Frequently Asked Questions about the History Major

Frequently Asked Questions about the History Major and the Global History Major 

If you’re minoring in history, see the FAQs in the section on the History Minor. 

The undergraduate adviser in History is Professor Emily Tabuteau (  If the questions and answers below do not tell you what you need to know, please e-mail her.  

1. What can I do with a degree in history? Lots and lots! A history degree is one of the most flexible you can get. Find out about some of the many possibilities here.

2. How does my AP history affect my major? If you took the AP exam in World History, American History and/or European History and got a grade of 3, 4 or 5, you received 8 credits in the relevant area(s), which means that you got credit for HST 140 and HST 150 (World History), HST 202 and HST 203 (American History) and/or HST 205 and HST 206 (European History). These courses count towards the credits you need to complete your degree in History, with the following exceptions: First, the History major requires twelve credits (three four-credit courses) at the 100- or 200-level, in addition to HST 201. Therefore, even if you received the full 24 credits, only 12 of them can count towards your major. Second, if you also received a grade of 4 or 5 on the AP exam in English or Literature, the combination of that grade plus four of your AP credits in History was probably used to give you credit in IAH 201 or IAH 202. The History credits that were used for IAH 201 or IAH 202 cannot also be used as credits towards the completion of the History major. If you took the AP exam in World, American and/or European History and got a grade of 2, you received a waiver of the courses in the relevant area(s), which means that your record will show that you have taken HST 140 and HST 150 (World History), HST 202 and HST 203 (American History) and/or HST 205 and HST 206 (European History). You did not, however, get credit for these courses, so you will have to complete the full number of credits to complete your major in History. If you received credit for HST 140, 150, 202, 203, 205 and/or 206, you will not be able to repeat these courses at MSU because your record will show that you have already taken them. If you received merely a waiver, you may take the course at MSU if you wish to do so. 

If you are a Global History major, AP credit equivalent to HST 202 and HST 203 does not count towards the major. 

3. If I want to teach in elementary or secondary school, what do I have to do? To teach in elementary school or secondary school, you need to complete the Teacher Education (TE) curriculum. If you plan to teach in secondary school, you need to be a History: Social Studies Education major. If you plan to teach in elementary school, you need to consult the advising office in the College of Education. For either elementary or secondary education, you need to be admitted to the College of Education.  If you are not sure whether you want to teach, you may want to take one or more of the lower-level Teacher Education courses as a way of exploring the possibility; these are TE 101, TE 102, TE 150 and CEP 240. 

4. If I hope to teach in a college or university, do I need to take Teacher Education courses? No. Training in teaching is not a formal part of the training of college and university professors. 

5. What is a seminar? A seminar is a course whose enrollment is deliberately kept small and which is taught in discussion format. Students do common reading and discuss it in class. Each student also does individualized research based on original sources and writes a formal paper on the results of the research. Students are usually also asked to report to the whole class about their individual work. It is usual in such courses that class participation counts for a good deal of the grade. HST 201 and all the courses numbered 48x are seminar courses, as are all graduate courses in History. These courses are limited in enrollment to twenty students. HST 201 (“Historical Methods and Skills”) is the only course required of History majors of all sorts. It should be taken early in the student’s career and is a prerequisite for the 48x courses (“Seminar in . . .”), which are usually called “400-level studies courses.” It is possible to take any course numbered 48x more than once, provided that, the second time, the course is not being given by the same professor on the same topic. Students may not enroll for more than 12 credits in one HST 48x. With the permission of your adviser and of the professor teaching the course, it is possible for an undergraduate History major to take a graduate course. Graduate courses may be used to fulfill the requirement for 400-level studies courses. 

6. How do I fulfill the Tier II writing requirement? The courses numbered 48x fulfill the Tier II writing requirement for History majors of all sorts. 

7. What courses will be offered during the summer? History offers quite a few lower-level and upper-level online courses during the Summer.   See the “Class Search” function in SIS for the courses to be offered next Summer. 

8. What Education Abroad programs does the History Department offer? The History Department regularly offers an Education Abroad program that goes to Europe, usually primarily France. From time to time, additional programs are offered on an ad hoc basis.  Students also often enroll in foreign universities which have agreements with Michigan State. 

9. How can I find an internship? Some internships exist every year: books and internet programs on these are available in the office of Career Services and Placement. Other internships are offered from time to time: information about many of these is also available from CSP. Some are advertised to advisers. Whenever Professor Tabuteau gets notice of one of these, she puts the news out on her e-mail listserv. It is also possible to find an internship for yourself by asking an institution for which you would like to work whether it would be willing to take you on. If you do not need to be paid, it is quite likely that it will be willing to use you, especially if you are offering your services to a museum or similar non-profit humanities organization because such organizations are usually strapped for money. If you need to be paid, you may have to work harder to find an internship.  

If you want to take the internship for credit, you will need to register for SSC 493 and to consult with the internship coordinator in the College of Social Science advising office about the parameters of the course. If an internship contains a significant component of independent historical research or analogous activity, you should take HST 493 instead of SSC 493, and this course may be used to substitute for one of the two senior seminars required of all standard History majors or as the second experiential course for Global History majors. To exercise this option, you should consult with both the History adviser (Professor Emily Tabuteau) and the Department of History’s internship coordinator, Dani Willcutt.

