History Major



General Education Requirements for History Majors
History Major Requirements
Upper-Division Electives
Free Electives
Program Summary
Other Requirements
Credit by Examination, Waivers, Equivalencies, and Substitutions
Applying for Graduation
Avoiding Common Mistakes


Beginning in Fall 2004 all schools in the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) system adopted a common General Education core.  The idea is that students can transfer between schools in the system without having to worry that courses previously taken "don't count" towards the General Education requirement.  In addition this assures students that educational expectations are similar from one school to another and that all schools provide students with certain basic skills.  Here is a summary of the TBR General Education requirements:

  • Communications (9 hours)
  • Humanities and/or Fine Arts (9 hours, including 3 hours of sophomore literature):  History majors should take HIST 1000 plus one other Humanities elective. 
  • Natural Sciences (8 hours)
  • History (6 hours):  History majors may choose from two of the following:  HIST 2010, 2020, 2030, 2060, 2070, and/or2700
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (6 hours)
  • Mathematics (3 hours)

Each school has a different list of courses that satisfy the basic requirements, but all TBR schools agree to accept General Education courses from students enrolled in degree programs at other TBR schools.  Note, however, that once a student enrolls at TSU, only courses on the TSU list (regardless of where taken) can be counted towards the General Education requirement.  Also, courses at schools outside the TBR system will not necessarily fulfill General Education requirements at TSU.  A list of approved courses is at http://www.tnstate.edu/academic_affairs/Learning_Outcomes_Courses.aspx.

Students at TSU must also take a one-hour Orientation course.  History majors are encouraged to take ASOR 1002, Orientation for Social Sciences Majors, but any orientation course is acceptable.  Students transferring in 60 hours or more will have the orientation requirement waived.

In addition students pursuing a B.A. in History need to complete through the second year of a single foreign language.  For students starting at the most basic level, this will mean 12 hours of study.

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The History faculty put together a list of degree competencies and a program of study (see Tennessee State University, Undergraduate Catalog for information on the History degree) that will ensure that our majors receive a broad background in the field of History.

History majors should begin by taking core courses in History.  At the freshman level Global Culture and History will fulfill half of the General Education Humanities requirement as well as contributing to the 9 hours of lower-division History required in the major.  At the sophomore level students should take 6 hours of History survey course; options include  American History, Tennessee History, African-American History, and  World History.  These courses will give background in the major events of our country and the world as well as an introduction to important historical concepts, approaches to historical research, and a general overview of the historical profession.  (Note that all of these courses will also satisfy some part of the General Education requirements.)

History Workshop provides students with an in-depth introduction to specific tools and concepts necessary to succeed as a professional historian.  This course provides a foundation that students will build on in subsequent courses.

Upper-division courses introduce students to the events and historical problems of specific times and places; students should count on significant research and writing in an upper-division course in History.  To make sure that students have a broad cultural basis, we require that they take 6 hours of upper-division American History and 6 hours of upper-division non-U.S. History.  The remaining upper-division hours (9 hours) can be in any geographical or cultural area.  Students pursuing a B.S. in History will need to make sure that they complete an additional 6 upper-division hours in Public History or in the social/mathematical/physical sciences. 

Senior Project is the "capstone" of the degree.  In Senior Project students will put into practice the skills that they have learned in their previous courses in a semester-long project.

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Students at TSU must complete a total of 42 upper-division hours.  Since the History B.A.  requires 27 upper-division hours, that means that most students will have to take 15 upper-division hours in addition to the required History courses.  Students pursuing a B. S. in History need 33 upper-division hours in History, so will need to take at least 9 additional upper-division hours.  Students can use these electives in various ways.  Some students will take additional courses in their majors, for example.  Others will apply the additional hours to a minor or a second major.  Still others may take courses according to their interests.  For example, a student interested in Colonial America might take courses in English and Africana-Studies that dealt with that time period.


Students should plan to take enough credit hours to reach 120 hours total.  For most students in History this means that they must take 24-36 credit hours (either upper-division or lower-division) in addition to the courses outlined above.  As with upper-division electives, students have a lot of options with these courses.


Most History majors should plan on the following (total of 120 hours):

  • Orientation (1 hour)
  • General Education courses (41 hours)
  • Foreign language (12 hours) or upper-division Public History/science/mathematics (6 hours)
  • History major courses (27 hours)
  • Upper-division electives (9-15 hours)
  • Free electives (24-36 hours)

Transfer students, students with deficiencies, and students who skip the introductory foreign language courses should make adjustments accordingly.

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In addition to specific courses, students need to maintain a GPA of at least 2.000 overall and to earn a grade of C or better in English Composition (ENGL1010-1020) and all History courses.  Graduating seniors must also take the Senior Exit Exam (a general test required of all TSU students) and the Major Field Test (a test specifically on the student's major).  Senior Exit Exam dates are posted on the Testing Center's page, http://www.tnstate.edu/testing/.  Check with the History Department office (963-5471) for Major Field Test dates.


