American Studies, B.A. (Abington)

Program Code: AMSAB_BA

Program Description

This interdisciplinary major is designed to provide students with an integrated and critical knowledge of American culture, drawing on courses in American Studies and in the traditional disciplines and culminating in two senior seminars. A number of interests may be pursued within the major, including popular culture, art, technology, business, law, archives, museology, and conservation. The major helps prepare students for careers in business, teaching, government, and a number of other areas, and for enrollment in law and other professional programs.

What is American Studies?

American Studies examines the country’s history in a way that emphasizes culture – literature, art & architecture, film, folklore, music, and media. While discovering America’s past, students learn to think critically – to analyze and evaluate information; to write and speak clearly and expressively; and to conduct research.

You Might Like This Program If...

  • You enjoy pop culture and wonder what social and historical forces helped shape it.
  • You like making connections between history, society, economics, literature, film, and art.
  • You want to understand the American experience beyond just what is relayed in a history text.
  • You want to explore the experiences of women, minorities, and different ethnic and religious groups.
  • You want to pursue a career in education, law, government, museums, cultural agencies, archives, public policy, or communications.

Entrance to Major

For entrance into the major, the following must be met:

  1. At the end of the sophomore year, any student in good standing may gain entrance into the major without having completed specific courses.
  2. Any student seeking entrance during the fifth semester will be granted entrance at the discretion of the American Studies Committee and/or Director following evaluation of the student's record.
  3. Any student seeking entrance during or after the sixth semester will be expected to have completed at least 12 credits, which may be counted toward the major in American Studies.

Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies, a minimum of 123 credits is required:

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Electives 21
Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements 24
Requirements for the Major 33

3 of the 24 credits for Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements are included in the Requirements for the Major, General Education, or Electives and 0-12 credits are included in Electives if foreign language proficiency is demonstrated by examination.

Requirements for the Major

A grade of C or better is required for all courses in the major. To graduate, a student enrolled in the major must earn at least a C grade in each course designated by the major as a C-required course, as specified by Senate Policy 82-44.

Prescribed Courses
Prescribed Courses: Require a grade of C or better
AMST 491WAmerican Studies Perspectives6
Additional Courses
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better
AMST 100Introduction to American Studies Keystone/General Education Course3
or AMST 100Y Introduction to American Studies
Supporting Courses and Related Areas
Supporting Courses and Related Areas: Require a grade of C or better
Select 9 credits in each of two of the following areas and 6 credits in one other of the areas (include 12 credits at the 400 level distributed in at least two of the areas):24
American literature
American history
American art, philosophy, and religion (humanities)
American social sciences

General Education

Connecting career and curiosity, the General Education curriculum provides the opportunity for students to acquire transferable skills necessary to be successful in the future and to thrive while living in interconnected contexts. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. These are requirements for all baccalaureate students and are often partially incorporated into the requirements of a program. For additional information, see the General Education Requirements section of the Bulletin and consult your academic adviser.

The keystone symbol Keystone/General Education Course appears next to the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements may also satisfy General Education requirements and vary for each program.

Foundations (grade of C or better is required and Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Quantification (GQ): 6 credits
  • Writing and Speaking (GWS): 9 credits

Breadth in the Knowledge Domains (Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

  • Arts (GA): 3 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 3 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 3 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 3 credits

Integrative Studies

  • Inter-Domain Courses (Inter-Domain): 6 credits


  • GN, may be completed with Inter-Domain courses: 3 credits
  • GA, GH, GN, GS, Inter-Domain courses. This may include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the 12th credit level or the requirements for the student’s degree program, whichever is higher: 6 credits

University Degree Requirements

First Year Engagement

All students enrolled in a college or the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park, and the World Campus are required to take 1 to 3 credits of the First-Year Seminar, as specified by their college First-Year Engagement Plan.

Other Penn State colleges and campuses may require the First-Year Seminar; colleges and campuses that do not require a First-Year Seminar provide students with a first-year engagement experience.

First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their academic adviser for these requirements.

Cultures Requirement

6 credits are required and may satisfy other requirements

  • United States Cultures: 3 credits
  • International Cultures: 3 credits

Writing Across the Curriculum

3 credits required from the college of graduation and likely prescribed as part of major requirements.

Total Minimum Credits

A minimum of 120 degree credits must be earned for a baccalaureate degree. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 credits. Students should consult with their college or department adviser for information on specific credit requirements.

Quality of Work

Candidates must complete the degree requirements for their major and earn at least a 2.00 grade-point average for all courses completed within their degree program.

Limitations on Source and Time for Credit Acquisition

The college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. Credit used toward degree programs may need to be earned from a particular source or within time constraints (see Senate Policy 83-80). For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

B.A. Degree Requirements

Foreign Language (0-12 credits): Student must attain 12th credit level of proficiency in one foreign language. See the Placement Policy for Penn State Foreign Language Courses.

