Master of Arts Program

MA students complete thirty credit hours of course work, including six hours of graduate seminars, a comprehensive examination, and a master's essay.  There is no foreign language requirement, although students wanting to go on for a doctoral degree are encouraged to work on their linguistic skills.


MA students are required to take HIST 6100, two research seminars (HIST 6954), as well as 7 other graduate classes.  Six hours of graduate work can be taken outside the History Department, although permission must be obtained from the DGS before registering for non-history classes, as well as from the instructor of the other class.

A typical sequence of classes for a full-time MA student will look something like this:

First Semester:


  • 6100: Art and Craft
  • Colloquium
  • Studies course or field focused course; Public History

Second Semester:


  • First Seminar
  • Colloquium
  • Studies course or field focused course; Applied History


Third Semester:


  • Second Seminar
  • Colloquium or readings course
  • (Optional third class)

Fourth Semester:


  • Colloquium or readings course; Applied History
  • (Second class if only six classes taken in fall)
  • MA Comps
  • MA Essay




MA students take comprehensive essay exams in their major and minor fields of study.  These exams generally are offered only once per year, usually in the second full week of February.


The DGS will appoint examiners for each field and communicate this information no later than the start of the fall semester of the students’ second year, and generally by the end of the spring semester of their first year.  It is the responsibility of students to get in touch with the examiners for guidance. 


The major field exam includes two sessions of three hours each over one day and the minor field is one three hour session on an adjacent day.  Any student requiring accommodations for a disability needs to work with the Office of Disability Services to determine the nature of the accommodation no later than the start of their third semester. 


A 2.0 vote is required to pass (major and minor field examiners will read both parts of each exam). A student who fails the MA comprehensive exam will be given one opportunity to re-take the written exam within six months of the first examination. In addition to a written component, students who are re-examined will be required to take a one-hour oral examination.  A 2.0 vote, on both written and oral exams, is required to pass.

While these exams come toward the end of the MA degree, preparation for them should begin from the time of matriculation.  To aid this preparation, History faculty have prepared representative lists for each field, linked on the Department website:


United States History

European History

Global Studies

 * Students opting for Medieval Europe as their major field are not required to take a separate minor field, although their complete exam still consists of nine hours (i.e. medieval is both major and minor fields).   The minor field may concentrate on a medieval focus outside Europe such as Byzantium, medieval Islamicate societies, or medieval East Asia as determined in conjunction with the examiners.

These lists must be understood as a starting point, as indeed should syllabi from relevant colloquia.  The comprehensive exams are not limited to these lists or a particular class and, in fact, any question on a book from one of these lists would not be limited to its content but rather would ask for the arguments to be contextualized more broadly in terms of major debates within the field.  In sum, the lists are not prescriptive and any student should expect to understand a range of interpretations in order to demonstrate mastery of critical events and themes, as well as significant historiographical debates in the field.       




MA students also must complete a master's essay, which is normally a seminar paper that has been revised.  For instance, essays will often include more historiographical background than contained in the original papers. They should be at least thirty pages long, exclusive of bibliographies and other end matter. The "Master's Essay Approval Form" must be signed by a primary reader (usually the faculty member in whose seminar the paper was written, although the students also can ask a faculty member in her or his field to serve as primary reader). The DGS is the second reader of all essays.

A student must make a draft of his or her essay available to the primary reader at least one month before the due date set by the Graduate School in order to give the reader adequate time to read and make suggestions for improving the essay. The student is responsible for delivering the completed essay and cover sheet to the Graduate School prior to the deadline (generally a month before the end of the semester). The MA coversheet is available on the Graduate School’s website.



Have a Question or Comment for the History Department?

Department of History
Sensenbrenner Hall, 202A
1103 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Marquette University
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881 (USPS); 53233 (courier)
(414) 288-7217 | (414) 288-5099 (FAX)