In special circumstances students can ask that exceptions be granted for some requirements.  As a general rule of thumb, the exception must be approved by the administrative official at the level at which the rule is applied.  Thus, the Provost must approve exceptions to university-wide rules, the appropriate dean must approve exceptions to college-wide rules, and the appropriate department head must approve exceptions to departmental rules.

Students who have taken advanced placement courses or have learned material outside of the classroom can try to test out of requirements.  The latest copy of the TSU catalog contains a list of courses, minimum scores, and general information on the process (see pp. 35 and 39-41 of Tennessee State University, Undergraduate Catalog,).

Students who transfer in 60 credits or more have the Orientation requirement waived.  Waivers for other requirements are very rare.

Students who have taken courses at non-TBR schools can petition to have the courses considered equivalent to TSU General Education courses.  Students must get an "equivalency form" from the Records office and get the department head to sign the form.  (For example, the Head of Biology would sign a form to have a course declared equivalent to BIOL 1010 or 1020.)  Be sure to keep a copy of the form for your own records and to deposit a copy with the department.

Students who want to substitute a course for a major requirement can ask the department head to sign a substitution form.  For example, a student might want to take an upper-division course outside of History that had a lot of historical content.  Again, students should get a copy of the form from the Records Office and make copies of the completed form for themselves and for the department files before turning the form in to Records.

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Students must apply for graduation approximately 3 months in advance through their myTSU account I suggest that students print out a copy of their graduation application before closing the page.

Once the date for filing has passed, Academic Affairs will pass on a list of prospective graduates to the departments.  At this point advisors review the graduation application.  If the student is ready to graduate (completed or enrolled in all required courses, with appropriate grades in past coursework), the advisor will send the form forward to the College and then to Academic Affairs.  Personnel in the college office (Dean of Arts and Sciences for History majors) and in Academic Affairs then check the work of the departments.  If the advisor decides that the student cannot meet the graduation requirements by the end of the semester, then the department will notify the student.  If the personnel in the college office or Academic Affairs believe that the advisor has wrongly approved a student for graduation, the form is sent back to the department.

When advisors review a graduation application, we generally check the following:

  • General Education requirements
  • Lower-division major requirements
  • Upper-division major requirements
  • Total upper-division hours
  • Total credit hours
  • Overall GPA
  • Grades in Freshman English and in major courses

You can check your own progress using these check-lists: B.S. in History and B.A. in History


Every student's program is a little different, but here are some tips to avoid common (and costly) mistakes:

Take General Education courses early in your program.  If you put them off until your junior or senior year, you might not be able to fit them into your schedule.  Also, these courses provide a foundation for later work, so postponing them may put you at a disadvantage in your other courses.

Don't count a repeated course twice when calculating total credit hours (repeating a course won't increase total credit hours—unless the previous grade was F).

Don't take a course with a similar title/number to the courses on the General Education list instead of an approved Gen Ed course (for example, taking "Art History" instead of "Art Appreciation" won't satisfy the requirements).

Remember that major courses and composition courses must be passed with a grade of C or better.

Plan more than one semester ahead and check for prerequisites when planning your schedule.  (Note, for example,  that HIST 3500, "History Workshop," is a prerequisite for HIST 4500, "Senior Project"; so students should plan on taking them in separate semesters.  Also, HIST 3500 is generally offered in Fall semester only.)

Don't confuse total credit hours and total college-level credit hours.  Only college-level hours (not remedial and developmental courses) count towards the 120 hours required for graduation; the transcript on Banner will give both totals, so students should be sure that they use the right one.

Remember to count upper-division credit hours.  You will need at least 42 upper-division credits.

Make sure that transfer credits come through properly.  Students must first make sure that TSU receives complete transcripts from all institutions attended.  Students should then check to make sure that the credits have been recorded correctly (all credits recorded, individual courses given appropriate course numbers, repeated courses recorded correctly, etc.).  In an ideal world there will be no mistakes, but it's in the student's interest to get mistakes corrected as soon as possible to avoid inadvertently retaking a course previously passed, for example.

Check with your advisor before withdrawing from a course to make sure that this won't push back your graduation.  check with the Financial Aid office to make sure that withdrawing won't affect current or future financial aid awards.

Don't plan to take more than 21 credit hours a semester.  Twenty-one hours is the maximum load at TSU.  Period.  Students need permission to take more than 18 credit hours (and students on probation may be limited to 12 or 13 credit hours). 

Keep track of deadlines for adding courses, withdrawing from courses, registering for examinations, and applying for graduation.

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webpage contact:
Elizabeth Dachowski