore, it is a rigorous program that prepares both part-time and full-time students in the MA program for a broad range of career and educational goals.


Most students take four semesters to complete their degree requirements, although it is possible with concentrated effort to finish in three semesters. Teaching assistants may require an additional summer. Full-time students (students who complete their course work in residence taking at least three courses each semester, six hours if they are employed as a teaching assistant) must complete all requirements within three years of beginning their program. Part-time students must complete all requirements within five years.

Transfer Credit

Courses taken for graduate credit at other institutions may, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies and the Dean of the Graduate College, be applied towards fulfilling course requirements. Such transfer credit is limited to nine semester hours. The same limitation is applied to graduate-level courses taken at the University of Vermont prior to admission to the graduate program.

Size of Program

In an effort to preserve close faculty-student contact and to give the maximum individualized attention to each student and his or her program, the department tries to maintain a ratio of 1:2 between faculty and students. Approximately 10-12 students are admitted each year.

Financial Aid

The department awards approximately ten part-time teaching assistantships each semester, carrying a stipend and partial tuition remission. A limited number of fellowships, carrying a stipend and full tuition remission, are awarded by the Graduate College on a merit basis. Qualified candidates from the department of history are nominated for these awards on an annual basis. Residence hall counselorships, providing a stipend plus tuition remission, are an alternative course of funding and may be applied for through the Office of the Dean of Students. In many instances, students who apply for financial aid will frequently qualify for work study money. To assist with defraying costs associated with graduate study, all applicants are encouraged to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by March 1st. When possible, we will try to place students with

The teaching assistantships involve an approximate workload of ten hours per week, conducting survey discussion groups under the direction of a faculty member and grading first and second year undergraduate papers and examinations. This department considers the assistantship an integral part of its graduate education, providing prospective secondary and college teachers with an important opportunity to gain some teaching experience under close supervision and guidance. Normally, only full-time students, taking at least six hours of course work, are eligible for assistantships and fellowships.

Last modified August 08 2014 08:59 AM