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Guide to studying American Studies

American Studies explores all parts of life in the Americas, from literature and history to politics and popular culture.

Students holding American flag on campus


  1. What's American Studies?

  2. Why study American Studies?

  3. What jobs can you get as an American Studies graduate?

  4. What do graduates do and earn?
  5. What qualifications do you need?

  6. What degrees can you study?

  7. How will you be assessed?
  8. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

What's American Studies?

America remains a prominent global force in the twenty-first century, with American culture, companies and geopolitical decisions dominating our lives.

The motivating force behind American Studies as a discipline is to dissect, decipher and delve into the inner workings of this significant world power. Increasingly, too, American Studies looks beyond the boundaries of the United States and incorporates the wider Americas, the Caribbean, the Transatlantic, the Transpacific and beyond.

Why study American Studies?

If you feel torn between literature and history degree options, American Studies will give you the ability to develop all your intellectual passions without having to choose one area.

You'll approach issues that have been at the heart of the American experience – ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality – and explore central themes like civil rights, the idea of freedom, migrant and immigrant experiences, conformism and rebellion, and American foreign relations. 

Read our five reasons to study American Studies for more information on studying this subject area.

Lincoln memorial landmark of washington dc

What jobs can you get as an American Studies graduate?

Popular career choices for American Studies graduates include in journalism, publishing, finance, marketing, advertising, media and culture and heritage sectors. Many students go on to further study, and pursue careers in teaching and law.

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of American Studies have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate American Studies students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

What qualifications do you need? 

At least one A Level (or equivalent) in English Literature, English Language or History. Another useful subject is Politics.

Minimum grades and other requirements vary with each institution. So, always check the entry requirements for the universities/courses you're particularly interested in.

What degrees can you study?

  • BA (Hons) in American Studies

Examples of joint courses include:

  • Film and American Studies
  • American and Canadian Studies and English Literature
  • History and American Studies

Examples of areas of study in a course include:

  • American history
  • American literature
  • American political culture
  • American music
  • Photography and visual culture
  • American material culture
  • African-American history
  • American slavery

How will you be assessed?

Assessments usually take the form of coursework and end-of-semester written examinations. You may have more creative forms of assessments, such as video essay projects or audience surveys.

Courses usually include a compulsory or optional dissertation project in the final year of study.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Postgraduate taught and research programmes in American Studies, or related areas such as Film and American Studies, American History, American Literature and Culture, are available as both full- and part-time courses.

Some UK universities offer collaborative research programmes with American universities.

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