What is a Diversity Studies Degree?

Diversity is about inclusion. Diversity studies programs typically focus on the most recognized diversity domains of race and ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

The curriculum reveals to students that the world is becoming both smaller and more complex. It seeks to instill in them respect towards all diverse peoples and groups. It prepares them to live and work in a diverse global society. It provides opportunities to examine and discuss inequalities and challenges faced by various groups, and exposes how diversity affects our relationships.

Diversity studies look at diverse groups through many different lenses including history, politics, sociology, psychology, culture, religion, education, law, and media.

Program Options

Certificate in Diversity Studies – Up to One Year Duration
Associate Degree in Diversity Studies – Up to Two Year Duration
Bachelor’s Degree in Diversity Studies – Two to Three Year Duration

At the undergraduate level, a diversity studies program most often leads to a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer an associate degree or certificate in the field. In some cases, the difference among these three credentials is essentially in name only. In other cases, the bachelor’s program is longer and is distinguished by wider and more in-depth study of the topics addressed. Some associate programs may combine classes in the major with general education courses in mathematics, English composition, communications, and the social sciences.

Here is an overview of courses that may be part of an undergraduate program in diversity studies. Specific course content will vary from school to school. In some cases, the differences depend on the research specializations of the teaching faculty.

Core Requirements

  • Introduction to Diversity Studies – understanding diversity in the United States; concepts introduced include privilege, domination, deculturalization, socialization, and marginalization
  • Democracy, Diversity, and Education – exploration of the social, philosophical, ideological, and historical foundations of diversity in the United States; the role of education and democratic society in embracing diversity

Diversity Domain – Race / Ethnicity

  • Introduction to African American Studies – discussion of the foundation, nature, scope, and structure of African American Studies in American universities
  • Race, Law, and Religion in America – examination of race in America through the lenses of law and religion; discussion of the progressive and regressive roles that law and religion can play in creating and resolving difficult human problems
  • Comparative Study of Injustice – a look at different approaches to civil and human rights in selected developed and developing countries; the past apartheid system of South Africa, the Rwandan genocide, attempts of ethnic cleansing in parts of the world, segregation in the US
  • Politics of Race – the contradictions of democracy and racial hierarchy/white supremacy, examined through discussions of issues like partisanship, voter turnout, and the war on drugs
  • Race and Ethnic Relations – causes and consequences of prejudice and discrimination in the US and other societies

Diversity Domain – Social Class

  • Class and Inequality – causes and consequences of social inequality in different regions of the world; ideologies that claim to justify inequality
  • Sociology of Poverty – competing debates on poverty and how it is defined and measured, policy solutions for fighting poverty

Diversity Domain – Gender

  • Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective – how different cultures define gender roles; understanding the behaviors and perceptions associated with gender
  • Religion, Gender, and Sexuality – conflicts based on religious beliefs and assumptions about gender and sexuality; how religious experience is gendered; religious traditions and the way women are viewed
  • Gender and Communication – a look at how communication behaviors vary based on biological sex and psychological gender
  • Media and Sexual Representation – how the media shapes and influences views of sexuality, gender, and eroticism
  • Sociology of Masculinity – overview of developments in the study of men and masculinity; the construction of masculinity in sports, family, work, and other relationships; how masculine identity affects people and social institutions
  • Sociology of Gender – sociological theories of gender; gender in areas such as sexuality, identity, the body, education, marriage, family, violence, health, work, pop culture, ad politics
  • Women and Leadership: Roles and Responsibilities – a look at women in leadership roles from historical, sociological, psychological, and economic perspectives

Diversity Domain – Sexual Orientation

  • Human Sexualities – human sexualities from a developmental perspective; historical, biological, physiological, social, cultural, and familial factors that impact human sexual development, values, beliefs, and behaviors
  • Philosophy of Sex and Love – roles and relations between sexes, abortion, monogamy, sexual perversion, homosexuality, promiscuity, adultery, sexual love, Western morality
  • The Politics of Law and Sexuality – regulation of sexuality, the right to privacy, pornography, the right to marry, gays in the military

Diversity Domain – Disability

  • Introduction to Communication Disorders – disorders of hearing, speech, and language
  • Introduction to Special Education – a general overview of learners with exceptional needs and related educational and social issues

Diversity Domain – General

  • Communication among Cultures – the role of communication in understanding, accepting, and appreciating cultural differences including nationality, ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomic status, age, etc.
  • Ethics, Mass Media, and Society – social responsibility in journalism, ethics and responsibility for social change
  • Social Psychology of Justice – legality versus morality, ethics of lawyers and police, rights of victims and accused, arrest and trial, jury selection, sentencing, death penalty, theories of crime

Master’s Degree in Diversity Studies – One to Two Year Duration
At the master’s level students can design their program in consultation with a faculty member, to focus on their particular area of interest. The master’s program’s culminating requirement is a thesis based on original research.

