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PhD in American Studies

American studies is a rich and diverse field, encompassing issues of race, history, law and culture. Get information about the requirements to earn a doctorate in this field as well as career options.

What Will I Study While Earning a Ph.D. in American Studies?

To earn a doctoral degree in American studies, you will need to complete coursework that is often largely specific to your area of interest. Because American studies is a broad field containing many academic disciplines, your studies will inherently cover multiple areas of focus. These areas may include race and ethnicity, gender studies, literature, media studies or American history. Within any of these areas, you may further narrow your studies; for example, if studying race and ethnicity, you may analyze the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century, Asian American immigrant life in the 1800s or Native American identity in the present day.

You will take graduate-level coursework to help further your understanding of your chosen specialization. This will be complemented by independent research. You may also complete student teaching, which is of particular use if you intend to pursue a career in academia. These Ph.D. programs will typically culminate with you writing and defending a dissertation. You will not usually find programs in American studies available entirely online.

Key Topics Gender studies, media studies, literature, race and ethnicity
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree is required for admission; some programs may require a writing sample, such as a personal statement or research paper, and standardized test scores
Work Environments Museums, policy advocacy groups, post-secondary schools, federal government
Median Salary (2018) $78,470 (for all postsecondary teachers)
Job Outlook (2018-2028)11% growth (for all postsecondary teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Are the Admissions Requirements?

You will need to possess a bachelor's degree prior to beginning your Ph.D. in American Studies program, and some programs require that you first earn a master's degree. In most cases, you can be admitted to a Ph.D. program regardless of your undergraduate field of study, though a previous degree in American studies is considered helpful.

You will likely need to submit a writing sample that demonstrates your readiness for doctoral study. This may be a research paper, personal statement or other work that exhibits your scholarly interest and knowledge of the field. Most programs also require the submission of your scores from a standardized test, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

What Can I Do with This Degree?

Upon earning your Ph.D., you will be qualified to teach American studies at a college or university. As this is an interdisciplinary field, you may also pursue a career in a wide range of fields in which your knowledge and skills may be of use. Potential employers include the federal government, museums and policy advocacy groups. You may also work as a writer of American historical or cultural topics; this may include writing books or articles for magazines, newspapers and academic journals.