Frequently Asked Questions about American Studies

What is American Studies?
American Studies is the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history. Students who pursue a degree in American Studies have the opportunity to study history, literature, art, economics, women's studies, anthropology, sociology, political science, media, and film as they relate to the past and present culture of the United States.

Why study American Studies? What are the benefits of pursuing this course of study?
An MA in American Studies can prepare you for PhD programs in a variety of fields, including, but not limited to, English, History, Political Science, and Sociology. Depending on your course of study and the thesis project that you do, you can also prepare yourself for law school, a career in the media, a teaching career in secondary education, or any number of career paths that require communication skills and an ability to understand the workings of U.S. culture.

What are the advantages of pursuing this graduate program at Lehigh University?
Lehigh’s American Studies program prides itself on the flexibility of the course of study and on the attentiveness of the faculty. Students have a wide range of options when it comes to coursework, and upon completion of this coursework they have the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty to complete a thesis project.

What types of jobs will my degree in American Studies prepare me for? What specific jobs have graduates from the American Studies program at Lehigh gotten?
Graduates from our program have gone on to further their academic careers by pursuing the PhD in such fields as English, History, Sociology, and American Studies at Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Temple, UC Irvine, York University in England, the University of Texas at Austin, St. Louis University, and Brown. A number have also decided to stay on at Lehigh to pursue the PhD in English and History.

In addition to moving on to PhD programs, other students have gone on to pursue degrees in law at the College of William and Mary, Masters of Fine Arts in Media Studies at the University of Buffalo, and Masters of Library Science at the University of Chicago.

Outside of academics, other students have found employment as a curator at the US Golf Association Museum in New Jersey, as an on-camera host for Fox Sports Net Southwest, as an editor at Runner’s World, as a high school history teacher, and as communications specialists at St. Luke’s Hospital here in Bethlehem, PA.

How long will the program take? Can I attend class part time? What is the maximum time allowed for me to achieve my degree?
Usually, full-time students complete the program in two years (or less, if they take classes during the summer). Part-time study is also available. Candidates for the Master’s degree have six years in which to complete their programs, beginning when the student first registers for courses.

What courses are required?
Students are required to take AMST 400: American Studies Theory and Methods, and they are encouraged to do so in the first year of study. Students are also required to take a methods course, choose an area of concentration, and enroll in six credits while working on the MA thesis.

How many credit hours do I need to graduate?
You’ll need to take 30 credits. Graduate classes at Lehigh count for three credits each, which means that of the 10 courses you’ll be required to take one will be the required AMST 400: American Studies Theory and Methods course, another one will be the methods course, four courses will be in your area of concentration, two will be thesis credits, and the rest will be electives. 

Is there a minimum GPA that I need in order to graduate from the American Studies program here at Lehigh?
A minimum GPA of 2.75 is required to graduate with an MA from Lehigh.

What requirements do I need in order to be accepted into the program? GPA? GRE? Writing sample?
Any student who has attained a bachelor's degree at any recognized university may be admitted as a graduate student. An application for admission should be submitted to the Graduate Programs Office. A complete application consists of the following:

  1. Completed data sheet
  2. Official transcripts of all post-secondary education
  3. Official record of GRE scores
  4. Writing sample
  5. Two (2) letters of recommendation
  6. $75 application fee (nonrefundable)
  7. TOEFL scores for students whose native language is not English

What are the application deadlines?
The deadline for the fall semester is July 15; however, the deadline for financial aid consideration for the fall semester is January 15. Those interested in spring admission must have their application in by December 1.

What is the cost? Is there funding available? (teaching assistantships, scholarships, grants?)
Graduate tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year is $1460 per credit hour.

Funding is available through a number of sources. The American Studies program offers the Fairchild Fellowship, which offers both full tuition remission and a stipend for one year. In addition to the Fairchild Fellowship, a limited amount of tuition scholarships are available.

A variety of Graduate Assistantships are available in the College of Arts and Sciences as a whole, but not specifically in the American Studies program. For more information, visit the website for the Office of Financial Aid and the College of Arts and Sciences website about financial aid.

Who are the faculty, and what are their areas of expertise?
Affiliated faculty come from the departments of History, English, Sociology and Anthropology, Political Science, Journalism and Communications, Religion Studies, Art and Architecture, and others. A complete list of affiliated faculty is available here.

What is life at Lehigh like?
There are just under five thousand undergraduate students at Lehigh and a little more than two thousand graduate students. Information about graduate student life is available here, and information about the city of Bethlehem can be found here and here.

Do I need to write a thesis? Are there any alternatives to my writing a thesis?
A thesis is required, but the thesis can take a number of forms. In addition to writing a traditional 50+ page MA thesis, students may choose to write two separate papers (of about 25-30 pages each). Students have also taken advantage of the resources in Lehigh’s Digital Media Studio to create a short documentary film in partial fulfillment of the thesis requirement. 

Who will be my advisor?
During your coursework, the Director of the American Studies program will be your advisor. Once you begin working on your thesis, however, the faculty member directing your thesis will become your advisor.

Can I meet with an informed someone to discuss the questions I have?
Of course! Professor Jodi Eichler-Levine, who is the Director of American Studies, can be reached at or at 610-758-3370. You can also contact the College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Office at 610-758-4281 for assistance.

What if I am uncertain as to what exactly I want to study within the American Studies program?
During your first year of coursework in the American Studies program, you’re encouraged to explore your interests by taking a wide variety of courses. By the end of your first year, you should consult with the faculty members in the courses you’ve taken—in addition to the American Studies program director—to determine the best course of action for narrowing your interests down to a thesis topic that you would enjoy writing.

If you can’t find the answer to your question here, try the Frequently Asked Questions for the College of Arts and Sciences as a whole.
For additional advice about applying to graduate school in American Studies, please see the following list of Frequently Asked Questions provided by the American Studies Association: