Students may enter the Ph.D. program by one of two routes: through the sequential M.A./Ph.D. course of studies at William and Mary, or by matriculating directly into the Ph.D. program after completing an M.A. degree at another institution.
The M.A. degree can be completed in one calendar year, with students taking 12 credits each semester. Normally, full-time students will pursue three semesters of course work beyond the M.A. and then take the qualifying examination in the fourth semester of their doctoral studies. After successful completion of the qualifying examination, students will embark upon their dissertations. Ph.D. students may expect to take five or six years of full-time work to complete all requirements for the doctorate.
The program offers assistantships to funded M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D. students that provide practical experiences in American Studies-related fields like archive and manuscript collections, editing, and museum research. All Ph.D. students receive teacher training and serve as teaching assistants, and most have the opportunity to teach a course of their own design after passing their Ph.D. qualifying exams.