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Frequently Asked Questions

General Program Requirements

Minimum admission standards are a grade point average of 3.0 in the applicant’s major and 2.85 overall GPA in the last 60 units taken; a score of at least 500 on the verbal portion of the GRE exam; and 12 to 15 units of upper-division coursework in history. Please note that these are minimum standards and do not guarantee admission to our increasingly competitive program.

No. The History Department accepts applications only for fall admission.
You can take 500-level courses (open to both upper-division undergraduates and graduate students) through Open University at SDSU, if there is space and the course instructor agrees. You can also take upper-division History courses at other universities.
No. The History Department is no longer admitting students conditionally.
You should take History 601 in your first semester as a graduate student in History. It will introduce you to the professional study of history, to various approaches to historical analysis and writing, and to your fellow graduate students.
History 665 is the capstone research seminar in our program. It launches most students on their thesis research in a seminar setting. It should be taken near the end of your 500- and 600-level coursework, after 601 and at least one other 600-level course (620, 630, 640, 650, or 680) are completed. It may be taken concurrently with your last 600-level course and/or with History 797. 
A full-time student may complete the program in two years. Most of our graduate students, who work part-time or full-time, take three or more years.
You are required to demonstrate competency in one foreign language. This competency may be demonstrated by the successful completion of 12-15 units of university-level coursework in one foreign language, through the intermediate level. Competency may also be shown through successful completion of an examination involving translation of a written passage into English. Such exams are offered routinely by several of the language departments on campus. Competency in a computer language or statistics may be substituted, with the graduate adviser’s permission, only in rare cases where such competency is directly related to a student's thesis. 

The Official Program is an official list of the 30 units that a student will use to satisfy the requirements for the MA degree. It is the document that the Graduate Division will use to evaluate the student's application for graduation and completion of their degree. Successful filing of the official program triggers the student's "Advancement to Candidacy," which establishes her/his eligibility for graduation.  A student may file an official program with the university after completing 12 units of coursework (which may be as early as the beginning of the second semester). However, since the department's future offerings may not be known at this time, it is advisable for most students to wait until their third semester on campus to file their official program. Students must complete official programs and advance to candidacy before the beginning of the semester in which they will graduate.

Once the official program has been filed, there are strict rules governing alteration. Completed courses may not be removed from an official program once it has been approved. It is possible to petition the Graduate Division for a substitution for courses that have yet to be completed.

Coursework on a student's Official Program of Study expires after seven years. Email the graduate adviser to ask if and how your expiring courses can be “validated for recency.” But be aware that the validation lasts only one year, and that there is a limit to the number of courses that can be validated. SDSU wants its graduate students to finish within seven years.

Absolutely! Our MA degree graduates receive individual and special recognition at our History Department graduation ceremony (following the College of Arts and Letters ceremony) and are the first to receive their degrees. Don’t miss it!



Dr. Paula DeVos
Phone: (619) 594-4893
Office: AL 534
E-mail: [email protected]

Thesis/Plan A

Yes. There is often a delay of several weeks while the Graduate Division reviews the official program, so you should file at least six weeks before you plan to enroll in History 797 or 799. 

The History Department controls access to History 797. Students must obtain a Special Study form from the History Department office. Working with one advising professor, they complete a brief description of the research project and the specific requirements for the semester. Once the form is completed, the student must receive signatures from the advising faculty member, the History graduate adviser and the chair of the department. After submitting a completed form to the department office, the student receives an add code for the course.

Access to History 799A is controlled by the Graduate Division. Students may only obtain a Thesis Committee Form from the Graduate Division after having been advanced to candidacy (see FAQ 11 above). To complete the form, students must secure the signature of three faculty members who are eligible and agree to serve as advisers to the project. (This is your thesis committee.) After receiving signatures from three readers and the History graduate adviser, a student submits the Thesis Committee Form to the Graduate Division and receives an add code.

Note that the university's new add/drop deadlines apply to 799 courses. Students who wish to enroll in 799A should not wait until the beginning of the semester to form their committees. Also, students should be aware that the Graduate Division asserts the right to hold them to precisely the title they indicate on the thesis form. Titles or topics that diverge (too greatly) from the thesis form may not be acceptable to the Graduate Division at the time of submission. 


