Montana State University

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Course Requirements

The program is built upon research and intensive course work that will normally require four years of full-time work. Students must complete a minimum of 60 credit hours post-baccalaureate, of which at least 18 must be dissertation credits.

All students are required to take AMST 501, Methods in American Studies, and AMST 502, Research and Writing in American Studies. Additional coursework will be selected from by the student in conjunction with his or her committee chair and committee members.

Major Field

All students must declare a major field of emphasis, by the third semester of study. The major field will normally require at least 12 credits of coursework. The major fields are:

  • American Arts
  • American History
  • American Literature
  • American Pluralism
  • Public History

Supporting Area

All students must declare a supporting area, which will normally be acquired through three courses (9 credits) and a four-hour written examination administered by the supporting area advisor. The supporting area will be a thematic field, for example, Native American Studies, Technology and Culture, Women’s Studies.

Graduate Committee

A student’s committee will consist of a chair and a minimum of three additional members. In addition, The Graduate School assigns a graduate representative to each doctoral committee. The committee must be formed by the end of the third semester of attendance.

Mastery of Subject Matter

Mastery of the major field will be determined by:

  1. a record of excellence in all courses
  2. submission of a "syllabus requirement," in which the student designs and defends a detailed course syllabus in the major field, or submits another applied exercise, such as the design of a museum exhibit
  3. a four-hour written comprehensive examination on the major field
  4. a two-hour  written comprehensive examination on the supporting area
  5. a two-hour oral comprehensive examination, including a defense of the dissertation proposal
  6. submission of a dissertation that makes an original contribution to the major field of study
  7. defense of the dissertation in a public forum


Two-thirds (2/3) of the course work required for the degree must be completed prior to taking the comprehensive examinations. All written examinations must be completed prior to enrolling in AMST 690 (Doctoral Thesis).

Acceptable age of examinations. The maximum time allowed between the comprehensive examinations and the granting of the degree is five (5) years.

Failed examinations. If a student fails an examination, at least six (6) months must elapse before the examination may be repeated. Failure to pass the examination a second time will result in dismissal from the program.

Foreign Language Requirement

All students are required to demonstrate reading knowledge of at least one foreign language. Competency will determined by an examination administered by the program, normally in conjunction with the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. The examination will be graded pass/fail. The foreign language requirement must be completed successfully before a student can present the dissertation proposal.

Financial Support

Currently, the only form of financial support available through the program is the Graduate Teaching Assistantship. A small number of teaching assistantships will normally be awarded each academic year, based on merit, as determined by the Graduate Committee. Interested students should apply for a teaching assistantship by submitting a letter of interest to the Program Director.

For information about general scholarship opportunities and Financial Aid, please see the "resources for students" link.