What is American Studies?
American Studies is a well-known and well-respected liberal arts degree. American Studies students learn to understand about America — where it came from, its institutions, culture and people — while at the same time learning critical thinking, research, writing and oral communication skills. The knowledge of how America works, how it is perceived, and its place in the world, combined with the classic liberal arts skills allows for the best flexibility in career choice. This is especially critical in the 21st century when so many Americans change careers several times in their life.
What do I learn?
The knowledge areas for American Studies are quite open, but the basic areas include:
- American History
- American Culture and Society (Popular culture, literature, race, gender, etc.)
- American Institutions (government, law, business, etc.)
The skills learned by American Studies majors include:
- Critical Thinking (this includes the ability to analyze situations, examine reasons beneath issues and understand them in context and as part of larger patterns and processes)
- Research Skills (vital to almost any job, this includes the ability to trace the roots of issues, find new information and incorporate that information into the final analysis)
- Interdisciplinary Thinking (the ability to think about an issue in a variety of ways and from a multitude of perspectives, using different traditions of thought)
- Effective Writing (any job requiring a college education expects that graduates will be able to communicate correctly and effectively with the written word)
- Oral Communication (essential to any job is the ability to communicate your ideas vocally)
What can I do with an American Studies degree?
The greatest value in an American Studies Degree is the flexibility the broad-based knowledge and skills provides students. If you have more than one interest, or you are unsure of what direction you wish go in, then American Studies will provide the grounding to go in any number of directions, including immediate careers and graduate education. The final decision can be made when you graduate and head into the work force or to graduate school. Internships and independent study courses are available to explore career possibilities.
A sampling of the typical careers chosen by American Studies majors includes:
- Government: Planners, evaluators, policy analysts for federal, state and local governments. Graduate degree: Political Science
- Politics: Campaign managers and consultants
- Law: Paralegals (further training needed) Graduate Degree: Best preparation for Law school
- Education: Adaptable degree for secondary systems because you will be able to teach more than one subject, typically history and civics courses, or the basis for higher degrees in history, American Studies, English, etc. Graduate degrees: Masters in Education, Masters or Ph.D. in History or American Studies
- Writers and Editors: Publishing houses, print or web-based journalists for magazines, websites and newspapers
- Information Managers: archivists, records management and librarian. Graduate degree: library science
- Business: Advertising, marketing, project managers, etc. Graduate degree: MBA
- Public History: Museums and historical societies, including educators, curators, development office, etc. Graduate degree: Museum Studies
- Higher Education Administration: Resident directors, student affairs, deans, etc. Graduate degree: Higher Education Administration
As a traditional liberal arts degree, American Studies includes many open elective courses. With these open electives AMS students can:
Take a minor: Mount Ida offers many minors. The minor may be connected to a potential career path or simply provide a focus in a subject or skill area that interests a student.
Study Abroad: The number of open electives makes it easy for students to fit in a semester abroad if they wish. For example, recently AMS students have spent a semester in Australia and Italy.