B.A. Fields (9 credits): Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arts, Foreign Languages, Natural Sciences, Quantification (may not be taken in the area of the student's primary major; foreign language credits in this category must be in a second foreign language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the first language)

Other Cultures (0-3 credits): Select 3 credits from approved list. Students may count courses in this category in order to meet other major, minor, elective, or General Education requirements, except for the General Education US/IL requirement.​

Program Learning Objectives

  • Identify major themes and issues prompted by the question "What does it mean to be an American".
  • Recognize the multiple ways Americans have expressed, institutionalized, celebrated, and contested identity in visual and material culture, literature, history, politics, and popular culture.
  • Appreciate the cultural diversity of the American experience, especially in terms of class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and race.
  • Analyze in depth an aspect of American culture using interdisciplinary source materials, research methodologies, and intellectual approaches.
  • Develop conclusions based on that analysis and communicate them effectively.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university's academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee's unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.



David Ruth
Program Chair, American Studies
1600 Woodland Road
Abington, PA 19001


Anthony Buccitelli, Ph.D.
Program Chair
Olmsted Building, W356
Middletown, PA 17057


David Macauley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Philosophy, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies
Main Building, 212 C
25 Yearsley Mill Road
Media, PA 19063

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2023-24 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition (Note: the archive only contains suggested academic plans beginning with the 2018-19 edition of the Undergraduate Bulletin).

American Studies, B.A. at Abington Campus

The course series listed below provides only one of the many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. This plan should be used in conjunction with your degree audit (accessible in LionPATH as either an Academic Requirements or What If report). Please consult with a Penn State academic adviser on a regular basis to develop and refine an academic plan that is appropriate for you.

First Year
ENGL 15 or 30H3World Language level 24
General Education Course3General Education Course3
General Education Course3General Education Course3
General Education Course (GHW)1.5General Education Course3
World Language level 14General Education Course3
 14.5 16
Second Year
World Language level 34AMST 100 or 100Y (GH;US)*3
General Education Course3ENGL 202B33
CAS 100A or 100B3General Education Course3
General Education3General Education Course3
Elective (US;IL)3Bachelor of Arts Requirement3
General Education Course (GHW)1.5 
 17.5 15
Third Year
AMST Supporting Course1 *3AMST Supporting Course1 *3
400 Level AMST Supporting Course2 *3AMST Supporting Course1 *3
General Education Course3400 Level AMST Supporting Course2 *3
Elective (OC)3Bahelor of Arts Requirement3
Bachelor of Arts Requirement3Elective (US;IL)3
 15 15
Fourth Year
AMST 491W (Course is to be taken as two separate offerings)*3AMST 491W (Course is to be taken as two separate offerings)*3
400 Level AMST Supporting Course2 *3400 Level AMST Supporting Course2 *3
AMST Supporting Course1 *3Elective3
Elective (US;IL)3Elective3
 15 15
Total Credits 123

Course requires a grade of C or better for the major

Course requires a grade of C or better for General Education


Course is an Entrance to Major requirement

Course satisfies General Education and degree requirement

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy Cultural Diversity Requirements (United States and International Cultures).

W, M, X, and Y are the suffixes at the end of a course number used to designate courses that satisfy University Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.

General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ), Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS) and Integrative Studies (Inter-domain) requirements. N or Q (Honors) is the suffix at the end of a course number used to help identify an Inter-domain course, but the inter-domain attribute is used to fill audit requirements. Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of 'C' or better.

Bachelor of Arts Requirements:

Bachelor of Arts students must take 9 credits in Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Fields (Humanities; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Arts; World Languages [2nd language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the 1st]; Natural Sciences; Quantification). The B.A. Fields courses may not be taken in the area of the student’s primary major. See your adviser and the Degree Requirements section of this Bulletin.

Bachelor of Arts students must take 3 credits in Other Cultures.
See your adviser and the full list of courses approved as Other Cultures courses.


 AMST supporting courses are distributed among arts, history, humanities, literature, and social sciences courses containing at least 50% American content. Students take three courses each from two areas and two courses from a third.


 At least 12 of these credits are at the 400 level.


ENGL 202B is recommended for American Studies majors. 

Career Paths

The American Studies program benefits from Penn State Harrisburg's location in a capital region in close proximity to internationally known heritage sites such as the Gettysburg Battlefield, National Civil War Museum, and U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. Harrisburg is also home to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the State Archives, and the State Museum.


American Studies majors at Penn State Harrisburg have opportunities to gain a core set of skills in writing, presentation, exhibition, website development, digital documentation, fieldwork and ethnography, and records and cultural resource management in addition to contextual knowledge of American culture, society, arts, and history that can be applied to a number of occupations, particularly in heritage, communications, education, and government sectors. At Penn State Harrisburg, certificates (heritage and museum practice, folklore and ethnography), internships, assistantships, professional workshops, career services, alumni interaction, social media, and online job postings serve to enhance the marketability of majors at various levels.


Opportunities for Graduate Studies

The American Studies major at Penn State Harrisburg prepares students for a variety of professions and to participate in the world as critical thinkers, clear communicators, and global citizens, including Penn State's Master of Arts in American Studies and the Doctor of Philosophy in American Studies programs.


Professional Resources



1600 Woodland Road
Abington, PA 19001


Olmsted Building, W356
Middletown, PA 17057


Main Building, 212 C
25 Yearsley Mill Road
Media, PA 19063