American studies helps you develop a broad familiarity with the dynamics of cultural experience and explore aspects of life in the United States, such as popular culture, fine arts, institutions, values, gender and ethnic relations, artifacts, and the everyday life of a diverse nation.

Why Study at Iowa

Iowa's Department of American Studies is known for its individualized approach to undergraduate study. About 30 students currently major in American studies, which allows for a high degree of personal attention. Faculty members are dedicated advisers, helping students develop study plans that suit their academic interests in a variety of areas, including:

  • Ethnicity and diversity
  • Art and literature
  • Politics and everyday life
  • Sustainability and the environment
  • Sport and popular amusement

Students also can work with an academic adviser to design their own area of focus.

Course Work

Course work for the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in American studies includes classes on American history and identity, and stresses broad training in cultural analysis and communication. When you declare American Studies as your major, you’ll begin working closely with your adviser and by your second semester you’ll have decided on a plan of study, including a focus area.

Focus areas

Focus areas group courses in American studies and other disciplines around an interdisciplinary theme, topic, or set of social issues. You’ll choose one of five standard focus areas or design one of your own.

  • The Ethnic Studies, Diversity, and Differences Focus considers how social differences along the lines of gender, race, sexuality, social class, region, national origin, and age shape institutions and cultural practices in the United States.
  • The American Arts, Literature, and Popular Culture Focus examines artistic creations, discovering how they are shaped by cultural preconceptions, norms, and standards. It also investigates how these expressive forms affect ongoing developments in cultural life.
  • The American Society, Politics, and Everyday Life Focus considers the dynamics of social change, the emergence and fate of political movements, and the forms and practice of everyday life in America. It examines America’s tradition of revolution, effects of technological and economic change, and roles of family, workplace, and community.
  • The Politics of Nature: Environment, Sustainability, and Landscape Focus explores how Americans have shaped and regarded the natural environment. It includes topics such as perceptions of "wilderness," the impact of industrialization and urban growth on the environment, and the growing sustainability movement.
  • The Sport and Popular Amusements Focus looks at the varied sports, recreational activities, and popular amusements enjoyed in the United States, with topics such as fairs and expositions, circuses and amusement parks, movies, vacations, and all forms and levels of sport.

Individual Focus Areas allow students to design their own interdisciplinary focus area.

See American Studies in the UI General Catalog to learn more about this major and about graduating with honors.

American Studies Minor

See American Studies in the UI General Catalog to learn more about earning this minor.

Admission Requirements

Students interested in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to more than 500 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.


American studies students have served as interns at a number of local agencies, including the State Historical Society of Iowa, the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the Iowa Humanities Board, Living History Farms, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, and the Putnam Museum. Other internships in social agencies, government, or business also may be arranged.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

The Department of American Studies also offers a graduate program. Its faculty members pursue a vast range of research projects, so you'll have the opportunity to see what advanced study and research in American Studies is like.


Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study. Our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs. 

Although the major does not have an specific vocational goal, graduates are well prepared for careers in a wide range of areas, such as business, education, arts and museum administration, government, journalism, and social services.

The program also provides a good foundation for graduate studies in the humanities, the social sciences, theology, and business, as well as for studies in law or medicine.


Consult multiple sources for scholarship information, including the Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


American Studies (BA)
American Studies
Focus Areas
Ethnic Studies
Popular Culture
Politics & Everyday Life
Politics of Nature
Sport & Popular Amusements
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan