Historians study the past, in all of its complexity, to better understand our contemporary world and the forces that created it. Historians analyze change over time, and they use archival and other primary-source evidence to build interpretations that explain change and put it into context. In seeking to understand historical subjects on their own terms, and by appreciating the diverse perspectives of past actors, students of history develop empathy even as they rigorously engage with the ethical dimensions of past human decisions and actions. When students understand the past, they recognize their power to shape the present and the future.

History faculty conduct research and teach courses in a wide range of eras—from ancient to modern times—and across most major world areas including Africa and the Middle East, South and East Asia, Europe and the Americas. History faculty also pursue multiple methodologies and approaches, including cultural, diplomatic, demographic, economic, environmental, ethnic, gender, intellectual, legal, political, religious, social and transnational history. 

At CU Boulder, history graduate students are trained in the central principles and research methods that characterize the discipline of history through class instruction and professional development seminars. They also gain a thorough grounding in their particular geographical area of study as well as an ability to situate that area of study in a larger global context.

All MA students focus their studies in two equally weighted fields:

  • a regional/national field (i.e., American/U.S. history, European history or Asian history)
  • a global/thematic field, for which students are required to take a variety of courses that examine global and transnational history through specific thematic lenses

For the purposes of the comprehensive examination (portfolio), students are expected to work with their faculty advisors to craft subfields of emphasis within both the regional/national and global/thematic fields.

Students wishing to pursue graduate work in history leading to candidacy for an advanced degree should carefully read the Master's Degree Requirements section carefully. For more information, visit the department's Graduate Students webpage.


Admission Requirements

A Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score is no longer required for admission to the program. 


As general preparation for graduate work in history, a broad liberal arts education, as well as a major in history, are desirable, though not specifically required. Candidates for graduate degrees may be required to pursue such fundamental courses in history as the department deems necessary to provide a suitable historical background.

Degree Requirements

The following are special departmental requirements. For more information, visit the department's Graduate Students webpage.

Most MA coursework will be at the 5000, 6000 and 7000 levels. With the approval of a student's academic advisor and the endorsement of the department's director of graduate studies, a maximum of 6 credit hours of upper-division (4000-level) undergraduate history coursework may be counted toward the MA degree. All courses completed at CU Boulder must be taken in the Department of History, except for courses recommended by the advisor and approved by the director of graduate studies.

All MA students must complete the following:

Required Courses
HIST 5000Historical Methods: Introduction to the Professional Study of History3
A two-semester regional/national field colloquium sequence.6
Graduate Colloquium in United States History ("To 1865" and "Since 1865")
Graduate Colloquium in European History ("To 1789" and "Since 1789")
Colloquium in Modern Asian History ("South Asia" and "East Asia")

Degree Plans

Plan I: Thesis Option

Thesis-track MA students must complete a total of 24 credit hours of coursework, plus 6 credit hours of MA thesis credit (HIST 6950). Of those, a minimum of 12 credit hours must come in each of a student's two fields, regional/national and global/thematic. A thesis must be successfully defended before a faculty committee as the final requirement for the degree.

Plan II: Non-Thesis Option

Non-thesis track MA students must complete 30 credit hours of coursework, including a minimum of three hours of 7000-level research seminar. Students must complete 12 credit hours in each of their two fields (regional/national and global/thematic). A final examination must be passed in the field of study before the degree is granted.

Language Requirement

For students working in fields of history that require the use of foreign languages, their advisory committees may require a demonstration of language proficiency.

Dual Degree Programs

Dual MA in History and Asian Languages and Civilizations or Religious Studies

The Department of History participates in a dual master's program with the Departments of Asian Languages and Civilizations and Religious Studies. Students interested in exploring this option should contact the graduate director of the department for specific requirements.