American Indian Studies

American Indian studies is a multi-faceted discipline that incorporates a variety of academic subjects, like linguistics, history and anthropology. Read on to learn more about degrees and career options in this field.

Is American Indian Studies for Me?

Overview of the Field

American Indian studies, also called Native American studies, concentrates on the history, culture and languages of people indigenous to the North American continent. If you're interested in pursuing an education in American Indian studies, you have options at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Undergraduate education in this field may cover the politics, literature and religions of Native Americans. These programs may also include classes in economics, dance performance and family relations. Graduate studies may introduce you to topics like tribal culture, American Indian art history and current events concerning these communities.

Career Options

A formal education in Native American studies can prepare you for a career with government agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses. A bachelor's degree might qualify you for a position as a teacher, reservation official or government employee. With an advanced degree, you may seek employment as a professor, museum curator, data analyst or lobbyist.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a 6%, or slower-than-average, increase in job openings for high school teachers nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Professors in general can expect a 19%, or faster-than-average, growth in employment during that same period. In May 2012, high school teachers earned an average annual wage of $57,770, while postsecondary teachers of area, ethnic and cultural studies averaged $77,690 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in American Indian Studies?

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree program in American Indian studies commonly emphasizes cultural and language studies, such as the art of storytelling. In addition, you may learn about Native American legal rights, injustices, crimes and movements; related topics in health issues and entrepreneurship may also be covered. Some programs allow you to focus on a specific aspect of American Indian studies or languages, such as Dakota or Ojibwe. Senior projects may be required for graduation.

Master's Degree Programs

A master's degree in American Indian studies may offer concentrations in Native American education law and policy, as well as culture and literature. Diverse coursework may draw from interdisciplinary topics in ethnomusicology, comparative literature and world arts. To earn your degree, you'll also have to pass a comprehensive examination and submit a written thesis.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in American Indian studies are also interdisciplinary in nature and are usually intended to prepare you for a career in academia. Program features include the freedom to choose an area of research that reflects your particular interests, and that will serve as the focal point of your dissertation. In general, Ph.D. studies require an additional 3-4 years to complete beyond a master's degree.

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