Political & Global Studies


Degrees Offered:

  • Ethnic Studies: BA, Minor
  • Comparative Ethnic Studies: PhD

Department Website

Degree Requirements 

Sample Four Year Plan

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The field of Ethnic Studies was born out of, and is dedicated to, struggles for social justice for all people.

By examining how race and the interrelated categories of ethnicity, gender, class, indigeneity and sexuality impact the lives of people, the Department of Ethnic Studies encourages students to look at their inherited/political/social/cultural positions in society to create a new social reality in an ever-changing global society.

I work for one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the U.S. I use my degree every single day."

— Cara McKinley, vice president for advocacy and strategic initiative at the National Urban League (BA 2005)

The Department of Ethnic Studies is one of a kind—literally. It is one of only four programs in the United States that offer a PhD in Ethnic Studies. In addition, the department's faculty have received a number of accolades through their work, including a Distinguished Scholar Award by the American Society of Criminology, an Ida B. Wells, Outstanding Community Service Award from the National Association of Colored People (NAACP), an Early Career Award from the National Science Foundation, and multiple fellowships with prestigious organizations, along with a number of teaching awards.

Altogether, these factors have promoted an environment of excellence and demand, leading the ethnic studies major to be ranked eighth in the nation by Universities.com.

The Department of Ethnic Studies was created out of a desire to initiate and promote interdisciplinary research and teaching by providing the flexibility for students to pursue their individual research interests in Africana or African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies and Chicana/o Studies. 

Their diverse faculty also include several who work across disciplines, in areas such as Sociology, Women and Gender Studies and Education (through the School of Education).

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in ethnic studies, there are a number of research opportunities beyond just class work:

  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.

  • The experience of studying abroad can prove invaluable for you as an ethnic studies major. Your first-hand experience abroad can provide you with a deeper understanding of culture and attitudes of people of color in other parts of the world and their carryover into the United States. The university offers more than 100 programs throughout the world that offer credit, in some cases fulfilling major and core requirements. You may spend a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program you select. Prior language study or other prerequisites are necessary for some programs, so early planning for study abroad is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.

The ethnic studies major provides a broad liberal arts education with skills in critical thinking, comparative analysis, social theory, data gathering and analysis, and oral and written expression. These skills, coupled with its emphasis on diversity make the ethnic studies degree particularly useful for the coming century. It provides you with appropriate training for fields such as law, education, medicine, public health, social work, journalism, business, urban planning, politics, counseling, international relations, and creative writing, as well as university teaching and research. 

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

Most ethnic studies majors do not directly correlate to specific occupations, but many pursue careers in education (both K-12 and post-secondary), clinical, career or academic counseling, law, journalism, social work, community development and organizing, and more, according to the University of California Berkeley.

According to the 2017-18 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:

  • the median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies and 0-5 years of experience is $42,500,
  • the median salary for someone with 10-plus years of experience is $68,250.

Ethnic Studies Salary Info

At CU Boulder, Ethnic Studies graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $82,140, based on a pool of 125 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. This amount, however, is lower than the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.

The Department of Ethnic Studies has an extensive alumni network working in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Cara McKinley (BA '05) is vice president for advocacy and strategic initiative at the National Urban League.

  • Jeremy Ehrlich (BA '07) works for the New York City Department of Education as a high school English and English-as-a-second-language teacher in the Bronx.

  • Jacqueline Manzo Mora (BA '16) works as a Youth Violence Prevention Educator at Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, a human-rights organization committed to ending violence against adults, youth and children.

  • Paula Abitia (BA '13) works as an admissions counselor at CU Boulder.

  • Laura Malaver (BA '15) works as a bilingual outreach coordinator at the Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center. She also received an MA in education and is a candidate for the PhD program in Ethnic Studies at CU Boulder.

  • Brigitte Sellinger (BA '16) currently the administrative assistant in the Department of Ethnic Studies at CU Boulder.