MA History Concentrations

All MA concentrations require the introductory seminar (HIST 610) and the research seminar (HIST 797). Beyond that, there is some variation. For formal requirements, see Degree Requirements.

We suggest that all MA students consult the MA program director (currently Professor Robertson, prior to choosing a concentration. Once they have settled on a concentration, they should inform the graduate coordinator (currently Ms. Burgess). Once you have declared a concentration, you are free to change to a different one, but it is possible that some courses you have taken for one concentration will not meet the requirements of the new concentration.


Enrichment is our most popular and flexible concentration. Students choose one geographic field (U.S., Europe, or World) and take four courses in that field, distributed by time (in the U.S. or Europe specializations) or place (in world), and one course outside their main geographic field. The remaining three courses are electives, one of which can be taken in a field other than history if the course will complement the student’s historical studies.

Students who concentrate in enrichment follow a number of paths, including doctoral study, applied history, and teaching. However, we do offer other concentrations for students who wish to prepare specifically for one of those paths.


Doctoral programs generally favor applicants with defined research agendas that match the strengths of a particular department. We therefore push predoctoral concentrators to define fields of interest and conduct independent research beyond the research seminar required of all MA students.

Students in the predoctoral concentration take the same mandatory courses (HIST 610 and 797) and the geographic field courses (U.S., Europe, or World) as students in the enrichment track.

They also take two history courses that they use to define a minor field, which can be defined by place (e.g., Atlantic history), theme (e.g., military history) or methodological approach (e.g., digital history).

For their remaining six credits, students in this concentration may either take a three-credit independent research project (HIST 798) plus a three-credit elective, or a six-credit thesis (HIST 799). Students in the predoctoral track must find a faculty member willing to supervise their independent research. That faculty member is the best person to advise whether to plan the HIST 798 or HIST 799 option. Please note that the HIST 799 option requires meeting university requirements for a thesis committee, enrollment, defense, and deposit. See AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Because HIST 797 is a prerequisite for HIST 798 or 799, students in the predoctoral track must plan to take HIST 797 prior to their final semester in the program.

For more on information, see HIST 798 and HIST 799: Guidance for Students and Instructors , last updated January 9, 2023.


Students in the applied concentration take the same mandatory courses (HIST 610 and 797) and the geographic field courses (U.S., Europe, or World) as students in the enrichment track. They take the remaining 12 credits in applied history, in order to build specific skills expected in the applied-history field.

Because of the applied-history requirements, students in this concentration do not take required or elective reading seminars about the history of regions outside of their major field. For example, if you specialize in U.S. history, a reading course that covers only European history would not count toward degree requirements.

Usually, students take three courses (nine credits) of applied-history coursework (usually history courses numbered 679–699), plus a three-credit internship. Students may choose instead to take two applied courses and a six-credit internship. Students employed in applied-history jobs may take 12 credits of coursework and no internship.

The concentration in Applied History with New Media and Information Technology Emphasis has the same requirements, but at least six of the applied-history credits plus the internship should develop skills in new media and information technology.

The applied concentration can be combined with the Graduate Certificate in Digital Public Humanities. Normally the MA requires 30 credits and the graduate certificate requires 15, but if you take them together, nine credits can overlap. Thus, a total of 36 credits are required for the MA and the certificate together.

The applied history concentration requires a “research tool.” This is not meant to be a burden, but rather a chance to highlight a particular skill. Some options include mastery of a foreign language at the 200-level, experience with a specific software tool or technique, statistics or computation, or experience with another discrete skill in applied history, such as exhibit design. Through their internship or coursework in applied history, most students in the applied concentration master more than one such skills, and simply need to decide which to list on their program of study.

Teaching (Secondary Schools)

Secondary schools tend to seek applicants with broader knowledge of history, enough to prepare them to teach United States, World, and Western Civilization courses. Students in the teaching concentration do not therefore specialize in one area of the world, but instead spread their coursework among multiple regions.

The teaching concentration is primarily designed for students who are also enrolled in the Secondary Education Licensure Graduate Certificate program, run by the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). Students should consult with a licensure specialist there before committing to this concentration.

This concentration blends 21 graduate history credits and 15 graduate credits in the College of Education and Human Development for a total of 36. 

Since the graduate certificate in secondary education requires 24 credits, the degree and the certificate together require 45 credits total. That means students require an additional 9 credits in the College of Education and Human Development to complete both degrees. See the FAQs for Prospective MA Students in History question on high school teaching for more information.

Higher Education

Community colleges are more flexible than public high schools in their requirements. For example, the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) system seeks entry-level instructors holding a “Master’s degree with 18 graduate semester hours in the discipline. Some prior teaching experience preferred.” This reflects the accreditation standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Information regarding the accreditation of George Mason University can be found on the Provost’s webpage at

Community colleges like candidates with a mix of coursework in U.S., European, and world history, who are prepared to teach introductory classes in all those areas. Students in the higher education concentration, like those in the secondary teaching concentration, do not therefore specialize in one area of the world, but instead spread their coursework among multiple regions.

The concentration in Higher Education allows students to combine 24 credits in history with 12 credits in Higher Education, including a three-credit practicum.

Students interest in this concentration should consult the current director of the Higher Education program, who can describe the content of HE 602 College Teaching, HE 685 Practicum, and other HE coursework.