Graduate Coursework

On this page:

Over the course of your graduate career, you will take core courses required of every graduate student in the Department or in your chosen division, as well as have the opportunity to choose courses in History and other Departments that are best suited to your interests and needs. The latter courses should be chosen in consultation with your primary faculty advisor.

It is the student's responsibility to contact faculty members as early as possible after admission to the MA or PhD program to determine the courses and other requirements for their particular fields, and to plan coursework accordingly, taking into consideration when the necessary courses are to be offered. The student's formal faculty advisers (ie., field supervisors) are determined by the formal establishment of the MA or PhD fields and Supervisory Committee, which should done as soon as posssible and no later than the end of the second quarter of the MA program or the end of the third quarter of the PhD program.

The field supervisors determine the required and recommended coursework needed to prepare for the exams in their respective fields, which likely would include field courses, and independent study credit to work on bibliographic essays and reading lists. Faculty can also require or recommend that students take 400-level History lecture courses, special topic classes, and relevant classes taught in other departments. Faculty advisers and student advisees should meet at least once each quarter before classes begin, and again during the Spring Quarter, to review progress and plans.

Faculty supervisors also advise students in regards to the selection of the research seminar and determine the foreign language requirements for their fields.


Field Courses: A field course is a bibliographic and historiographic introduction to the scholarly literature of a particular field (such as HSTEU: 551: Eastern Europe, 1772-1939 or HSTAS 570: Modern China). Faculty supervisors usually require a student to take the field course as the foundation for the student's mastery of the content of a field and as preparation for the graduate examination in the field.

A Research Seminar is a two-quarter course sequence (such as HSTAA 532/533 or HSTEU 511/512) in which students research, write, and present seminar papers. Students take a research seminar at the MA level, and another seminar at the PhD level.The seminar paper must be completed in a two-quarter research seminar. The research seminar can be a research seminar that is focused on a particular chronological, thematic or geographic area (such as HSTAA 532/533: Research Seminar in American History or HSTCMP 512/513: Research Seminar in the History of Science), or HSTRY 596/597: Research Seminar in History, which is offered regularly and is open to students in all fields of history.

Special Topics (590s) are 5-credit courses that are one-time only offerings. They are usually tied to a particular speaker series, an art or museum exhibit, etc., or are new classes that are being offered for the first time before they are added as regular 500-level graduate courses to the History curriculum. Students are limited to taking a total of 15 credits of 590 in each division.

Graduate Independent Study (HSTRY 600): In addition to appropriate field courses, many students use independent study credits to develop reading lists or to read more extensively in preparation for their graduate examinations. The student and faculty member confer in building a plan of work fo HSTRY 600 credits, clearly defining their goals and expectations, including the type and number of assignments that will be required, and arranging regular meetings throughout the quarter. Credits for the HSTRY 600 can vary from 1-5, depending on the reading and writing load. The student and faculty supervisor complete and sign the required HSTRY 600 form to obtain an entry code for independent study credits.


As an introduction to a broad range of fields and approaches to writing History as well as discussion of History as a discipline, all new History graduate students take HSTRY 500: Historical Perspectives in the Autumn Quarter of their first year in the graduate program.

Two required courses focus on the professional preparation of graduate students. HSTRY 570: Topics in Teaching History supports graduate students' development as college-level instructors. New History TAs take HIST 570 in their first or second year as a TA. All History Graduate students also take HSTRY 571: Academic Career Preparation, normally in their second year of the graduate program. These are 3-credit courses, graded Credit/No Credit.

MA and PhD students specializing in US History are required to take HSTAA 521: Early America to Late 19th Century and HSTAA 522: Late 19th Century to Present of their first year in the graduate program

Second-year graduate students are required to take HSTRY 572: Dissertation Prospectus, offered yearly Spring Quarter. In this course students craft their dissertation prospectuses, working in conjunction with their respective PhD Chairs and Committees, who must approve the prospectus before it is presented to the History Department. Students can also use the completed prospectus as a component for future funding and employment applications.

HSTRY 800: Dissertation Research and Writing: During the research and writing of the dissertation, the student registers for HIST 800, Doctoral Dissertation. Doctoral Students are required to have taken at least 27 credits of HIST 800 over a period of at least three quarters prior to their PhD Final Examination.

  • The student must fill out the HSTRY 800 [ link to HIST 800 form] form and submit it to the Graduate Office before an entry code will be given for dissertation credits. On the form, the student specifies what work will be completed on the dissertation during the quarter. The faculty supervisor does not have to sign the form, but s/he is given a copy by which to gauge the student's progress and performance for the end-of-the quarter evaluation.
  • Students can begin registering for HSTRY 800 credits the quarter they take their PhD General Examination, if they already have met the Graduate School's credit requirements for taking the General Examination.


