Most graduate students take 12 credit hours per semester if they do not hold an appointment such as a GAship, RAship, TAship, and Grader Position. RAs, TAs, and Graders normally take 8 credit hours per semester (with addition course, such as prelim reading, the TA course, etc to reach the required 12). If you have a Teaching Assistantship, you will take History 598, Teaching of College History, for 2 hours.
The History Department offers courses ranging from the 100-level to the 500-level. 100- and 200-level courses are designed for undergraduates and concern you only if you are teaching one of them. 400-level courses are lecturing surveys for advanced undergraduates and sometimes graduate students. The department discourages graduate students from taking many 400-level courses; however, they may prove useful if you feel particularly weak in a given area or if you are in one of the smaller fields where graduate courses are not offered as often. Graduate students taking a 400-level course are expected to complete extra work and sometimes meet separately with the professor teaching the course. Talk with the professor beforehand to get a sense of what will be required. You can also sometimes, with the permission of the professor, take the 400-level course as a 500-level independent study. 500-level courses are generally restricted to graduate students. With the exception of courses in historical methods, courses at this level are of two types: “problems courses” and “research seminars.”
Usually bibliographic in orientation, these courses are designed to help you master the historiographical material of a given topic. They will be the most useful in preparing you for prelims, especially since they will cue you into what professors think are the most important issues. Students can also arrange to take a readings course, History 597, whereby you find a willing professor to oversee your work in a given area. Be cautious of relying too heavily on such arranged courses. Professors do not always like to direct them because they do not get teaching credit for the work they put into them and because you do not benefit from the discussion and feedback one finds in a regular problems course. However, HIST 597s work well when you cannot find a course to fit your schedule or when a needed course is not being offered.
In a “research seminar,” you are expected to write a piece of original research. Reading knowledge in appropriate languages is almost always a prerequisite and always desirable. Most of the time, these courses are independent in nature or a problems course in which you write an original research paper with the professors permission. Re. Although a seminar is worth 4 credit hours, you can plan to put much more work into it than you would other courses. It is standard practice to tailor seminar work as closely as possible to potential dissertation research, although this is not always possible. You can also take seminars independently as a History 596 course, but again, this approach hinders group feedback, discussion, and support.