Master of Arts in Digital Studies

A one-year general M.A. or a two-year specialized M.A. with a thesis project.

The Master of Arts in Digital Studies of Language, Culture, and History provides a solid grounding in computational methods and their use in the arts and humanities. It is a stepping stone to careers that require a combination of coding skills with the capabilities in research, writing, and critical thinking provided by an education in the humanities.

Graduates of this program are eligible for non-academic jobs in software development or software-related marketing, communications, and technical writing. Alternatively, they may pursue doctoral studies in order to apply their computational skills to research and teaching; or they may take on an academic support role in digital humanities at a college, university, or cultural institution.

There is a one-year version of the master’s program with no thesis requirement and a two-year version of the program that entails a thesis project and a specialization in a particular area. The two-year M.A. is recommended for students who wish to pursue a Ph.D. in the future.

In addition to the information provided in this website, the academic policies pertaining to this master’s program and other useful information may be found here in the Digital Studies Student Manual

A STEM Designated Degree Program

This master’s program qualifies as a STEM Designated Degree Program under the regulations of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The program is primarily intended for students who have previously majored in the arts or humanities. However, students who majored in the sciences, including computer science, may also benefit from the program and are encouraged to apply.

Click the image to view a recent info-session video about the program. 

Video of an information session with program staff (click here)

Get in Touch With Us

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The deadlines and required materials for applying for the M.A. are described on the Apply for the M.A. page of this website. For more information, please send email to digitalstudies@uchicago.edu.

Click here to start your application. If you have questions about the application process, please contact us by email at humanitiesadmissions@uchicago.edu. 

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One-Year M.A.

Students in the one-year version of the master’s program take courses full-time on the University of Chicago campus for one academic year, from late September to the end of May. They do not do a master’s thesis.

Please note that students who are admitted to do a one-year M.A. will not be able to stay on to do a two-year M.A. The decision about whether to do a one-year M.A. or a two-year M.A. must be made at the time of application.

Students doing the one-year M.A. take three courses per quarter in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters, for a total of nine courses, including six core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS) and three elective courses. The elective courses may be in any department of the humanities or social sciences.

The Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction of the Forum for Digital Culture will meet with each student once per quarter, in Week 7 or Week 8, to discuss the student’s academic progress and elective courses.

Autumn Quarter

In the Autumn Quarter, students take three required core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS):

    • DIGS 30001, Introduction to Computer Programming Using Python
    • DIGS 30002, Introduction to Statistics Using Python
    • DIGS 30003, Data Management for the Humanities (in this course students learn how to acquire and clean data stored in diverse formats, how to use relational databases and the SQL querying language, and how to construct ontologies for non-relational graph databases using the Web Ontology Language)

Winter Quarter

In the Winter Quarter, students take two required core courses in Digital Studies (DIGS) and one elective course:

    • DIGS 30004, Data Visualization for the Humanities (this course provides additional practice in Python coding)
    • DIGS 30007, History and Theory of Computing for the Humanities (this course surveys the the history and theory of digital computing, the use of computers for research in the humanities, and current debates about digital humanities)
    • One elective course chosen from a preapproved list or individually approved by the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Spring Quarter

In the Spring Quarter, students take one required core course in Digital Studies (DIGS) and two elective courses:

    • DIGS 30005, Data Publication for the Humanities (in this course students learn how to publish scholarly data on the Web by means of apps written in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS)
    • Two elective courses chosen from a preapproved list or individually approved by the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction

A grade of C (2.0) or higher in the Autumn core courses (DIGS 30001, 30002, and 30003) is a requirement for continuing in the M.A. program because these courses are prerequisites for subsequent required courses in the Winter and Spring. Students who have previously passed a college-level course in computer programming or statistics with a grade of B (3.0) or higher may petition the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction for an exemption from taking DIGS 30001 and/or DIGS 30002, allowing them to take one or two additional elective courses.

Two-Year Specialized M.A. with Thesis Project

Students in the two-year research-intensive version of the master’s program take courses full-time on the University of Chicago campus for two consecutive academic years. In their first year, they will take the same six core courses as the students doing a one-year M.A. (described above) and three courses prescribed for their area of specialization. In the summer between their first and second year they must take a three-week Summer Session tutorial on machine learning (June 16 to July 3 in  2025). In their second year in the program, they will take additional courses prescribed for their area of specialization and do a thesis project in that area under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The tuition fee is reduced by 50 percent in the second year.

The proposed area of specialization must be indicated at the time of application to the two-year M.A. program. Four areas of specialization are currently available and are listed below. A specialization in Digital Ethics and Public Discourse is planned for the future.