To be considered a fulltime graduate student, a student must register for a minimum of 10 credits of graduate-level History and History field-related courses each quarter. A normal fulltime class load is two History graduate courses per quarter, with any language classes done in addition

100/200/300-level courses do not count toward graduate credit

Foreign language training classes (vocabulary, grammar, etc.) are done in addition to History and History field-related content classes. Language training classes (at any level) are not counted toward the credits needed for a History graduate degree and they do not count toward the 10 credits of graduate-level coursework needed for fulltime registration.

Credits taken in professionalization courses (HSTRY 570, HSTRY 571, GRDSCH 615, GRDSCH 616) do count toward the 10 credits of graduate-level coursework needed for fulltime registration. They are not counted toward degree credits.

In assessing credits applicable to a graduate degree, the History Department includes History courses numbered 400 and above in History field-related coursework, and courses numbered 400 and above offered by other departments with content relevant to the student's program of study in History.

Graduate courses offered by other departments can be counted toward fulltime registration and History graduate degree credits if their content is related to the student's fields in History and they are required or recommended by a History field supervisor.

Courses at the 400-level are upper division undergraduate courses. Graduate students (usually at the MA level only) should take 400-level History courses only if required to do so by a faculty field supervisor. In such cases, the student should contact the History Graduate Office to make arrangements so that the coursework can be completed at a graduate level. Graduate students are not allowed to register for courses numbered 491 to 499 under any circumstances--these are courses for undergraduates only and the credits do not count toward graduate degree requirements.

Foreign language departments sometimes do offer History content-related courses at the 400-level and above. For example, the Classics Department might offer a class on Thucydides as a historian, or the Germanics Department might offer a class on the socio-cultural history of Weimar Germany. Such content courses (at the 400-level or above) can be counted toward fulltime registration and degree credits if their content is related to the student's fields in History and they are required or recommended by a History field supervisor.

Some courses can be taken more than once and the credits counted toward degree requirements. Other courses are non-repeatable and can be taken only once for degree credit. If a student repeats a non-repeatable class, only one set of credits counts toward the degree requirements. However, both course grades are calculated into the GPA. Information about whether or not a course is repeatable and the limit on the number of credits that can be counted toward degree requirements is found in the UW General Catalog. Here are some examples from the General Catalogue, by way of illustration:

  • HSTCMP 580: Gender and History (5): This is a five credit course. It is not repeatable (even if it is being taught by a different faculty member and/or has a different topic or theme).
  • HSTAS 590: Topics in Asian History (5, max. 15): This is a five credit course. It can be repeated for a total of 15 credits.
  • HSTAA 562: Seminar in American Diplomatic History (3-6, max. 12): This is a variable credit course--a student can sign up for 3, 4, 5 or 6 credits. The course can be repeated for a total of 12 credits.

If you are considering re-taking a History graduate course, check the UW General Catalog to make sure that it is repeatable for credit.

The Graduate School requires a minimum enrollment of at least 2 credits each quarter for any student not formally on-leave. Please note, however, that this is a Graduate School requirement. There may be different enrollment requirements in effect for student loan deferment, etc., that supersede the 2-credit requirement. Students are responsible for knowing the terms of their student loans and for complying with the loan's registration requirements.


Graduate courses (500-level) are graded on a numerical 4.0 scale; HSTRY 600 and HSTRY 800 credits are graded only credit/no-credit (CR/NC) only. If a faculty member awards a numerical grade to HSTRY 600 or HSTRY 800 credits, they are still regarded as non-graded credits when applied to degree requirements.

Students must earn a grade of at least 3.5 in each numerically-graded course (400- and 500-level) and credit (CR) in HSTRY 600 and HSTRY 800 credits for these credits to be applicable to degree requirements.

Occasionally, a numerical grade or CR cannot be assigned. In those cases a grade of I, X, or N may be assigned.

  • I Incomplete. An Incomplete is given only when the student has been in attendance and has done satisfactory work until within two weeks of the end of the quarter and has furnished proof satisfactory to the instructor that the work cannot be completed because of illness or other circumstances beyond the student's control. Remaining work for the course should be completed by the end of the quarter following assignment of the Incomplete. If work is not completed before the end of the following quarter the I will not be removed from the student's transcript; the numerical grade or CR will be followed by "/I".
  • An X grade is assigned when a faculty member, for whatever reason, is unable to submit a grade. The X grade is removed completely from the student's transcript once the faculty member submits a numerical grade or CR.
  • N Indicates that the student is making satisfactory progress and a final grade will be given at the end of the quarter the work is completed. Used only for thesis, research, and hyphenated courses (courses not completed in one quarter) and courses numbered 600 and 800. An "N" grade carries with it no credit or grade until a regular grade is assigned.

Incompletes, X grades and N grades must be removed from the student's transcript by the end of the following quarter. All X, I, and N grades must be removed from the transcript before the beginning of the quarter in which the student intends to take the MA Examination or PhD General Examination, and before the quarter in which the student intends to complete the PhD degree