Admission Requirements

Applicants must meet departmental admission requirements and the general criteria of the Graduate School. The applicant's undergraduate studies need not have been in history, but they must demonstrate high academic potential. Applications are available on the Graduate School website; the department reviews and admits applicants throughout the year. Students will submit:

  • Transcript showing a 3.2 grade point average or better in their undergraduate major
    • Students with GPAs lower than 3.2 may be admitted provisionally with approval of the Graduate Director
  • Three letters of recommendation, preferably from former professors
  • A sample of written work, usually an argument-driven paper from a class
  • A high-quality academic writing sample
  • Official copies of all undergraduate and graduate transcripts (if applicable)
  • An online application (see UMSL homepage for link) 

Coursework Overview 


All candidates for the M.A. degree in history complete a core of 26 hours of course wordk, with no more than nine hours of history and related fields at the 5000 level. Courses in related fields must be approved by the Graduate Director prior to enrollment.

  • HIST 6000-Historian’s Craft ​​​   3 credit hours
  • Six 3 credit hour courses​​​      18 credit hours
  • One 5 credit hour course​​        5 credit hours

Options for Completing M.A. History Degree:

Thesis: which emphasizes depth of knowledge and research competence acquired through writing a substantial master’s thesis.
Research paper: which emphasizes breadth of historical knowledge acquired through additional coursework and the writing of smaller research papers.


Thesis Track:

Coursework and Requirements

  1. Students Must Complete 32 Hours of Coursework:
    1. This includes Historian’s Craft (HIST 6000), the introduction to the discipline and to graduate study
    2. The 3-credit course is offered once a year and usually taken during the student’s first semester in the program
    3. It is not counted toward the 3 primary field courses
    4. The 32 hours includes at least, but no more than 6 credit hours of thesis credit, which can be divided up and taken over several semesters
    5. Thesis credit is arranged by the student, in conjunction with his/her thesis director
  2. Additional Requirements/Restrictions:
    1. Student can take no more than three 5000-level courses
    2. Students must take at least one 5-credit hour seminar to prepare him/her to do thesis research
    3. This can be in the area of his/her thesis or outside it
  3. Language Exam:
    1. Student must demonstrate competence in another language by passing an exam before defending the thesis
    2. The exam requires that a student translate, with the help of a dictionary, a 500-700 word (in the original language) essay
    3. The exam can be repeated until the student passes it and up to twice per semester
    4. The language is of the student’s choosing, unless English is not her/his first language
    5. A member of the history faculty will conduct this examination and choose the test for translation
  4. Substitute for Language Exam:
    1. Students can choose to demonstrate competence in quantitative methods
    2. Satisfactory completion (B- or better) of either PSYCH 2201 Psychological Statistics or SOC 3220 Sociological Statistics, or their equivalent
    3. Please check with Director of Graduate Studies if you decide to pursue this option 

The Thesis

  1. Thesis Track Definition:
    1. Is an argument-driven piece of original research based on primary sources on a topic of the student’s interest and choosing
    2. It demonstrates expertise in a particular area
    3. Choosing to write a thesis will most likely increase the time to graduation
    4. Many students choosing this track aim to go on to a Ph.D. program
  2. Thesis Committee:
    1. The student chooses a committee of history department faculty, including a director and two additional members, one of which can be outside the department and/or university
    2. The student will work with the committee to complete the thesis
    3. The committee is usually chosen at the beginning of the student’s second year
    4. The student cannot register for thesis credit until her/his committee is selected and the M-2 (History only M2) filled out and submitted to the director of graduate studies. See links to all forms below)
  3. Thesis Defense:
    1. The student will defend the thesis in front of his/her committee (and other members of the department) after s/he has completed the final draft
    2. Committee members may ask student for further revisions after the defense
    3. Two weeks prior to the defense, the student needs to submit the M3 and tentative final copy of the thesis to the graduate school
    4. Deadline for the Defense: In order to meet program requirements, students must defend the thesis no later than 4 weeks before the end of the semester in which they intend to graduate
  4. Submission of Thesis:
    1. The thesis is now uploaded (by student) and approved electronically (by thesis advisor)
    2. After the defense and making the required changes, student will upload his/her thesis
    3. A step-by-step outline of the process is available here.
    4. Thesis advisor will must submit final approval of thesis
    5. View instructions here
    6. Required forms to complete here

Research Paper Track

Coursework and requirements

  1. Fields of Study:
    1. Student will choose as her/his field U.S History, World History (all non-U.S. courses are considered world), History Education, and/or Public History
    2. Take 3 courses for each chosen field
    3. Remaining hours can be allocated as the student sees fit
  2. Students Must Complete 36 Hours of Coursework:
    1. This includes 26 core credit hours & 2 5-credit hour research seminars (each consisting of a 6000-level reading seminar plus 2 credit hours of supplementary work on a substantial research paper).
    2. The research papers produced from these 3 courses constitute the requirement for graduation
  3. Research Papers:
    1. In each of the 5-hour seminars, student will write a research paper based on original primary-source research
    2. The research paper is argument-driven and not a summary of the literature
  4. Additional Requirements/Restrictions:
    1. This includes Historian’s Craft (HIST 6000), the introduction to the discipline and to graduate study
    2. The 3-credit course is offered once a year and usually taken during the student’s first semester in the program
    3. It is not counted toward the 3 primary field courses
    4. Student can take no more than 3 5000-level courses

Required Forms:

To graduate, all students must fill out an M-4 form at the start of their final semester.  Instructions for the M-4 form and precise deadlines can be found on the Graduate School website.  Students on the Thesis Track must also fill out M-2 and M-3 forms and should consult the Graduate Director for appropriate deadlines.