Applicants to the two-year specialized M.A. who are not admitted to that program will be automatically considered for the one-year M.A. and may be offered admission to the latter. Students admitted to the two-year M.A. may switch to the one-year program at any time before the spring of their first year in the program. Students in the two-year M.A. whose cumulative GPA is below 3.3 (B+) at the end of their first year will not be permitted to continue on for a second year and will be eligible only for the one-year M.A. with no thesis.

Click the links below for more information on the areas of specialization:

Thesis Project

In their second year, students will do a thesis project under the guidance of a thesis advisor who is a University of Chicago faculty member, instructional professor, or lecturer. The thesis advisor may or may not be someone whose own research entails computational methods.

The M.A. Thesis Counselor of the Forum for Digital Culture will meet individually with each two-year M.A. student at least once per quarter, beginning in their first year: in Year One, to help them choose a feasible thesis topic and find a thesis advisor; and in Year Two to check on their progress and consult as needed. Training and advice concerning the computational methods used in the thesis project will be provided by relevant staff of the Forum for Digital Culture, depending on the topic of interest.

The thesis must have a software component as well as a written component. In the written component, the student will explain the computational aspects of the project and reflect critically on the methods being used with reference to the historical development of these methods and the assumptions underlying them and with reference to current debates in digital humanities. The length of the written component of the thesis may vary, depending on the subject matter and the expectations of the thesis advisor, but it will be at least 25 pages and no more than 50 pages of text (double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins), not counting illustrations and bibliographic references.

Students must submit to the M.A. Thesis Counselor a thesis proposal form signed by the thesis advisor no later than the end of Week 8 of the Spring Quarter of their first year. This form will contain the thesis title and abstract and a schedule for regular consultation with the thesis advisor and relevant staff of the Forum for Digital Culture, who will help the student with the technical aspects of the project.

The completed thesis project (both the software component and the written component) must be submitted to the thesis advisor and the M.A. Thesis Counselor no later than the end of Week 6 in the Spring Quarter of the student’s second year in the program.

Summer Internship

Students doing a two-year M.A. are eligible to apply for a paid internship to work part-time on campus in the summer between their first and second year under the supervision of the staff of the Forum for Digital Culture. They are also expected to begin work on the software component of their thesis projects during that summer.

How to Apply

Click here to start your application. Contact humanitiesadmissions@uchicago.edu with questions about the application process.

If you have questions about any of the Digital Studies programs, please send email to digitalstudies@uchicago.edu.

Admission Requirements and Minimum Grades

No previous background in computer programming is required and students are admitted from a wide variety of undergraduate majors. However, to be admitted to the program, the student will normally have passed at least one college-level course in mathematics or statistics with a grade of B (3.0) or higher.

Students will apply to do either a one-year M.A. with no thesis or a two-year research-intensive M.A. with a thesis project and a specialization in a particular area. Admission to the two-year M.A. will take into account the applicant’s prior training and aptitude for the area of specialization specified in the application. However, an undergraduate major in the chosen area of specialization is not required.

Throughout their M.A. programs all one-year students and two-year students must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 2.7 (B-). If they fall below this average, they will be placed on academic probation and if their grades do not improve they may be withdrawn from the program. Students doing a two-year M.A. whose cumulative GPA is below 3.3 (B+) at the end of their first year in the program will not be permitted to continue on for a second year and will be eligible only for the one-year M.A. with no thesis project. Please note that a grade of C (2.0) or higher in the initial core courses in computer programming (DIGS 30001) and statistics (DIGS 30002), which are taken in the Autumn Quarter of the first year, is a basic requirement for continuing in the M.A. program. Students who fail to obtain a grade of C (2.0) in either of these courses in the Autumn Quarter will be placed on academic probation and must then either: (1) request a leave of absence, if they plan to return in the Autumn of the following year to re-take the course or courses in which they failed to obtain the required grade; or (2) withdraw from the program entirely.

Why UChicago?

As one of the world’s great intellectual destinations, the University of Chicago (commonly called “UChicago”) empowers students and scholars to ask big questions, break disciplinary boundaries, and challenge conventional thinking in virtually every field. It is an integral part of Chicago’s urban landscape, with additional locations in Beijing, Delhi, London, Paris, and Hong Kong. It has a world-class Medical Center and affiliations with three U.S. national laboratories.

UChicagoGRAD offers a range of services and resources to enhance the ability of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to navigate their careers at UChicago and beyond, including (and certainly not limited to) one-on-one advising and workshops related to:

  • Fellowships
  • Career Planning
  • Academic Writing
  • Public Speaking
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Financial Wellness & Payments

Some of the other services offered by the UChicagoGRAD office include employer info sessions and career fairs, the Family Resource Center for student parents, the Diversity Advisory Board and Graduate Council, Grads on the Ground, and the Chicago Center for Teaching. You can RSVP for GRAD events and workshops, schedule advising appointments, and find and apply for jobs and internships at the GRAD Gargoyle

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