Requirements for M.A. Programs in History

Requirements for the Standard M.A. Degree Program

Students must complete 18–21 units in one of the primary fields below. They may take the remaining 9–12 units may be taken in any field of history.

Primary fields: United States and Modern Europe.

Regardless of the primary field, students may apply one chronologically appropriate World History colloquia (History 220) to his or her primary field.

Thesis (Plan A) and Examination (Plan B) Options:

Students must design their course of study with the final exercise of the degree in mind. Please note the field specific regulations that follow:

All students currently completing the primary field in Ancient and Medieval history currently must write a thesis (Plan A) as no examination (Plan B) option is available.  This program is no longer accepting new students as of Spring 2013.

Students who choose a primary field in United States or Modern European history must take and pass a culminating examination (Plan B). On the exam the student is expected to demonstrate considerable breadth and depth of knowledge, a familiarity with historiographical issues, and to follow acceptable rules of grammar, spelling and literary style in presentation. The examination will be scheduled toward the end of the fall and spring semesters and students must pass the examination within three attempts or no degree will be awarded.

In some exceptional cases, students in United States or Modern European history may substitute a thesis (Plan A) for this test. The attainment of a high gpa in the M.A. program is not necessarily regarded as proof of a student's suitability for a thesis project, and does not in any way entitle them to be nominated for the thesis option. A thesis option will be considered only upon the nomination of a professor, who agrees to serve as the first reader. The student must demonstrate to the nominating professor, in a written proposal, that he or she is capable of completing a thesis, both in terms of research skills and writing ability and that he or she has sufficient time to undertake a major research and writing project. In addition, the proposed project must have intrinsic historical value.

Demonstrating these points still does not obligate a professor to nominate or to serve as a first reader, and no reason need be given to a student for declining to supervise a thesis in any capacity. Permission to write a thesis is also contingent on finding two other professors, who are willing to be second and third readers respectively; they also serve entirely at their own discretion. Students should note that professors arn not compensated for their work on thesis and it is done on a voluntary basis.

After all three readers have signed the thesis, the candidate must submit it to the University for final approval. A thesis committee has the option of terminating the thesis option if, in the opinion of the three readers, the candidate has shown him- or herself incapable or unwilling to write an acceptable thesis in a reasonable amount of time. In that situation the student will be required to take the Plan B comprehensive examination.

Distribution of Units

Plan A (with thesis)

See also separate section, "Guidelines for Thesis Preparation." Students must complete:

  • Colloquia:
    • Ancient and Medieval Primary Field—one 209 course (two recommended) 3-6 units.  This program is no longer accepting new students as of Spring 2013.
    • European Primary Field—one 211 course (two recommended) 3-6 units
  • Other 200 level courses in Primary field- one seminar is required (two recommended) 3-9 units
  • Additional elective 100 and/or 200 level courses in history — 9-12 units
  • History 299 (Master's Thesis) 6 units
Plan B (comprehensive examination in place of the thesis)

Students must complete:

  • Colloquia
    • U.S. history—three 210 courses, (210a, 210b, 210c) 9 units
    • European History—one or two 211 courses 3-6 units
  • Other 200 level courses in history—one seminar is required, (two recommended) 6-12 units
  • Additional 100 and/or 200-level courses in history or other allied fields 9-12 units
  • Upon completion of the required work for the Plan B option, the final written comprehensive examination will be administered. The examinations will cover the candidate's primary field of study. Americanists may select to be examined prior to 1865 or post 1865. Europeanists must consult with their European advisor as to the scope of the examination. The student is expected to demonstrate considerable breadth and depth of knowledge and to follow acceptable rules of grammar, spelling, and literary style in presentation. Students should inform the Graduate advisor early in the semester in which they intend to take the Plan B examination.
Examination by Plan B 

Plan B can be taken three times. If a person takes it a third time and fails then he/she will not obtain the M.A. degree and may not at that point revert to the Plan A option! The Plan B exams are only administered at the end of the fall and spring semesters. They are not given at any other time, and make-up exams are not given.

Language Requirement

All candidates for the M.A. degree in history must demonstrate competency in one foreign language. Exceptions are granted for students enrolled in the Concentration in History Education program, for whom no foreign language is required. Students whose primary field is U.S. history take an additional two graduate classes in lieu of the language requirement, if they cannot, or do not wish to, meet the language requirement. 