10. Can I specialize in the history of one area of the world? Not entirely. The standard History major requires that you take at least 6 credits in each of three geographic areas of the world. This means that you may take at most 21-24 of the minimum 33-36 credits for the major in one geographic area. All additional credits above the minimum may be taken on one area of the world.  The Global History major requires that you have a primary area of emphasis and a secondary area of emphasis.  The primary area of emphasis requires at least three upper-level courses plus a senior seminar, a two-year competency in a foreign language relevant to the primary area of emphasis, and an area-studies minor relevant to the primary area of emphasis.  The secondary area of emphasis requires at least two upper-level courses. 

11. What do “African history,” “Asian history,” and “Latin American history” mean? These terms mean Africans in Africa, Asians in Asia and Latin Americans south of the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The requirement for courses in these areas cannot be fulfilled by courses in ethnic American history (such as African American history, Asian American history or Mexican American history). 

12. What courses count for which geographic areas? Usually this is pretty obvious, but students ask questions about certain courses which this section therefore discusses. HST 343 and 344 (Russian history) count as European history. HST 372 and 373 (the history of the Middle East) may count as either European, Asian, or African history. HST 383 (The Caribbean) counts as Latin American history. Ethnic American history courses (African American, Asian American, Mexican American, Native American) count as United States history. HST 110, HST 455, and HST 487 may count for any geographic area depending on what the subject of the particular section is: consult Professor Tabuteau ( before you sign up if you are planning to use one of these courses to fulfill part of a geographic distribution requirement. 

13. May a course be used to fulfill more than one requirement? Yes. For example, a 400-level seminar may be used to fulfill the requirement for a seminar, the requirement for a course before or after 1800, and the requirement for a course in a geographic area. Almost all of our courses, in fact, fulfill not only a course-level requirement but also a chronological and a geographic-area requirement. It is, however, very unwise to attempt a senior seminar that studies an area of the world in which you do not have both some background and some interest. 

14. Is there a History Club? Yes! The History Club is open to all students, whatever their major. Announcements about meetings of the Club are announced on Professor Tabuteau’s listserv as well as on the Club’s own list. Learn more here

15. Is there an honor society in this major? The History honor society is Phi Alpha Theta. There is a chapter in the Department. Membership is by invitation only. You do not need to be a History major to be a member of Phi Alpha Theta, but you must have a certain number of credits in History at Michigan State and you must have a certain GPA in those courses. For further information, consult the Phi Alpha Theta faculty adviser, Emily Conroy-Krutz. In addition to the honor society, there is also an Honors Program and a History Scholars program, both advised by Professor Conroy-Krutz.

16.  What about an Honors thesis?  Any History major may do an Honors thesis in his or her senior year with the permission of the department’s Honors adviser, Professor Emily Conroy-Krutz (, and the cooperation of a professor in the relevant field.  Students in the Honors College and those planning to apply to graduate school in History are strongly encouraged to undertake a thesis.  The Honors thesis requires two semesters of HST 499H, the first of which may be substituted for one of the senior seminars required of all standard History majors and may count as the second experiential course required of all Global History majors.  The Honors thesis requires a piece of independent research based on original sources and the production of a paper of at least 50 pages. 

17. What about a foreign language? Global History majors are required to complete a two-year competency in foreign language relevant to their area of primary emphasis. This is not a credit requirement or a course requirement but a competency requirement. It may be met by taking the placement examination in a language and placing into the third year or by passing the second semester course in the second year of the language (usually but not always numbered 202). The requirement is waived for students whose first language is not English.  

Students who are standard History majors are not held to this requirement. However, there are many reasons why such students may still want to study a language (and why students who have a second-year competency may wish to continue to study that language beyond the second year). Any student aiming to achieve a Ph.D. in History (and many other disciplines) will need at least one foreign language. Most History Ph.D. programs require two foreign languages, and, obviously, these languages should be relevant to the student’s principal area of study. Many M.A. programs require at least one foreign language.  Study of languages is mandatory for students wishing to enter the Foreign Service or the CIA or many other branches of government. Knowledge of a foreign language enhances one’s attractiveness to many kinds of businesses and non-profit institutions as well as the military. Knowledge of Latin and/or French will help you in law school.  Moreover, the study of a language other than one’s native tongue is good for the brain. 

18. When and how do I apply for graduation?   Later applications are possible but, if you can, you should apply for graduation by the Friday of the first week of the term in which you expect to graduate, except that, if you expect to graduate at the end of the Summer term, you should apply the preceding Spring term. There is no commencement ceremony at the end of the Summer term, so students who are expecting to graduate in August are allowed to “walk” at the May ceremony. They are also allowed to “walk” at the following December’s ceremony, but almost all such students attend the May ceremony instead.  Find more information here:

19.  How do I get onto the listserv for History majors?  The list is maintained by Professor Tabuteau.  E-mail her at and request to be added.