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M.A. Degree Requirements

Students can earn the M.A. degree in as little as one calendar year (3 semesters, full-time, 30 credit hours). Most students complete the program over the course of three semesters when enrolled full-time (typically, fall, spring, and summer). However, the length of the program is flexible to accommodate the needs of different students.

Students have the opportunity to craft an individualized curriculum designed to seek interdisciplinary answers to complex problems. Students partner with a faculty mentor to craft an interdisciplinary curriculum best suited to their career and educational interests.

Degree Requirements

The M.A. in the Social Foundations of Health is a 30 credit-hour program (24 of which must be didactic) requiring the completion of coursework with an overall average of B (3.00) or higher, a capstone project, and passing a comprehensive exam.

Capstone projects can be either a thesis or non-thesis (practicum). Students opting for a thesis will complete at least 24 credit hours of formal, didactic coursework and up to 6 hours of MHS 7999 Thesis Research. Students who choose the practicum option may take up to 6 hours of independent research credit (earned through MHS 7850/1, 7880/1/2, or 7830/1/2) as part of their required 30 hours of coursework.

Students are eligible to take courses in MHS, other departments in the College of Arts and Science, and other schools at Vanderbilt, including the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine.

All Vanderbilt graduate students are also required to complete responsible conduct of research training.

Required Courses

Course requirements are the same for both the one-year M.A. degree and the 4+1 combined B.A./M.A. program. Students in the 4+1 program must satisfy all requirements for both the B.A. degree and the M.A. degree. There is no double-counting of credits. In order to complete the program in five years, students should be in a position to complete most of the requirements for their undergraduate degree by the end of the first semester of the senior year.

Core Courses (5-8 credit hours)

5 hours for practicum option, 8 hours for the thesis option

  • MHS 6110 Interdisciplinary Writing [3]
  • MHS 6120 Writing and Presentation [3] thesis track only
  • MHS 7100 Research Workshop [1]
  • MHS 7200 Thesis Seminar [1]

Theory Course (3 credit hours)

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • MHS 5210 Examining Care & Caregiving [3]
  • MHS 6300 Social Studies of Science and Medicine [3]
  • MHS 6350 Critical Bioethics [3]
  • MHS 7305 Foundations in Global Health [3]

Methods Course (3 credit hours)

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • MHS 6400 Quantitative Methods [3]
  • MHS 7000 Interdisciplinary Research Methods [3]

Electives (16-19 credit hours)

16 hours for the thesis track, 19 hours for the practicum track

The remaining hours may be completed through approved courses. Eligible electives are listed in the Graduate Catalog. Additional courses not on the list may be approved at the discretion of the MHS Director of Graduate Studies. Graduate students enrolled in undergraduate or mezzanine-level courses are required to complete additional work to gain graduate credit.

Comprehensive Exam

The M.A. requires a written examination, tailored to the student’s specific course of study, requiring the student to integrate material from the different disciplines. The chair of MHS, in consultation with the MHS Curricular Committee, will appoint a Comprehensive Examination Committee consisting of the student’s adviser and two other faculty members, at least one of whom must be from a field different from the advisers. The Examination Committee will write the exam, which the student will take during his or her last semester of study (or last summer session) and no later than the week of final exams.

Capstone Project

Each student will complete a capstone project as a culmination of their master’s degree. The project provides students with the opportunity to put the knowledge and research skills they have gained into practice on a topic of interest to them. The capstone project will either take the form of a thesis or a practicum (non-thesis) project. Students may choose to do either a practicum or a thesis project, but not both.

Thesis Option

The thesis provides students with the opportunity to put the knowledge and research skills they have gained into practice on a topic of interest to them. Students who elect to complete a thesis may enroll in up to 6 credit hours of thesis research. The thesis should draw on at least two disciplines and follow Vanderbilt Graduate School’s thesis guidelines. For students in the thesis track, the Comprehensive Examination Committee will also constitute the thesis committee and will administer an oral thesis defense.

To read past M.A. student theses, visit the Vanderbilt University library’s Electronic Theses and Dissertations page and browse by department.

Practicum (Non-Thesis) Option

The research-based practicum gives students the opportunity to integrate classroom learning with professional experience. Under the guidance of faculty and site supervisors, students develop practical skills, engage with real-world challenges, and contribute to community resources. Students in the practicum track may enroll in up to 6 credit hours of independent research that culminates in a written report.