The language competency requirement may be met in four ways:

  • Through an examination by a history faculty member with expertise in your language. The exam will be a translation of about 500 words to be completed in two hours with a dictionary allowed.
  • By taking two full years of a foreign language at a university or junior college. An average grade of "C" must have been attained, and the course work completed within five years of admission to the university.
  • If your primary concentration is Ancient and Medieval, you may also fulfill this requirement by taking one year of Greek and one year of Latin.  This program is no longer accepting new students as of Spring 2013.
  • By taking and passing the Educational Testing Service Graduate Foreign Language Exam.

For further details please obtain the handout "Regulations Governing the Fulfilling of the Language or Regulations Governing the Fulfilling of the Language (or Research) Requirement in the History M.A. Program" from the History Office. 

Requirements for the History M.A., Concentration in History Education

Program Advisor:

Dr. Patricia Lopes Don
Office: DMH 316
Phone: (408) 924-5526
Contact Dr.Libra Hilde


Requirements For Classified Standing

Admission to classified standing for the Master of Arts degree in History, Concentration in History Education requires that the applicant possess a social science teaching credential or is enrolled currently in the social sciences credential program on a clear admission status or will be in the following semester. (This means that the student has completed the social science subject matter competencies.)

Requirements for Conditionally Classified Standing

A student who has not completed subject matter competencies for clear admission into the social science teaching credential program, but is conditionally admitted to that program also may be admitted to this degree program on a conditionally classified status. The Graduate Advisor will list the courses that must be taken on the admission's notification. Upon completing these requirements, the student should immediately petition for a change of status to classified standing. SEE THE GRADUATE OR PROGRAM ADVISER WHEN FILING THIS PETITION.


University Requirements

The applicant must also comply with all requirements of the University as outlined in the section of the San Jose State University Catalog entitled: “Graduate Policies and Procedures.” This refers both to admissions and graduation procedures.


Following admission to the University and the Department, the student should meet with the program advisor to fill out a Program Planning Guide. There are two parts to the 30-unit program – 18 units of a core field in United States or world history and 12 additional units.

Core Field

  • Three colloquia in either United States history (History 210 series) or World history
    (History 220 series) 9 units
  • Three other 200 level or 100 level courses in the core field 9 units


  • History 205 (Curriculum Project) 3 units
  • Three other 200 level or 100 level courses in history or other fields, of which one course may be SSED 178 (if it was not part of a baccalaureate degree) 9 units

(Note: Students may take a total of four 100-level courses in their program.) 


Upon completion of the required work for this degree, the final written comprehensive examination will be administered. The examination will cover the candidate’s primary field of study. The student is expected to demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge and to follow acceptable rules of grammar, spelling, and literary style in presentation. The student should consult the adviser for details. The written exam may be taken three times. If a person takes the examination a third time and fails it, he/she 
will not obtain the M.A. degree.

Filing for Classified Graduate Standing

If you were admitted with certain course prerequisites--that is to say as a conditionally classified graduate student-- you must, following completion of these prerequisites, file a form with Graduate Studies to become a fully classified graduate student. The form may be obtained from the Graduate Studies website and must be signed by the graduate advisor. This action must be taken at least one semester prior to the one in which you expect to graduate.

Graduate School Approval of Program

A student must file for candidacy one semester before s/he plans to graduate. The deadline is usually early in the semester before the student intends to graduate. It is the responsibility of the student to be aware of these and other important deadlines. A copy of the candidacy form is available in the History Office and at the Graduate Studies website. Bring this form to the graduate adviser for approval.

Applying for Award of the Master's Degree

Enrollment in a Master's program at SJSU does not mean that you will automatically be awarded a degree. You will need to initiate the process by completing the Appplication for Award of Master's Degree Form. (Available at the Graduate Studies website). Please refer to the filling deadlines prior to submittal. The deadline for submission of this document usually comes right at the beginning of the semester you plan to graduate, so try and file the form the semester before you expect to graduate. (See the Graduate Studies website for deadlines). Presently, there is no fee with this application if you are a current student, but a $10 one if you are not - a reactivation fee. This form need only be signed by you. You must have candidacy approval from the Graduate Studies Office before this application will be accepted.

Other Important Points

We recommend that the student make steady progress toward the degree. This means that s/he should complete at least nine units of course work every academic year or 3 units every fall, spring, and summer. Your program planning guide will reflect this goal.

We recommend that students in the M.A., Concentration in History Education program complete History 205 Topics in History during the first year in the program. You may sign up for History 205 once a year in the fall. The three colloquia in the program may be taken in any order. Note, however, that the department will offer a colloquium from United States history and World history each semester, but will not be offering every colloquium every semester.