If you like traditional liberal arts subjects but want to study more than
one at a time, you might enjoy an interdisciplinary field like American studies.
Interdisciplinary means you can get a degree by taking courses from several
different academic streams -- history, political science, languages, economics,
literature and fine arts, for example. You can tailor it to your personal
interests or to future career plans.
Depending on the program, the focus can be on the U.S., on all of North
America, or on Latin America.
You can get a BA, MA or PhD in American studies. Most people who
do master's degrees or PhDs are planning to pursue academic careers. However,
they have other career options, too.
"American studies students are trained to be cultural analysts," says Dale
Soden. He is a professor of American studies at Whitworth College in Spokane,
Washington. "These skills are useful in a variety of fields: law, politics,
journalism, telecommunications and business."
Soden says that communication skills and eagerness to learn are
as important as good grades.
"We look for applicants who can write well, demonstrate critical thinking
abilities and are willing to participate in class discussion," he says.
In high school, take courses in English, history, politics and math.
Peter Blanchard, director of an merican studies program, recommends classes
in Spanish and Portuguese if available.
"Take everything at an advanced level that you can, especially literature
and history," says James Salem. He is emeritus professor of American studies
at the University of Alabama. "Potential American studies majors should follow
their hearts and their passions. This will serve them well."
Working on the school newspaper or yearbook and joining a drama or debate
club could help develop other skills.
Tuition and books are generally the only expenses, although some programs
also charge lab fees.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Social
Latin American Studies
Lots of great links on Latin American History
National Museum of American History
Check out the virtual exhibitions