Bachelor of Arts in American Studies

College of Liberal & Creative Arts

Dean: Dr. Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo

American Studies Program

Humanities Building, Room 487
Coordinator: Cristina Ruotolo

Program Scope

American Studies is a cross-disciplinary program that offers students an opportunity to create an individualized major. The purpose of the major is to study the unity and diversity, the consensus and conflict, and the continuity and change that characterize the many cultures and social structures of the past and present United States. Each student takes core courses in arts and culture, geography, and California studies and, with help from the program advisor, creates an individualized set of elective courses drawn from across the University to pursue a particular set of questions about U.S. history, culture, and society.

Career Outlook

The American Studies major is appropriate for students who want a strong liberal arts experience that focuses on the United States, for those preparing for teaching careers, or a wide-ranging background as preparation for study of the law, public administration, city planning, library and museum work, and/or specialized graduate study.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, the student will:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of and facility with research methods and analytical skills from several disciplines, including history, geography, humanities, and cultural studies.
  2. Integrate disciplinary methods and perspectives to explore significant questions about American society, culture, and history.
  3. Articulate the relationships between regional, ethnic, racial, or subcultural histories, peoples, experiences or conditions and larger, national narratives, events and trends.

American Studies (B.A.) — 39 units

Required Courses (18 units)

Select One:3
Values in American Life
Self, Place, and Knowing: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Inquiry
HUM 300GWReading and Writing Across Creative Forms - GWAR3
HUM 450/AMST 410California Culture3
Select One:3
The Arts and American Culture
American Images: Photography and Literature
Select One:3
Future Environments
Urban Transportation
Geography of Ethnic Communities
Geography of California
One 400-level HIST course3

Elective Courses (21 units)

Courses, by choice and advisement, on a topic or theme in American Studies, drawn from at least two disciplines. See coordinator and website for recommended elective pathways. Up to 6 units may be in community college or lower-division coursework. For students with GPA 3.0 or higher, electives can include a senior course on advisement: Independent Study (699) on a specific topic connected to prior course work, to be developed through consultation with the coordinator and faculty from the appropriate department (3-6 units).

Courses especially appropriate as electives for the American Studies major are offered by the following departments:

  • Africana Studies
  • American Indian Studies
  • Asian American Studies
  • Cinema
  • English
  • Geography
  • History
  • Humanities
  • Journalism
  • Latina/Latino Studies
  • Music
  • Political Science
  • Race and Resistance Studies
  • Social Science
  • Urban Studies and Planning
  • Women and Gender Studies

Complementary Studies

To fulfill the Complementary Studies requirement, all students completing a B.A. degree must take 12 units of courses outside of the primary prefix of their major and not cross-listed with the primary prefix for the major. This requirement is automatically fulfilled when completing an American Studies major, so no additional units beyond the major are required to fulfill the complementary studies requirement.

First-Time Student Roadmap (4 Year)

The roadmaps presented in this Bulletin are intended as suggested plans of study and do not replace meeting with an advisor. For a more personalized roadmap, please use the Degree Planner tool found in your Student Center.

First-Time Student Roadmap

Transfer Student Roadmap (2 Year)

For students with an AA-T in Law, Public Policy and Society.

LPPS ADT Roadmap.

For students with an AA-T in History

HIST ADT Roadmap

For students with an AA-T in Political Science

PLSI ADT Roadmap

For students with another approved ADT.

ADT Roadmap.

Additional approved ADTs include:

  • English (AA-T)
  • Journalism (AA-T)
  • Social Justice Studies (AA-T)

California legislation SB 1440 (2009) mandated the creation of the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) to be awarded by the California Community Colleges. Two types of ADTs are awarded: Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T). 

Note: no specific degree is required for admission as an upper-division student. However, the ADT includes specific guarantees related to admission and graduation and is designed to clarify the transfer process and strengthen lower-division preparation for the major.

An ADT totals 60 units and in most cases includes completion of all lower-division General Education requirements and at least 18 units in a specific major. (The Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science AS-T degrees defer 3 units in lower-division GE area C and 3 units in lower-division GE area D until after transfer.) Students pursuing an ADT are guaranteed admission to the CSU if minimum eligibility requirements are met, though not necessarily to the CSU campus of primary choice.

Upon verification that the ADT has been awarded prior to matriculation at SF State, students are guaranteed B.A. or B.S. completion in 60 units if pursuing a “similar” major after transfer. Determinations about “similar” majors at SF State are made by faculty in the discipline.

Degree completion in 60 units cannot be guaranteed when a student simultaneously pursues an additional major, a minor, certificate, or credential.

A sample advising roadmap for students who have earned an ADT and continue in a "similar" major at SF State is available on the Roadmaps tab on the degree requirements page for the major. The roadmap displays:

  • How many lower-division units required for the major have been completed upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • Which lower-division requirements are considered complete upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • How to complete the remaining 60 units for the degree in four semesters.

Students who have earned an ADT should seek advising in the major department during the first semester of attendance.

General Advising Information for Transfer Students

  1. Before transfer, complete as many lower-division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
  2. The following courses are not required for admission but are required for graduation. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these units before transfer; doing so will provide more flexibility in course selection after transfer.
    • a course in U.S. History
    • a course in U.S. & California Government

For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), please visit Check any geographically accessible CCCs; sometimes options include more than one college. Use ASSIST to determine:

  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy any lower-division major requirements for this major;
  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy CSU GE, US History, and US & CA Government requirements.

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 semester units/90 quarter units required for admission.

Additional units for courses that are repeated do not apply to the minimum 60 units required for upper-division transfer (for example, if a course was not passed on the first attempt or was taken to earn a better grade).

Before leaving the last California Community College of attendance, obtain a summary of completion of lower-division General Education units (IGETC or CSU GE Breadth). This is often referred to as a GE certification worksheet. SF State does not require delivery of this certification to Admissions, but students should retain this document for verifying degree progress after transfer.

Credit for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or College-Level Examination Program courses: AP/IB/CLEP credit is not automatically transferred from the previous institution. Units are transferred only when an official score report is delivered to SF State. Credit is based on the academic year during which exams were taken. Refer to the University Bulletin in effect during the year of AP/IB/CLEP examination(s) for details regarding the award of credit for AP/IB/CLEP.

Students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines often defer 6-9 units of lower-division General Education in Areas C and D until after transfer to focus on preparation courses for the major. This advice does not apply to students pursuing associate degree completion before transfer.

Transferring From Institutions Other Than CCCs or CSUs

Review SF State's lower-division General Education requirements. Note that, as described below, the four basic skills courses required for admission meet A1, A2, A3, and B4 in the SF State GE pattern. Courses that fulfill the remaining areas of SF State’s lower-division GE pattern are available at most two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

Of the four required basic skills courses, a course in critical thinking (A3) may not be widely offered outside the CCC and CSU systems. Students should attempt to identify and take an appropriate course no later than the term of application to the CSU. To review more information about the A3 requirement, please visit

Waiting until after transfer to take a single course at SF State that meets both US and CA/local government requirements may be an appropriate option, particularly if transferring from outside of California.