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Black Studies

Read about the different types of careers you can pursue, as well as how much you can earn, as a graduate of a black studies program. Find information about degree programs, areas of specialization and courses here.

Are Black Studies for Me?

Overview of the Field

Black studies examine the history, culture and social development of people of African or African-American descent and are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition to the opportunity to immerse yourself in black culture, the programs can help you acquire the critical thinking and writing skills you need to succeed in business, education, government and nonprofit work, among other fields. As a graduate of a black studies program, you may be qualified for an entry-level position as an anthropologist, historian, teacher or other social science professional. A specialized knowledge of a particular culture can also lead to careers in social and human service work.

Job Descriptions and Duties

Anthropologists study social patterns and human behavior. They may explore a particular part of life, such as politics or religion. Historians who focus on black studies compile and interpret information that illustrates the history of Africans and African Americans. In addition to teaching, college and university professors who specialize in cultural and ethnic studies advise students, conduct research and write articles and books. As a social and human services assistant working under the guidance of a licensed social worker, you may help adults and children obtain community and medical services.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that anthropologists and postsecondary teachers would experience faster-than-average job growth nationwide from 2012-2022, with a much-faster-than-average increase projected for social and human service assistants. By comparison, the BLS expected opportunities for historians to grow by a slower-than-average rate during the same 10-year period. You may face competition for academic jobs, especially for tenured positions at universities.

In May 2012, the BLS reported that anthropologists and historian earned median annual wages of $57,420 and $52,480 respectively. As of the same month, social and human service assistants had a median annual income of $28,850, while area, cultural and ethnic studies teachers at the postsecondary level earned a median of $67,360 per year (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Black Studies?

Undergraduate Programs

Bachelor's degrees in black studies sometimes offer concentrations in African or African-American studies. Course topics may include the study of African music, black literature, African government and black nationalism. After you complete a few semesters, some colleges provide internship and paid work opportunities with local cultural development departments and community organizations.

Graduate Degree Programs

At the graduate level, you can obtain a master's degree in African or African-American studies. Individual programs may include a thesis or non-thesis option. At the graduate level, a black studies curriculum might include topics in African film or pop culture. Proficiency in an African language may also be required. As a doctoral student, you may be able to choose between a specific or comparative area of study. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of black studies, some schools offer joint degree programs in sociology or political science.