Bachelor’s Degree | Master’s Degree | PhD Fields of Study | Joint Degrees and Certificates | Graduate Certificate of Concentration | Summer Programs

Bachelor’s Degree

In the African Studies major, students gain a cross-disciplinary exposure to the arts, history, cultures, politics, and development of Africa. In the junior and senior years, students develop analytical ability and focus research in a particular discipline such anthropology, art history, history, languages and literatures, political science, or sociology or on topics such as global health, economic development, or human rights.

African Studies provides training of special interest to those considering admission to graduate or professional schools, careers in education, journalism, law, management, city planning, politics, psychology, international relations, creative writing, or social work. The interdisciplinary structure of the program offers students an opportunity to satisfy the increasingly rigorous expectations of admissions committees and prospective employers for a broad liberal arts perspective that complements a specialized knowledge of a field.

Requirements of the major for the Class of 2018 and previous classes Students in the Class of 2018 and previous classes may fulfill the requirements of the African Studies major that were in place when they entered the major, as described in previous editions of this bulletin. Alternatively, they may fulfill the requirements for the major as described below for the Class of 2019 and subsequent classes.

Requirements of the major: The program in African Studies consists of thirteen terms of course work including:

  • at least one humanities and at least one social science Africa related course;
  • unless waived by examination, two years of study in an African language (Arabic,
    Kiswahili, Yorùbá, isiZulu or others with permission of the director of undergraduate studies);
  • AFST 401, the junior seminar on research methods, or an alternative course that either serves to deepen the concentration or provide methodological tools for the senior essay; and

  • a concentration of four term courses and one research methods seminar, selected in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies, in a discipline such as anthropology, art history, history, languages and literatures, political science, or sociology, or in an interdisciplinary program such as African American Studies, Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, or Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, or in a cross-disciplinary area such as diaspora studies or development studies.

The required courses represent the core of the program and are intended to expose the student to both the interdisciplinary nature of African studies and to the methodologies currently being brought to bear on the study of African cultures and societies. Students are encouraged to include upper-level courses, especially those centering on research and methodology.

Senior requirement: Students are required to complete a senior essay in AFST 491, working under the guidance of a faculty adviser. With prior approval by the director of undergraduate studies, a combined senior essay may be submitted for those pursuing a double major.

Languages requirement: Competence in at least one African language is essential for an appreciation of the complexities of African societies. African Studies majors are required to complete at least the equivalent of two years of college-level study of an African language, and they are strongly urged to continue beyond this level. For the language requirement to be waived, a student must pass a placement test for admission into an advanced-level course or, for languages not regularly offered at Yale, an equivalent test of speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills administered through the Center for Language Study. Students should begin their language study as early as possible. If the requirement is waived, students must substitute other African Studies courses for the four required language courses. Instruction is offered in five major African languages: Arabic, Kiswahili, Yorúbá, Wolof, and isiZulu. First-year instruction is sometimes available in other languages. Students interested in studying an African language should contact the director of the Program in African Languages.

With the approval of the director of undergraduate studies, a student may take a double major in African Studies and an appropriate discipline or interdisciplinary program.

Procedure: Students planning to major in African Studies should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies as soon as possible. The DUS is Daniel Magaziner. Official Yale College program and course information is found in the Yale College Programs of Study.

Master’s Degree

The Master of Arts Program in African Studies is a two-year interdisciplinary humanities and social sciences designed to provide a broad understanding of African affairs. The program is designed for students wishing to go on to the doctorate as well as for those students seeking a terminal M.A. degree before entering the business world, the media, government service or a professional school.

Since students differ in prior academic preparation and experience, each student plans an integrated program with the Director of Graduate Studies that conforms to her or his needs and interests.

Fields of Study: African Studies considers the arts, history, cultures, languages, literatures, politics, religions, and societies of Africa as well as issues concerning development, health, and the environment. The program offers considerable flexibility and choice. Enrollment in the M.A. program in African Studies provides students with the opportunity to register for the many African studies courses offered in the various departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools. In addition, the Program in African Studies offers two interdisciplinary seminars to create dialogue and to integrate approaches across disciplines.

Special Admissions Requirements: The GRE General Test is required

Special Requirements for the M.A. Degree: A student may choose one of the following areas of concentration: history; anthropology; political science; economics; sociology; arts and literatures; languages and linguistics; religion; environmental and development studies and public health The program requires sixteen courses: two compulsory introductory interdisciplinary seminars, Research Methods in African Studies (AFST 501a) and Topics in African Studies (AFST 764b) or an alternate course, as specifically designated by the DGS  four courses of instruction in an African language, four courses in one of the above areas of concentration, four other approved courses offered in the Graduate School or professional schools, and two terms of Directed Reading and Research (AFST 590a and 900b ) during which students will complete the required thesis. A student who is able to demonstrate advanced proficiency in an African language may have the language requirement waived and substitute four other approved courses. The choice of courses must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, David Simon. Students should consult with him as soon as possible in the first term.

The Master’s Thesis: The Master’s thesis is based upon research on a topic approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and advised by a faculty member with expertise or specialized competence in the chosen topic.Students must submit their thesis for joint evaluation by the adviser and a second reader, who is chosen by the student in consultation with the DGS.  An archive of recent MA thesis titles can be viewed here. The graduate application should be accessed directly at Graduate Admissions.

Ph.D. Fields of Study

The Council of African Studies does NOT award a Ph.D. However, on occasion, some students will use the CAS Master’s Program as a stepping-stone to a Ph.D program. Usually, this path is chosen when the student aspires toward a Doctorate, but is not certain of the field through which to pursue it. The broad-based nature of the CAS program allows the student time to explore before deciding on a specific field.

A number of Ph.D. programs at Yale offer Africa-focused fields of study. For information on these programs contact the following departments:

Joint Degrees

Through agreements the MacMillan Center has negotiated with the Professional Schools, CAS offers Joint Master’s degrees with the following: the Law School, the School of Management, the School of Public Health and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Applications must be made to both the Graduate School and to the appropriate Professional School, with notation made on each application that this is to be considered for the joint degree program. Contact the African Studies DGS for up-to-date information.


Graduate and professional students may also pursue a Graduate Certificate of Concentration in the field of Global Health, Development Studies, or International Security Studies.

Graduate Certificate of Concentration

CAS has developed a Graduate Certificate of Concentration in African Studies. The concentration is designed for Ph.D. and professional school students. The requirements for the concentration include African studies and African language course work and demonstration of research skills. An application can be downloaded here. Contact the African Studies DGS, David Simon ( to discuss this option.

Summer Programs

Yale students have a number of opportunities to study in Africa by way of summer and academic year funding for language study and various research projects.

Yale directs and participates in a number of summer study abroad programs for instruction in African languages. In Africa, students have the opportunity to spend the summer in Kenya or Tanzania studying Swahili; in South Africa studying Zulu; or in Nigeria studying Yoruba. Other languages are also available through other university programs in which Yale students are free to take part.

In addition to the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships which cover full tuition and living expenses for one academic-year, students are eligible for summer FLAS fellowships which cover summer program expenses.

Other summer programs abroad include a course in the History of East Africa, held in Mombasa, Kenya.

Related Links:
Advanced Kiswahili in Kenya
Advanced Intensive Yoruba Group Project Abroad to Nigeria
Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships