American Studies

American Studies

Interested in how social media changes our lives? Classic rock lyrics? Immigration history or national policies toward global terrorism? Fugitive slaves in Pennsylvania? Great novels of the past? Constructions of dramatic events in American memory? Views on the environment past and present?

Welcome to American Studies, an interdisciplinary field of study that draws its analytical strength from history, literature, political science, and cultural and media studies. In this major, you learn to think across the disciplinary lines that often divide one of these things from another, so that history and literature and politics and popular culture begin to make sense together. By studying American culture of the past and present, you will gain a vital perspective on the diversity of the nation you live in.

Build a great liberal arts foundation for rich and diverse career opportunities Through a variety of course work and interaction with professors and fellow students, American Studies majors develop critical and analytical thinking skills that will be of value in the rapidly changing workplace of the twenty-first century. Many employers want workers who can think and write in complex situations of just the sort that an American Studies major examines. The major also provides excellent preparation for further work in graduate or professional school, for instance in law, education, or the American Studies field itself.

Curriculum Overview 

Flexibility and choice lie at the heart of this major. All students take an introduction and two advanced courses that teach and apply its core interdisciplinary methods; other courses are selected from three out of four subject areas (literature, history, arts and humanities, social sciences). A pre-law background could be developed by emphasizing social sciences and history, or one might instead pursue literature, arts and media. Designing a small cluster of courses would allow the student to focus on politics, African American tradition, or women and the American experience.  Often students transferring from another field or university find that substantial coursework will count toward the major. 

Core skills developed while majoring in American Studies include:

  • critical reading and writing, especially across boundaries of discipline and perspective
  • digital scholarship
  • speaking and discussion
  • field observation and research

Internships and Research

Students majoring in American Studies are offered opportunities to apply their knowledge through internships, whether in a historical museum, non-profit organization, political or law office or business setting. Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley offer rich opportunities for work-place experience, as well as for original research and practice within other courses.

Complementary Minors that may enhance the degree include:

Graduation and Beyond

American Studies offers the foundation for developing one's expertise throughout life. Graduates find positions in a variety of fields, including:  

  • Educational programs at museums and tourist sites
  • Business
  • Journalism
  • Political advocacy
  • Secondary education

Graduates may also choose to pursue a law degree or complete a degree at the master's or doctorate level.