Skip Navigation
UMass Amherst Back to LLC Site

German & Scandinavian Studies, Deparment of Languages and Literatures


On this Page...

For further information please contact:
Prof. Jonathan Skolnik
Graduate Program Director
Herter Hall 522
(413) 545-4245

The German and Scandinavian Studies Program offers graduate work leading to the degrees of Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in German Studies.

Interested in applying as a student? Students apply online online through the Graduate School at UMass. The application requirements are: a transcript, a statement of purpose, three recommendations, an academic writing sample of not less than ten pages (in either German or English), and a phone interview. Applicants are not required to submit GRE scores. The deadline for applications is January 15. However, our program accepts late applications at our discretion. Accepted applicants will be invited to visit campus. Please contact the Graduate Program Director, Professor Jonathan Skolnik at, for more information.

Note for non-native speakers of English: The Program in German and Scandinavian Studies can offer provisional admission of non-native speakers of English without TOEFL scores; however, final admission into the Graduate School requires submission of TOEFL scores. Non-native speakers of English who hold a degree from an English-language college or university or have attended one for at least two years do not need to submit TOEFL scores.


The M.A. degree is designed to be a meaningful professional credential in itself and a foundation for further progress toward the Ph.D. Prerequisites for admission to the M.A. Program include a relevant bachelor's degree (or equivalent such as Vordiplom or Zwischenpr¸fung) and indication of ability to do successful graduate work in German studies. Deficiencies in background and insufficient command of spoken or written German must be remedied before the M.A. is granted.
Program of Study: Ten courses (30 credit hours) with at least a 3.0 grade average are required of all M.A. candidates by University regulation. Full-time students are normally expected by the Department to take a minimum of three graduate courses in each semester. (Courses taken as audits are not counted among the minimum three.) Those holding teaching assistantships in the Department are expected to complete their course requirements for the M.A. within four consecutive semesters of the regular academic year.

The Program offers a two-track Master of Arts degree dedicated to providing a sound background in the field of German studies with broad opportunity for interdisciplinary work. Some M.A. students may wish to pursue an individualized concentration such as gender, migration, film and literature, national identity, German-Jewish studies, colonialism/ postcolonialism, medieval studies, philology, or German and Scandinavian relations. Other M.A. students may wish to structure their masterís program around their coursework, drawing on faculty research strengths in the program, the University, the Five College Consortium, and our international exchange partner universities.
Of the ten courses required for an M.A. degree, six must be taken in the program. Students are required to take a minimum of two courses per semester within German and Scandinavian Studies. Courses outside the Program must be approved by both the student's academic advisor. Full-time students must take at least three graduate courses per semester. To provide a solid basis in the tools of the profession and the foundations of scholarship in German studies, M.A. students are required to take the following courses within the department:
583 Methods of Teaching German
584 History of the German Language, or 585 Structure of German
601 Middle High German
Beyond the above, additional courses should be selected in consultation with the student's advisor to form the basis for the Master's exams. By the end of the first semester in the program, a student should have arranged for a faculty member qualified in the appropriate track above to serve as advisor for the M.A. The advisor will assist the student in designing a program of study and selecting courses appropriate for the program.

M.A. Examinations
The M.A. exams and reading lists for students pursuing an individualized concentration are to demonstrate working knowledge in three mandatory areas: works in the studentís concentration, methods applicable to analyzing these works, and the history of the concentration. For students pursuing the general option, each reading list will be based on course material and additional readings. In each case, students will work closely with the faculty member responsible for that exam to compile their reading lists. students are expected to address material from several centuries. The candidate can choose from the following formats for the examinations: (a) three two-hour written examinations administered in the Program during regular working hours; or (b) with the consent of the Graduate Program Director up to three eight-hour take-home examinations. Given adequate success on the examinations listed under (a) and (b) above, students will be admitted to an oral examination of approximately one hour.

Thesis in Lieu of Examinations
In rare circumstances where a student has amassed a concentration of work in a topic area after three semesters of graduate study, the M.A. thesis option may be approved. This option must be agreed to by the advisor and the GPD, and a three-person thesis committee must be formed, at least one semester prior to the proposed graduation date. Approval of the thesis option is not automatic.

Timing of Examinations
M.A. exams are scheduled and taken to allow for processing by the Graduate School before graduation deadlines. (Degrees are granted in September, February, and May.) With approval of the GPD and all members of the student's committee, exams may be scheduled at other times. All three examinations are ordinarily scheduled within a two-week period. Drafts of reading lists should be given to all members of the student's committee at the beginning of the graduating semester. Students should be aware that the timing of their exams may affect their eligibility for teaching assignments.



Our course offerings reflect the research interests and expertise of our faculty.  Students have great flexibility in the choice of concentration and coursework.  They must take at least two courses per semester with GSS faculty.  Throughout their coursework, students have a range of other interdisciplinary options in related fields of their choice, to be determined in consultation with the academic advisor.  In addition, students can pursue graduate certificates in a range of fields, such as Film Studies, African Diaspora, and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies.  Students holding a teaching assistantship must enroll every semester in our pedagogy workshop, German 583: Methods of Teaching German, in addition to the regular coursework.

The Program in German and Scandinavian Studies is committed to funding our students through the timely completion of the PhD degree.  Students admitted into the PhD program are typically offered five years of funding (if entering with a BA) or three years (if entering with a MA), primarily through teaching assistantships.  These assistantships provide a waiver of tuition, a 95% waiver of health insurance (90% for families), and a stipend to cover living expenses. During their course of study, many students also receive competitive university- and college-wide fellowships in addition to their original funding offer.  Our students have had great success in obtaining dissertation research support from Fulbright and DAAD.  Furthermore, PhD candidates often teach at one of the prestigious liberal arts colleges in the area.



Program course of study for students entering with a BA (5 years)

  • 15 courses (45 credits). Full-time students take three courses per semester and should thus be able to complete their coursework during their first five semesters.
  • Qualifying examination.
  • Dissertation prospectus defense.
  • Dissertation defense.

Program course of study for students entering with a MA (3.5 years)

  • 6 courses (18 credits). Full-time students take three courses per semester and should thus be able to complete their coursework during their first two semesters.
  • Qualifying examination.
  • Dissertation prospectus defense.
  • Dissertation defense.



  • Students take exams in four fields.
  • The content of these fields is flexible, determined in consultation with the exam committee and should relate to the dissertation topic. Some examples of fields are:  film and media studies, medieval poetry, cultural history, German-Jewish culture, minority literature, post-war literature, Holocaust historiography, social and literary theory, etc.
  • Fields are finalized at the beginning of sixth semester (if entering with a BA) or the third semester (if entering with an MA).
  • For each field, students have the following options:
    • A five-day take-home exam of about ten pages.
    • A three-hour formal exam (Klausur).
    • An annotated syllabus on the field.

Two of the exam fields must be taken as option 1.  Only one exam field may be taken as option 3.

  • Students then demonstrate knowledge of their fields in an additional oral examination.



Dissertation topic
Our program is open to dissertation topics in any field relevant to German Studies. Click here for a list of recent dissertations and dissertations in progress at UMass Amherst.

Dissertation prospectus
The prospectus should present an overview of the dissertation’s topic, methodology, and questions, as well as a review of the scholarly literature.  The length is at minimum ten pages.

Dissertation workshop
Students in residence at the dissertation-writing stage are required each year to take German 797D:  Dissertation Workshop.  In this year-long course, students share and discuss their dissertation research.  The course also covers professional development like interviews, conference papers, and grant writing.


You can see what kinds of dissertations have been produced in German & Scandinavian Studies. Visit