Celtic & Irish Studies Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a Celtic or Irish 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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Studying Celtic & Irish Studies: Degrees at a Glance

Irish studies programs teach the language, literature and history of Ireland, while Celtic studies programs also include the Celtic cultures of Scotland, Wales, England and Brittany. Although the field itself runs from ancient to modern times and spans several countries, there are only a handful of programs that enable you to major in Celtic or Irish studies. While a larger number of schools offer certificates or minors, the field is quite limited.

If you plan on an academic career in Celtic & Irish Studies, a bachelor's or master's degree is excellent preparation for PhD work. If you want to work in Ireland, then an Irish studies degree can pave the way. Otherwise, there are few obvious careers to which these degrees lead. Like other liberal arts graduates, you will acquire analytical and communication skills that are valued in many fields. However, you may have to work harder than business or nursing graduates to explain the value of your degree to prospective employers.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals with a strong interest in Irish and/or Celtic culture who want a liberal arts degree College graduates with a strong interest in Irish and/or Celtic culture who are considering further study and an academic career
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean salary) - Writer/author ($68,000 - but salaries vary widely)*
- High school teacher ($57,000 - education coursework and state licensing may be required)*
- Postsecondary teacher, area, ethnic and cultural studies ($80,000 - normally requires a PhD)*
- Postsecondary teacher, languages and literature ($67,000 - normally requires a PhD)*
- Historian ($57,000)*
Time to Completion Four years of full-time study One to two years of full-time study
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework that includes Celtic language study
- Thesis and minimum GPA needed to graduate with honors
- Coursework that includes extensive Celtic language study
- Thesis based on original research or comprehensive exams
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Few options Few options

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

Bachelor's Degree in Celtic & Irish Studies

Promoters of undergraduate programs in Celtic & Irish studies emphasize the historic and literary importance of the cultures they take as their subject. Nonetheless, such programs are hardly common. They tend to be found either at elite universities able to sustain a wide range of liberal arts programs or at schools with a particular connection to Irish America.

The few programs that offer degrees specifically in Celtic & Irish studies boast a broader range of courses than programs that award a minor or certificate. But a minor or a certificate can be easily blended with a major in literature, linguistics, history, political science or anthropology. Some schools with minor programs allow students, as an alternative, to design their own individual interdisciplinary major in Irish or Celtic studies. Several programs offer a term abroad in cities like Dublin and Galway, where you can immerse yourself in the contemporary culture and history of Celts.

Pros and Cons


  • Good preparation for further study and an academic career or for living overseas
  • You will graduate with a wide-ranging liberal arts education and broadly applicable analytical and communication skills
  • Many programs offer the chance to study abroad for academic credit
  • Small size of programs creates a collegial atmosphere with personalized attention


  • Very limited availability of programs, especially if you want to major in the field
  • Few obvious career paths other than academia or working abroad
  • Such a specialized field can mean limited course selection each semester

Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs include language, literary and other cultural and social studies courses that focus on Ireland and the other Celtic regions. Most require at least a few semesters of language study. Courses in modern Irish are the most readily available, but a few programs have offerings in more obscure languages like medieval Welsh or Breton, the Celtic language of northwestern France.

Non-language courses cover the history of the Celtic world since ancient times, literature and folklore from the medieval period onward and politics, migrations and other developments in the modern era. Specific programs may emphasize certain aspects of the field, like language study or literature. Some offer an honors track that requires a senior thesis and a minimum GPA.

Examples of classes you may be able to choose from:

  • History of Celtic civilization
  • Irish-American history
  • Scottish Gaelic literature
  • The comic tradition in Ireland
  • Christianity in the Celtic world
  • Scottish and Irish migrations

Online Course Info

In this small field with relatively few programs of any kind, online options are rare. It is best to assume that you will have no more than a few online options and courses within a program from which to choose - and you should be sure to check any program's accreditation status carefully.

Stand Out with this Degree

Celtic & Irish studies may be intellectually thrilling to you, but prospective employers may need help understanding the value of your degree. You can explain the benefits of your multicultural knowledge, the flexibility that comes from exposure to several disciplines and your critical thinking and research skills.

In an increasingly technological world, computer skills are a dependable way to increase your appeal on the job market, whether you enter education, business or some other field. Many colleges and universities try to ensure students are computer literate when they graduate. But you can go further, making it a priority to become fluent in online research, digital media and standard office software. You can also seek out professors who use newer technologies in the classroom. Ask them how technology has changed the field and how you can become involved in a new media academic project - such as digitizing sources, creating podcasts of lectures or running a blog for a department or organization. Such experience will showcase your love of learning and your comfort with new technologies.

Master's in Celtic & Irish Studies

A master's program in Celtic or Irish studies is probably best viewed as an intellectual labor of love, rather than a shrewd investment. Generally, you will not gain much advantage career-wise over holders of a bachelor's degree - but you will pay more for that extra year or two in school. Still, while it may be of dubious economic value, a master's degree program will allow you to gain in-depth knowledge of your chosen field and develop advanced research and writing skills that can help you succeed in many professional endeavors.

Pros and Cons


  • You can easily transition to a doctoral degree program in the field to become qualified for an academic career
  • Gives you language skills and cultural insight that could help you live and work abroad
  • Affords communication, analytical and research skills that are transferable to other fields
  • With small departments and organizations, you can receive individualized attention and become quickly known among faculty and colleagues


  • Unless you want to become an academic or find work overseas, you should not expect many direct career benefits from this degree
  • To become an academic requires a PhD, which will require several additional years of study
  • With so few existing programs, there is little choice in where to study

Common Courses and Requirements

In many ways, master's degree programs closely resemble undergraduate programs. The program is an interdisciplinary mix of languages, literature, culture and social science courses covering various time periods. Some programs have a particular specialization within Celtic & Irish studies, such as literature or Irish American studies. In addition, master's programs generally offer a term abroad, so students can experience firsthand the culture and language they have been studying.

Examples of classes that you may take:

  • The literature of Ireland after W.B. Yeats
  • Gaelic folklore of Scotland
  • Irish music in America since 1750
  • The great famine and migration
  • Medieval Welsh poetry
  • Contemporary society in Ireland

Unlike undergraduate programs, master's degree programs culminate in a single set of exams or require a thesis of all students. If a thesis is required, students normally must do original research and produce a piece of scholarship comparable to a publishable journal article. An individual faculty advisor will guide you through the various phases of exam preparation and thesis work.

Online Degree & Course Info

Some courses may be offered online, but degree options - if you find any - should be researched carefully to confirm that they are accredited. If your ultimate goal is an academic career, online coursework may not serve you well anyway. Your ability to network in-person and thereby boost your future job prospects will be limited. Whatever your career plans, completing your coursework on campus will enable you to reap the most benefits from the small class sizes and close contact with faculty you can expect in Celtic & Irish studies programs.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Just because Celtic & Irish studies do not have many online study options does not mean the field is technophobic. Graduates who are fluent in online research and comfortable with new media will have skills they can market to a broad range of employers. As for those who wish to teach at a college or university, employers in higher education generally value candidates who can bring technological savvy to their work.

While you are studying Irish migrations or learning modern Welsh, look for opportunities to use digital resources and new media in your research, writing and other academic work. Most programs have a blog, digitization project, online exhibit or some other endeavor that requires technical know-how. Speak to your adviser or a department administrator about how to get involved. Librarians can also be great sources of information on digital developments in the field and perhaps even part-time employment opportunities.

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