Doctoral Degree in Diversity Studies – Two to Four Year Duration
The master’s program involves a lot of taught courses. It emphasizes the transition from pure subject learning to independent research. On the other hand, the doctoral degree is like a very long dissertation project. Ph.D. students have a great deal of independence. They have the benefit of supervision from a faculty advisor and may complete some taught classes, but their focus is on their independent research, on contributing original – new – knowledge to the field of diversity studies.

In both master’s and doctoral programs, students’ coursework and research is typically focused on a specific diversity domain such as race/ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. For a better understanding of the scope of these domains, please refer to the certificate / associate degree / bachelor’s degree section above.

Degrees Similar to Diversity Studies

American Studies
As the name implies, students who major in American Studies study the United States, its history, literature, politics, economy, people, and popular culture. Increasingly, programs in this field incorporate examination of the wider Americas and the Caribbean.

Students of anthropology study the evolutionary history of people, how they interact, how they adapt to various environments, how they communicate and socialize with one another, and how their bodies and cultures have changed over time. The field attempts to answer big questions on many of the fundamentals of human culture, from gender to political systems to violence, religion, race, and economics.

Area Studies
Students of this discipline usually focus on a specific area or region of the world and study its histories, politics, economics, languages, and cultures.

Gender Studies
Degree programs in gender studies explore gender through the lenses of feminism, racism and antiracism, social justice, privilege and oppression, and popular culture.

International Relations
Students of international relations learn about international politics and institutions and the principles of diplomacy and foreign policy. They examine interactions between governments on several levels: political, economic, cultural, and militaristic.

In the current U.S. political climate, they may deliberate questions like: How has the Donald Trump presidency affected the world view of the United States? How have allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election impacted diplomatic and trade relations between the United States and Russia?

Public Policy
Students in a public policy degree program study the world of public affairs and leadership. They take courses from various disciplines to attempt to answer complex questions like: What do we need to do to find solutions to social problems?

Classes span political science, law, criminal justice, economics, public administration, human services, and sociology. Coursework includes analysis of governments and other public institutions and how they tackle issues and policy problems.

Degree programs in sociology are focused on studying groups, from two people and beyond. Sociology students examine human behavior patterns and relationships at both the micro-level and the macro-level. They study interactions between individuals as well as in families, peer groups, cultural groups, gender groups, racial groups, religious groups, and social classes.

Women’s Studies
This degree field studies feminism and the history, culture, and politics of women. It examines the categories of identity – gender, sexuality, race, class, age, ability, geopolitical affiliation, etc. – and structures of inequality in relationship to one another.

Skills You’ll Learn

  • Ability to analyze inequities and initiate change
  • Ability to understand texts, concepts, and theories
  • Ability to work independently and in groups
  • Capacity to debate and lead discussions
  • Capacity to summarize and present material
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Creative and critical thinking, reasoning, and analysis
  • Cross-cultural awareness and appreciation
  • Flexibility and negotiation
  • Knowledge of global affairs
  • Research / data gathering and interpreting
  • Statistical and computing skills
  • Understanding of social and political processes and structures

What Can You Do with a Diversity Studies Degree?

Understanding of and appreciation for diversity are valued in any professional role and in life in general. A degree in diversity studies, therefore, can lead graduates to careers in a particularly wide array of sectors. While the employment sectors and roles listed below are not exhaustive, they do represent this versatility. Some occupations may require further education and experience.

Possible Employment Sectors

  • Behavioral health clinics
  • Community centers
  • Corporate human resources departments
  • Educational institutions
  • Government and community organizations
  • Mental health facilities
  • Non-profit agencies
  • Religious organizations
  • Residential care facilities

Possible Roles


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