Master of Arts Degree Requirements

The Master of Arts degree can be completed within two calendar years. Our program is very competitive, and we admit very few students specifically to the M.A. program, although many doctoral students obtain a M.A. en route to their Ph.D.

Academic Requirements

30 Course Credit Units

All Duke Master of Arts programs require a minimum of 30 units of course credit. At least 24 of these units must be graded course work. The other 6 units may be credits for "ungraded research." Students may take graduate courses in other disciplines that relate to their areas of interest with permission of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

Required Courses
  • Students must take HISTORY 701S Research Seminar in History or HISTORY 702S Research Seminar in History, or with the permission of the DGS a similar course sequence in historiography/theory and research methods.
  • At least one course at the graduate level that explores a specific methodology.

Two Seminar Papers

You must demonstrate proficiency in primary research and writing two seminar papers (of 25-35 pages each). Normally these are products of courses you take.

Foreign Language Reading Proficiency

Candidates for the M.A. degree (but not the JD/MA program) must have a reading knowledge of at least one ancient or modern foreign language. Read guidance on the departmental language requirement.

Non-Thesis Examination or Master's Meeting

The Graduate School requires all M.A. candidates to have a final examination administered by the your M.A. committee. The History Department chooses to consider this a "meeting," rather than a formal exam, and it expects the committee to consist of three professors familiar with your work. This meeting should occur after the other degree requirements have been fulfilled and after the required written work has been read and approved by all three committee members. This Master's meeting can be relatively brief (30-90 minutes in length). After you set up a time with your committee members, contact the DGS Assistant to arrange a place for the meeting. It is up to all four participants to see that this is a positive, informal, and candid discussion of strengths and weaknesses, prospects and possibilities. Ideally, it is an opportunity for professors to receive some feedback on the functioning of the graduate program and for you to get candid, focused responses about prior and planned work.

Intention to Receive Degree Form

You must file an "Intention to Receive Degree" form with the Graduate School before, or at the start of, the semester in which you intend to complete all four requirements for the Master's degree. You must turn this form into the graduate school ONE MONTH BEFORE THE FINAL EXAMINATION MEETING and no later than:

  • January 25 for commencement in May
  • July 1 for a September degree
  • November 1 for a December degree

If you intend to finish in a specific semester must be sure to file this form. If plans change and you are unable to finish, simply complete the same form again for the subsequent semester.

Non-Thesis Master's Examination Card

Just before the Master's meeting, you should ask in the DGS Office for a Non-Thesis Examination Card to indicate completion of all requirements for the M.A. degree. After the final meeting, this card must be signed by the three committee members and returned promptly to the DGS Office as notification. It is then the responsibility of the DGS Office to transmit the properly signed card to the Graduate School Office.