Asian Studies Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an Asian studies degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a bachelor's and master's degree and potential careers.
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Study Asian Studies: Degrees at a Glance

Asian studies is a broad major, incorporating anthropology, history, literature, religion and more. Students are typically required to specialize in areas such as East Asia, Taiwan or South Asia, because the cultures are so different. Students will focus on the political economy, culture and language.

As a student of Asian studies, you will be prepared to enter a variety of careers. Upon graduation, you can work as an archivist, curator, sociologist, geographer and more. The job outlook in these fields varies; however, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers for geographers are projected to grow 35% from 2010-2020, which is above average.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in the study of Asia upon graduation or who intend to enroll in a graduate degree programThose who wish to enter fields of research or who want to continue on to earn their PhD
Common career paths (with approx. median salary)* - Archivists ($50,000)*
- Economists ($100,000)*
- Geographers ($74,000)*
- Historian ($58,000)*
- Sociologists ($79,000)*
- Political scientists ($105,000)*
- Curators ($54,000)*
Time to completion4 years, full time2-3 years
Common graduation requirements - General education courses
- Major courses
- Acceptable GPA
- Dissertation or thesis
- Fulfillment of language requirement
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED- GRE
- Undergraduate degree
Online availability NoNo

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Bachelor's Degree in Asian Studies

A bachelor's degree program in Asian studies gives you a comprehensive overview of the specific region or area you choose as a specialization. Upon graduation, you can enter fields such as archiving, economy or geography as you continue to study and research Asia. In addition to language courses, you will need to fully immerse yourself in the culture. Even with a bachelor's degree, you will not have a specific career path.

Pros and Cons


  • You are able to specialize in an Asian culture
  • Some programs offer study abroad courses, in which you can experience Asia first-hand
  • Internship programs can help you decide what you want to do upon graduation


  • The language requirement can be difficult to fulfill
  • With a degree in Asian studies, your career path is not clear-cut
  • Not all degree programs offer study-abroad opportunities

Courses and Requirements

In addition to general education classes such as math, English, history and science, Asian studies students are required to complete major area courses that are laid out by the Asian studies department. Additionally, they are asked to specialize, so coursework varies by specialization. Typical coursework may include:

  • Comparative political economy of Asia
  • International trade theory and policy
  • History of religions of Asia
  • Cuisine and culture of Asia
  • South Indian cultural history

Online Degree Options

There are no online degree programs available in Asian studies. Only on-campus programs currently exist, which provide students with a personalized education. One reason for this is that internships and study-abroad programs can be an integral part of the learning process, and hands-on experiences cannot be learned via distance learning.

Stand out with this Degree

Jobs for graduates with an undergraduate degree in Asian studies span many different disciplines. One of the best ways to stand out with this degree is to specifically focus on the industry you wish to enter while still in college. Pursue internships in that field and conduct appropriate research for projects and papers. This can all be added to your resume and help you stand out above the competition.

Master's Degree in Asian Studies

Graduate students of Asian studies will study the economic and political influence of Asia as it relates to the rest of the world. Students will choose one or two specializations in areas that best reflect their interests and professional goals. They may also be required to choose a geographical region, such as East Asia, Northeast Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Graduates will be prepared to enter the workforce or continue on to earn a PhD, which may be necessary for academic and research positions.

Pros and Cons


  • Graduates will be proficient in an Asian language
  • Some programs can be completed in as little as two years
  • A master's degree prepares you for many different industries, including history, political science, sociology and museum


  • A master's thesis is generally required to be competed under faculty supervision
  • Work experience is generally expected when applying for a job
  • A doctoral degree may be required for some positions, such as museum curator

Courses and Requirements

After choosing a specialization or region, you are required to complete upper division and graduate courses. If you are not already proficient in a language, you must complete about three years of coursework in an Asian language that is relevant to your concentration. Some courses may be similar to:

  • Theory and policy in Asia
  • Central Eurasia in world history
  • International political economy in Asia
  • War and peace in Asia

Online Degree Options

Online degree programs are not available. This may be in part because distance learning programs do not give you the specialized attention and education that this is required. You work closely with faculty and students throughout the duration of your master's degree education.

Stand out with this Degree

When completing a research project, dissertation or thesis, a good way to stand out above the competition is to focus on new developments in your field. New research and information is constantly being unearthed about Asia and its history, so finding an emerging and interesting topic may help you when applying for a job. Also, be sure to know what industry you intend on entering prior to choosing a research topic to ensure that they work together.

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