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The M.A. degree in Native American Studies provides scholars with the pedagogical foundation to either pursue doctoral studies or to substantially contribute to their professional field. Montana State University- Bozeman is one of a small handful of universities in the United States to offer a M.A. in Native American Studies that is housed within a dedicated department of Native American Studies and located in a university community with a large, active Native population. This vibrant synergy presents students with a rare opportunity to interact with full-time Native American Studies facultyon a daily basis and the opportunity to become involved in the Native American community here at MSU.

Interdisciplinary Research

MSU is geographically located at the heart of Montana's seven tribal colleges. This proximity to the seven reservations in Montana, home to twelve tribes, is unique, and presents an unparalleled opportunity to develop an original graduate research project in collaboration with the sovereign indigenous nations of Montana. Research interests of the MSU Native American Studies faculty encompass wide-ranging interdisciplinary topics in the field of Native American Studies, including:

  • History, theory, and methodology
  • Anthropology
  • Native food systems
  • Federal Indian law and policy
  • Contemporary issues
  • Gender Studies
  • Native American Literature, Film and Art
  • Tribal Government and Higher Education
  • Geography and Native sciences
  • Land resources and environmental studies

The MSU-NAS Community

The MSU student body includes more than 500 Native students and a very active American Indian Council, providing a lively and inclusive environment. NAS graduate students participate with the NAS department and the American Indian Council to host events such as Native Heritage Day, internationally renowned guest speakers, the annual MSU Pow-Wow, and conferences on topics ranging from tribal histories to Native literature and environmental issues. 

Degree Requirements

The two-year curriculum consists of a minimum of (30-31) thirty to thirty-one semester credit hours of study, completed through either the Thesis option or the Professional Paper option.

The M.A. degree Thesis Option requires a total of 31 credit-hours and the Professional Paper Option requires 30 credits.  All students must take:

  • NASX 540, Theoretical Positions in Native American Studies (3 credits, on-campus attendance required), and
  • NASX 541, Critical Approach to Methodologies in Native American Studies (3 credits, on-campus attendance required), and
  • NASX 530, Federal Indian Law and Policy (3 credits).
  • In addition to the courses listed above, students may also take 400-level courses in Native American Studies and in related disciplines, after consultation with their advisor.

For current course offerings, please consult the current graduate course catalog and the schedule of classes.

Mastery of Subject Matter

Mastery of the major field will be determined by 1) a thesis or professional research paper; 2) a record of excellence in all courses taken as part of the graduate program; and 3) an oral defense of one's thesis (for the Thesis Option).

Research Proposal Presentation (Prospectus)

A prospectus (research proposed) is required to be submitted after the student has completed 2/3 of his or her coursework.  The Prospectus is required to be defended and approved before the students is allowed to register for thesis or professional paper credits.

How to Apply

Admission to the MA Program is by online application.

Required Application Materials:

  • Baccalaureate degree in Native American Studies or related field
  • 3.0 Grade Point Average
  • Official transcripts of all university/college degree(s) conferred
  • Online MSU M.A. Graduate Application from the MSU Graduate School
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • A Statement of Interests and Goals outlining the student's particular background and interests in NAS, work and experience related to NAS or Indian communities, as well as goals and objectives in obtaining a Master's degree in Native American Studies
  • Two short academic writing samples that demonstrate your abilities to do graduate level research & writing with citations
  • Resume or CV
  • International Applicants will be required to submit a variety of additional documentation including English proficiency scores (at or above) the following: TOEFL [80] IELTS [6.5], or PTE [54]. Please see the International application process for further information. 

Application Deadlines

Term Applying for
Application Submission Deadline

August 15

December 15
April 15

*International degree and non-degree seeking applications are due June 15 for Fall Semesters and November 1 for Spring Semesters.

For more information, Please click here to receive information about our programs and graduate school at MSU


M.A. applications may be submitted online. Incomplete applications cannot be considered. 


Please submit records of degrees conferred to:

Attn: Graduate Program Coordinator
Native American Studies
P.O. Box 172340 
239 American Indian Hall
Montana State University; Bozeman, MT 59717


Can the MA be completed completely online?

No. The NAS MA program is unique in offering a rich, on-campus experience with an emphasis on community engagement. If you are interested in an online-only program, please see the Graduate Certificate in Native American Studies.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships

A limited number of graduate teaching assistantship positions are available. Applicants who are interested in a GTA position should so indicate in their application for consideration.

M.A. applications for students wishing to be considered for a teaching assistantship for the fall semester will be due by March 1. Applications for fall semester will be accepted until August 15, but no guarantees of financial assistance can be made. You may contact the department for further information regrading GTA positions.


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Important Links for Graduate Students


Contact the Department

Please contact Kristin Ruppel [email protected]  with questions about our graduate programs.