United States Culture

The United States is home to a rich and diverse culture, formed by history and geography, which can be studied within an artistic, literary and political context. Read on to learn how a formal study of American culture can lead to a career in academia, historical work, journalism or law.

Is the Study of United States Culture for Me?

Career Overview

United States culture, also called American culture, is a broad topic that can be approached from many perspectives, including gender, ethnicity, race or class. Degree programs in American culture and American studies can be found at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some programs include specializations or minors in specific areas of culture, such as Latino studies or Native American studies. Studying American culture can prepare you for careers in many fields, such as journalism, business, politics and teaching.

Career Options

If you enjoy learning about the causes and effects of ideas and human events, as well as helping others learn about them, then you may choose to become a history teacher or university professor. If you have a methodical mind, then you may consider becoming an archivist who collects and catalogs historical documents, photographs, objects and other materials for preservation or display at museums. If you have an aptitude for visual presentation, you could excel as a curator who manages the public display of historical artifacts in museums or at visitors' centers and historical sites.

If your interest in the culture of the United States concerns the present, then you could pursue a career as a journalist, policy analyst or lawyer. If you are good at asking questions and have a 'nose for news,' then you might consider a career in journalism. If you are persuasive and have a critical mind, you could study American culture as your pre-law education. As a lawyer, you would use legal precedents to create an argument for your cases. If you enjoy research, you could become a policy analyst and seek employment with a think tank or government agency.

Salary Potential

Median salaries vary widely by career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of May 2013, archivists earned a median of $52,670 per year and historians made a median annual wage of $55,180. Secondary school teachers earned a median of $55,360 per year.

As of May 2013, lawyers enjoyed a median income of $114,300. Journalists who worked as reporters and correspondents made a median salary of $35,600 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in United States Culture?

Educational and Professional Requirements

To teach high school American history, you'll need a bachelor's degree and a state-issued teaching certificate. A master's degree or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in American culture or American studies is the usual requirement for becoming a college or university professor, especially if you're interested in research.

As an aspiring archivist, you'll need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in American studies, history, library science or archival studies, among other fields of study. Consider pursuing a master's degree in history or museum studies if you're interested in a position as a museum curator or director. Voluntary certifications are available through the Academy of Certified Archivists. Knowledge of business administration, fundraising and marketing can be useful.

Curriculum and Course Topics

Depending on your area of interest, course topics may include the study of a particular cultural or gender group, such as African Americans or women artists. You may also decide to focus on a specific region, like Appalachia or the Southwest, or a distinct era, such as the Gilded Age or World War II. Politics and popular culture may also be found in an American culture program. In preparation for a career in journalism, you might want to include coursework in communications and writing in your curriculum.

By pursuing an interdisciplinary education, you'll be able to shape your American studies or culture program according to your personal or career interests. Additionally, an undergraduate degree in American culture could provide a foundation for a Juris Doctor program and a career as a lawyer. Policy analysts generally need to have a graduate degree, although with some experience, a bachelor's degree may suffice.

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