American Studies MA


Fact file

MA American Studies
1 year full-time; 2-4 years part-time
Entry requirements
2.1(Upper 2nd class hons degree or international equivalent)
Other requirements
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


The course focuses on the history, literature, politics, film and culture of the United States, as well as the literature, culture and society of Canada.
Read full overview

In the wake of “the American Century”, this is an exciting moment to be studying North America. To what extent will the US be forced to renegotiate political, financial and cultural relationships long characterised by dominance? How should the Obama Presidency be understood within the history of race relations and the struggle for civil rights? How will cultural responses to changing political, media, and built environments work within and against established forms and traditions?

The MA American Studies is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary course, which enables you to focus on the study of the history, literature, politics, film and culture of the United States, as well as the literature, culture and society of Canada.

Small group teaching with a focus on student-led discussion fosters a collegiate MA cohort – encouraging intellectual exchange among a group of students with shared interests but with a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives.

A suite of core modules taken by all MA students is the centrepiece of the degree. Offered in the first semester is Approaches to American Studies, which will acquaint students with the development of scholarly methods, theories, and approaches in American Studies. Students will also develop their research management and personal development skills vital to postgraduate work. Offered in the second semester is Researching Contemporary America, which will introduce postgraduate-level American Studies through a study of key controversies in the study of the recent United States.

In each term students will select from a range of optional modules offered within the School and by related subject areas within the University. Recent optional modules include American Enlightenment and American Gothic; Darwinism and Creationism in America; Fictions of America; Representing the South; Asian American Literature; the Civil War and its Origins; American Labor History; and Recent Queer Writing. 

Completed over the summer period, the dissertation provides the capstone of the degree and involves in-depth research supervised by a specialist tutor.

Dissertation supervision and core and optional module teaching are research-led. In line with the most recent work in the field, research and teaching in the Department of American and Canadian Studies is informed by consideration of North America in transatlantic and hemispheric contexts and a transnational and global perspective; by close attention to the production, circulation and reception of a broad range of ‘texts’; and by a commitment to self-reflexive interdisciplinarity.

Part-time students complete the same components, but spread over two or more years.

Key facts

  • The Department of American and Canadian Studies is the strongest unit of its type in the country in terms of research power rating: one that takes into account both quality of research and the number of research-active staff who made returns to the Research Assessment Exercise 2008. According to the RAE, 25% of the school's returns were judged 4* or world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour. A further 20% were of 3* quality (internationally excellent).
  • It has a thriving postgraduate programme, and a teaching and research culture of the highest quality.
  • The MA draws on a network of expert and experienced academics from disciplines across the University.

Course details

This course provides training in research skills, an introduction to representative American Studies approaches, and an examination of contemporary American culture. 

Optional modules in both semester one and semester two and a dissertation module will allow you to develop a disciplinary focus (history, literature or visual culture) or to demonstrate your enhanced, interdisciplinary development.

Towards the end of the course, you will be expected to complete a 15,000-20,000 word dissertation. You will be able to refine your dissertation proposal during semester one before you are assigned a supervisor who is in a position to support your research and is familiar with your chosen specialism.

This course can be completed in one year of full-time study or over two to four years, part-time.

There is also the option to study this subject for the award of a Postgraduate Diploma, which means that you would be required to undertake the taught components of the course without completing the dissertation module.

The principal means of assessment for each module is the long essay (5,000 words). The 15,000-20,000 word dissertation is completed over the summer and submitted during the last week of the summer term.



Modules offered may include:

  • Approaches to American Studies
  • Researching Contemporary America
  • Fictions of America
  • American Madness: Mental Illness in History and Culture
  • Queer Agency in North American Writing Prohibition in America
  • Slavery, Capitalism and the Origins of the Civil War
  • In the Midst of Wars: The US and S.E. Asia 1940 – 1968
  • African American Visual Cultures
  • US Foreign Policy since 1989 American Labor History
  • History of the Civil Rights Movement
  • African-American Photographic Culture
  • Asian American Literature  

New: masters-level professional development modules for arts and humanities students

Please note that modules offered vary from year to year.

For more details about our modules, please see the module catalogue.

The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



If you choose to study with us, there are various sources of funding to which you can apply. Some are administered by the school, others by research bodies to which the school has links, and others by the University and central government sources. These opportunities are often specific to particular degree programmes, or to the fee-status of a student, so it is important to read all related information very carefully.

More information about funding can be found on the following web pages.

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies funding pages

University of Nottingham Graduate School funding pages

University of Nottingham International Office funding pages

Overseas applicants may also be eligible for a range of school scholarships open to graduates from our North American partner institutions.

North American students may bring Stafford loans as Nottingham is a FAFSA approved institution (code G08920).

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of masters scholarships for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your masters course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



The MA American Studies will give you the opportunity to study a subject that you are passionate about at a more detailed level than is possible during an undergraduate degree.  As such, this is an ideal step into a future research qualification, such as a PhD.

As you have this option of developing your interests at a more specialised level, you will even be able to tap into current debates surrounding America’s global position.  As such, this course offers excellent preparation for a career in teaching, journalism and the media, government service, diplomacy, and NGO's.

The interdisciplinary focus of the course will also equip you with the skills and flexibility to adapt to a range of other professions, such as management, business, public services and law

You will also be ideally placed to pursue a career or further study in North America or Canada.

Average starting salary and career progression

According to independent research, Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and over 2,000 employers approach the University every year with a view to recruiting our students. Consequently – and owing to our reputation for excellence – more than 94% of postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts enter employment, voluntary work or further study during the first six months after graduation**.

* The Graduate Market in 2013, 2014 and 2015, High Fliers Research.

** Data is taken from known destinations of the 2013/14 leaving cohort of Nottingham home/EU postgraduates who studied full-time.

Career Prospects and Employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from  careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential. Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.  

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