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)
7.0 (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 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. You will also develop your 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 you will select from a range of optional modules offered within the school and by related subject areas within the University. Recent optional modules include:

  • The American Theatre
  • American Madness; Popular Music and Countercultures
  • The History of the Civil Rights Movement
  • US Foreign Policy, 1989-2009
  • Sexuality in American History
  • The US and the Vietnam Wars
  • 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 10,000-12,500 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 (4,00o-5,000 words). The dissertation is completed over the summer and submitted during the first week of September.



Modules offered may include:

  • Approaches to American Studies
  • Researching Contemporary America
  • The History of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Prohibition America
  • Recent Queer Writing
  • The US and the Vietnam Wars
  • Sexuality in American History
  • The American Pop Century
  • American Madness
  • American Foreign Policy, 1989-2009
  • The US and South Asia after World War Two

Please note that modules offered vary from year to year.

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

Non-subject specific modules

All students will take one of the following two modules:

Research Methods: The Laboratory of the Arts

This module enhances students’ research skills, to support engagement in high-level research on a disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and transdisciplinary basis. An array of research techniques and methodologies will be critically reviewed and students will develop skills in gathering research insights from a range of sources drawn from across the Faculty.

Arts in Society

This module is designed to encourage students to think about the broader context of the Arts: to appreciate, evaluate and communicate the value of the Arts beyond the academy. Students will engage with the practices and techniques required to produce advanced research and develop the skills to communicate this research to a variety of audiences.

Professional development modules

Depending on your course you will also have the option to select from a range of professional development modules.

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).

Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



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

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers.*

In 2016, 96.6% of postgraduates from the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £25,314 with the highest being £35,000.**

* The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.

**Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

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.  

Explore it - Virtual Nottingham

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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