Frequently Asked Questions about the History Major

If you’re a History Education major, see the FAQs in the section on the History Education Major. If you’re minoring in history, see the FAQs in the section on the History Minor.

  1. What can I do with a degree in history?
  2. How does my AP history affect my major?
  3. If I want to teach in elementary or secondary school, what do I have to do?
  4. If I hope to teach in a college or university, do I need to take Teacher Education courses?
  5. What is a seminar?
  6. How do I fulfill the Tier II writing requirement?
  7. What courses will be offered during the summer?
  8. What Study Abroad programs does the History Department offer?
  9. How can I find an internship?
  10. Can I specialize in the history of one area of the world?
  11. What does “African, Asian or Latin American history” mean?
  12. What courses count for which geographic areas?
  13. May a course be used to fulfill more than one requirement?
  14. Is there a History Club?
  15. Is there an honor society in this major?
  16. When and how do I apply for graduation?
  17. What about foreign language?

1. What can I do with a degree in history? Lots and lots! A history degree is one of the most flexible you can get. Find out about some of the many possibilities here.

2. How does my AP history affect my major? If you took the AP exam in World History, American History and/or European History and got a grade of 3, 4 or 5, you received 8 credits in the relevant area(s), which means that you got credit for HST 140 and HST 150 (World History), HST 202 and HST 203 (American History) and/or HST 205B and HST 206 (European History). These courses count towards the credits you need to complete your degree in History, with the following exceptions: First, the History major requires twelve credits (three four-credit courses) at the 100- or 200-level, in addition to HST 201. Therefore, even if you received the full 24 credits, only 12 of them can count towards your major. Second, if you also received a grade of 4 or 5 on the AP exam in English or Literature, the combination of that grade plus four of your AP credits in History was probably used to give you credit in IAH 201 or IAH 202. The History credits that were used for IAH 201 or IAH 202 cannot also be used as credits towards the completion of the History major. If you took the AP exam in World, American and/or European History and got a grade of 2, you received a waiver of the courses in the relevant area(s), which means that your record will show that you have taken HST 140 and HST 150 (World History), HST 202 and HST 203 (American History) and/or HST 205 and HST 206 (European History). You did not, however, get credit for these courses, so you will have to complete the full 33- or 36-credit minimum to complete your major in History. If you received credit for HST 140, 150, 202, 203, 205 and/or 206, you will not be able to repeat these courses at MSU because your record will show that you have already taken them. If you received merely a waiver, you may take the course at MSU if you wish to do so.

3. If I want to teach in elementary or secondary school, what do I have to do? To teach in elementary school or secondary school, you need to complete the Teacher Education (TE) curriculum. If you plan to teach in secondary school, you need to be a History Education major. If you plan to teach in elementary school, you need to consult the advising office in the College of Education. For either elementary or secondary education, you need to be admitted to the College of Education. Two TE courses (TE 150 and TE 250) are available to students who have not yet been admitted to the College of Education; if you are not sure whether you want to teach, you may want to take one or both of them as a way of exploring the possibility.

4. If I hope to teach in a college or university, do I need to take Teacher Education courses? No. Training in teaching is not a formal part of the training of college and university professors.

5. What is a seminar? A seminar is a course whose enrollment is deliberately kept small and which is taught in discussion format. Students do common reading and discuss it in class. Each student also does individualized research and writes a formal paper on it. Students are usually also asked to report to the whole class about their individual work. It is usual in such courses that class participation counts for a good deal of the grade. HST 201 and all the courses numbered 48x are seminar courses, as are all graduate courses in History. These courses are limited in enrollment to twenty to twenty-three students. HST 201 (“Historical Methods and Skills”) is the only course required of all History majors. It should be taken early in the student’s career and is a prerequisite for the 48x courses (“Seminar in . . .”), which are usually called “400-level studies courses.” It is possible to take any course numbered 48x more than once, provided that, the second time, the course is not being given by the same professor on the same topic. Students may not enroll for more than 12 credits in one HST 48x. With the permission of your adviser and of the professor teaching the course, it is possible for an undergraduate History major to take a graduate course. Graduate courses may be used to fulfill the requirement for 400-level studies courses.

6. How do I fulfill the Tier II writing requirement? The courses numbered 48x fulfill the Tier II writing requirement for History majors.

7. What courses will be offered during the summer? History offers quite a few lower-level and upper-level online courses during the Summer. The list of these courses available in the upcoming Summer is posted on the History Department’s website during the course of Fall semester, usually in November. In addition, the Department offers at least one seminar on campus each Summer.

8. What Study Abroad programs does the History Department offer? The History Department regularly offers two Study Abroad programs. One in the Summer goes to Great Britain. It includes upper-level English and/or European history courses and sometimes lower-level European history courses or ISS courses. Another, which is offered in the Summer of odd-numbered years, is about “Race Relations in South Africa” and takes place in Johannesburg. The Department of History also participates in several international internship programs. From time to time, additional programs are offered on an ad hoc basis.

