University of Rochester

MA in History

The Master of Arts program enables students to engage in the professional study of history by taking one year of coursework and by writing either a master’s essay or a thesis.  Many individuals undertake the MA program to ascertain whether or not they wish to go on for a Ph.D; others seek a credential for social studies teaching; still others want to augment their historical knowledge in preparation for other careers or simply pursue a passion for the discipline.  Like Ph. D. students, candidates for the MA explore the world of nations, the world of goods, and the world of ideas as those spheres of inquiry intersect with the research and writing interests of Department faculty.  Transnational and comparative study is especially encouraged.

MA students share fully in the intellectual and social life of the Department, and enjoy the benefits of studying in a personalized program at a research university.

MA students usually receive funding in the amount of one-half of the cost of tuition.  Living stipends are not available, but there are some limited funds for research and travel. 

 The two tracks in the MA program are known as Plan A or Plan B.  Both Plans require the completion of 30 credit hours.


Most students complete Plan B, as follows:

1)  Fall semester - 15 credit hours (usually 3 courses, including HIS 500, “Problems in HistoricalAnalysis”)

2)  Spring semester - 15 credit hours (usually 3 courses, including HIS 501, “Worlds of Inquiry”)

NB: Plan B students are permitted to take no more than 6 credits of 49X (independent reading and research courses.

3)  A master’s essay of around 35 pages completed in a research seminar or other course.

4)  Revision of the essay over the summer, if necessary (0 credit hours).

By the rules of the College, the essay must be read by two faculty members.  One of these will be the instructor in whose course the student did the work.

Plan B enables candidates to complete an MA degree in one calendar year.


Plan A differs from Plan B by requiring the preparation of a thesis, which in turn demands a greater commitment of time and resources than Plan B does.  The requirements for Plan A are:

1)  Fall semester - 15 credit hours (usually 3 courses, including HIS 500, “Problems in Historical Analysis”)

2)  Spring semester - 15 credit hours (usually 3 courses, including HIS 501, “Worlds of Inquiry”)

NB:  Students must take at least 6 and no more than 12 credits of independent reading and research (49X).

3)  A master’s thesis, usually between 50 and 100 pages (0 credit hours)

4)  A thesis defense before a faculty committee consisting of the adviser, the second reader from the Department, and an outside reader.


By the beginning of the spring semester, students who wish to complete Plan A must submit an acceptable thesis prospectus to a faculty member willing to supervise the student’s work.  Otherwise students will remain on Plan B. 

 Plan A students are encouraged to complete the program in two years.  Students beyond the first year must pay the continuation fee.  By the rules of the College, students are allowed up to five years from the time of enrollment before they must petition the Dean for an extension.

For more information on our MA Program, please fill out this form.