Your primary adviser must be a tenured or tenure track member of the History faculty. Your second reader must also be a member of the History faculty. On rare occasions, non-tenure track faculty members may be approved by the Graduate Division to serve as second readers; consult the History graduate adviser about the process. Your third reader must hold a faculty position outside the Department of History.  As you think about possible topics and areas for your thesis, talk with History faculty members with expertise in your area of interest (geographical, temporal, or methodological). You might seek guidance from faculty with whom you have had courses and with whom you work well. Ask a professor with whom you’d like to work whether your general topic area seems feasible for an MA thesis, what you might read to help you refine your topic, and whether he or she would be willing to advise you. Once you have a primary adviser or first reader, ask him or her to help you select the other members of your thesis committee. 
Theses vary in length, depending upon the analytical method employed (those based upon quantitative analysis are often shorter). The average thesis has several chapters and is no more than 100 pages long. It is wise to consult your thesis adviser and other members of your thesis committee early in the process of researching and writing your thesis about their expectations.  
Early in the semester! The Graduate Division publishes a final date by which theses must be submitted in final form to Thesis Review each semester; it is usually about a month before graduation. But keep in mind that your first reader will need a couple of weeks to read your draft, you will then have to make revisions and resubmit it to your first reader, and then (if all goes well) your second and third readers will need a couple of weeks to read the revised draft. Each of the readers can request revisions, which might send the thesis back to the entire committee again. And your committee might need to meet to discuss possible revisions. Everyone will feel better about your thesis if you give everyone enough advance time to read it. 

Exam/Plan B

Plan B candidates must complete written examinations and enroll in History 795 and one additional three unit course numbered from 620 to 680 in lieu of History 797 and 799 A. On their exams, candidates are expected to demonstrate a mastery of the factual knowledge and historiographical debates within two broad fields defined by geographical area and a standard chronological period with a focus on a particular methodology or theme. Plan B exists to offer greater breadth than available under the thesis plan and serves as an alternative to the thesis for students considering careers in teaching or who have not decided what specialization they want to pursue in a doctoral program. Students should file a Program of Study indicating their intent to take the comprehensive examinations no later than their 4th semester in the graduate program.
The candidate must form a committee composed of two professors, one from each of their exam fields. The candidate will designate one of the field supervisors as chair of the committee. The chair of the committee will serve as the instructor for History 795. Lecturers with PhDs who have taught at SDSU for three years or more may serve on a committee, but not chair it. Each professor will work will work with the candidate to prepare a reading list of approximately 40 books or their equivalent in each field. Candidates should meet with the professors to discuss their readings and preparations at reasonable intervals. Faculty should provide study questions for the exams a month before the exams are scheduled. 
Exams should be taken no later than the last week of classes of semesters. They consist of two four-hour sessions to answer two essay questions in each respective field. The department will provide you with a laptop if you’d prefer to write your exams with a computer.   
You can retake the failed exam or exams within a year of taking them the first time.  

Community College Teaching Certificate

**Please note:  The courses for the community college teaching certificate are not currently being offered by the ARPE department.


The department has approved a Plan C that combines the Community College Teaching Certification Program with the History MA. Since this still requires approval by other committees at the college, university, and state level, it cannot be enrolled in formally yet. Nevertheless, the History Department has an agreement with the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation, and Postsecondary Education that history graduate students who take ARP 611 and 631 will qualify to enroll in ARP 760, an internship in community college teaching. This currently is an option whether you choose Plan A or Plan B.

You would need to fill out a Request to Enter an Advanced Certificate Program form and have it signed by the Program Director and turn it into Graduate Affairs to obtain the Graduate Dean's signature. The ARPE Program Director is Professor Kendra Jeffcoat. For more information, please see the department's Graduate Guide. 
You would need to take ARP 611, 631,730, and 760 (an internship). Typically, ARP 611 and 631 are offered in the fall and 730 is offered in the spring.  The internship, ARP 760, is arranged on an individual basis.

Financial Aid

In addition to the financial assistance offered by SDSU, the department offers work-based financial aid for graduate students in three forms. Graduate assistants serve as graders for large lower-division courses. Teaching associates serve as discussion leaders and graders for large-lecture courses. They may also be assigned to the Freshman Success Program, to lead one study session per week linked to a lower division lecture course in the fall semester. Research assistants assist faculty with their research.

GA, TA, and RA positions are selected on a competitive basis through applications submitted each spring. Generally, the department offers financial aid to students to cover the whole of the coming academic year. Applications remain on file and new students may submit applications mid-year. Vacancies or additional positions may be filled from this pool of applicants.

See our Support page for more information.