9. How can I find an internship? Some internships exist every year: books and internet programs on these are available in the office of Career Services and Placement. Other internships are offered from time to time: information about many of these is also available from CSP. Some are advertised to advisers. Whenever Professor Tabuteau gets notice of one of these, she puts the news out on her e-mail listserv. If there is a poster, she also posts it outside her office. It is also possible to find an internship for yourself by asking an institution for which you would like to work whether it would be willing to take you on. If you do not need to be paid, it is quite likely that it will be willing to use you, especially if you are offering your services to a museum or similar non-profit humanities organization because such organizations are usually strapped for money and therefore for staff. If you need to be paid, you may have to work harder to find an internship. If you want to take the internship for credit, you will need to register for SSC 493 and to consult with the internship coordinator in the College of Social Science advising office about the parameters of the course. If an internship contains a significant component of independent historical research or analogous activity, it may be used to substitute for one of the two senior seminars required of all History majors. To exercise this option, you should consult with both your adviser (Professor Brockey or Professor Tabuteau) and with the Department of History’s internship coordinator, Professor Peter Knupfer.

10. Can I specialize in the history of one area of the world? Not entirely. The major requires that you take at least 6 credits in each of three geographic areas of the world. This means that you may take at most 21-24 of the minimum 33-36 credits for the major in one geographic area. All additional credits above the minimum maybe taken on one area of the world.

11. What does “African history,” “Asian history,” and “Latin American history” mean? These terms mean Africans in Africa, Asians in Asia and Latin Americans south of the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The requirement for courses in these areas cannot be fulfilled by courses in ethnic American history (such as African American history, Asian American history or Mexican American history).

12. What courses count for which geographic areas? Usually this is pretty obvious, but students ask questions about certain courses which this section therefore discusses. HST 343 and 344 (Russian history) count as European history. HST 372 and 373 (the history of the Middle East) may count as either European, Asian, or African history. HST 383 (The Caribbean) counts as Latin American history. Ethnic American history courses (African American, Asian American, Mexican American, Native American) count as United States history. HST 110, HST 413, HST 455, and HST 487 may count for any geographic area depending on what the subject of the particular section is: consult Professor Tabuteau or Professor Brockey before you sign up if you are planning to use one of these courses to fulfill part of a geographic distribution requirement.

13. May a course be used to fulfill more than one requirement? Yes. For example, a 400-level seminar may be used to fulfill the requirement for a seminar, the requirement for a course before or after 1800, and the requirement for a course in a geographic area. Almost all of our courses, in fact, fulfill not only a course-level requirement but also a chronological and a geographic-area requirement. It is, however, very unwise to attempt a senior seminar that studies an area of the world in which you do not have both some background and some interest.

14. Is there a History Club? Yes! The History Club is open to all students, whatever their major. Announcements are posted on Professor Tabuteau’s listserv. Learn more here!

15. Is there an honor society in this major? The History honor society is Phi Alpha Theta. There is a chapter in the Department. Membership is by invitation only. You do not need to be a History major to be a member of Phi Alpha Theta, but you must have a certain number of credits in History at Michigan State and you must have a certain GPA in those courses. For further information, consult the Phi Alpha Theta faculty adviser, Professor Jane Vieth (vieth [at] msu [dot] edu). In addition to the honor society, there is also an Honors Program and a new History Scholars program.

16. When and how do I apply for graduation? You may apply for graduation either over the web or by going to the Registrar’s office and filling out a paper application. You should apply for graduation by the Friday of the first week of the term in which you expect to graduate, except that, if you expect to graduate at the end of the Summer term, you should apply the preceding Spring term. There is no commencement ceremony at the end of Summer term, so students who are expecting to graduate in August are allowed to “walk” at the May ceremony. They are also allowed to “walk” at the following December’s ceremony, but almost all such students attend the May ceremony instead.

17. What about foreign language? Students who became History majors before Summer 2014 are required to complete a two-year competency in a foreign language. This is not a credit requirement or a course requirement but a competency requirement. It may be met by taking the placement examination in a language and placing into the third year or by passing the second semester course in the second year of the language (usually but not always numbered 202). The requirement is waived for students whose first language is not English. Students who became History majors in or after Summer 2014 are not held to this requirement. However, there are many reasons why such students may still want to study a language (and why students who have a second-year competency may wish to continue to study that language). Any student aiming to achieve a Ph.D. in History (and many other disciplines) will need at least one foreign language. Most History Ph.D. programs require two foreign languages, and, obviously, these languages should be relevant to the student’s principal area of study. Study of languages is mandatory for students wishing to enter the Foreign Service or the CIA or many other branches of government. Knowledge of a foreign language enhances one’s attractiveness to many kinds of businesses and non-profit institutions. Moreover, the study of a language other than one’s native tongue is good for the brain.