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Critical Theory (certificate)

At a Glance: program details

Learn strategies for agile, nimble thinking and writing that's useful in tackling complex, worldly problems. Critical theory is a vast and advanced field, with applications across industries and professions, such as English studies, linguistics, philosophy, African American studies, women and gender studies, law, history, politics and sustainability.

Program Description

Certificate Awarded: Critical Theory (certificate)

The graduate certificate program in critical theory provides students advanced study in critical and contemporary theory. It promotes the skills required to use and interpret concepts from continental philosophy and theoretical trends from the last two centuries. The program also offers tools for creating a critical engagement with society and for producing new cultural texts and ideas.

Critical theory encompasses a broad range of disciplines, including the arts, humanities, social sciences, and technical and physical sciences. Students have access to a wide variety of courses that apply toward the certificate.

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 15 credit hours and a portfolio

Required Core (3 credit hours)
ENG 502 Contemporary Critical Theories (3)

Electives (12 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (0 credit hours)
portfolio (0)

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. statement of purpose
  4. resume or curriculum vitae
  5. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English and has not graduated from an institution of higher learning in the United States regardless of their current residency must provide proof of English proficiency. Applicants should note that official scores must be sent to ASU in order for the application to be processed.

International students who need an F1 or J1 visa first need to apply to and be accepted into a graduate degree program prior to being considered for the certificate program. International students residing in the USA on other types of visas must adhere to all Graduate College policies and procedures regarding admission to be considered for admission to this certificate program.

The graduate certificate in critical theory is available to all ASU graduate students irrespective of their major, as well as to nondegree graduate students and working professionals provided they meet eligibility criteria. Sample majors include English; women and gender studies; art history; and arts, media and engineering. Eligible applicants must have taken two courses in critical theory or a related field at the upper-division undergraduate level (such as ENG 401 Topics in Critical Theory) or at the graduate level (such as ENG 502 Contemporary Critical Theories).

The statement of purpose should be approximately 300 to 600 words and address the following:

  • The applicant's background in theory
  • The areas of theory the applicant is interested in pursuing and which authors the applicant is reading and thinking about
  • What concepts in critical theory interest the applicant most and why
  • What the applicant hopes to accomplish by pursuing this certificate

Program Requirements

  • Core Requirement: ENG 502 Contemporary Critical Theories (offered every Spring semester)
  • Electives: Choose 4 courses from the list below for a total of 12 credit hours. Students may select additional elective courses outside of this list pending they are 400 level and above and have been reviewed and approved by the certificate advisors prior to inclusion on their plan of study. A minimum of two thirds of the courses taken to complete the certificate must be at the 500-level or above. As a general guideline a course to count toward the certificate, at least 70% of the course content should be texts within critical theory (not cultural texts such as literature, film, art, etc.). When in doubt, consult with the certificate's administrators.
    • ENG 546 Gender Studies
    • ENG 554 Rhetorics of Race, Class, and Gender
    • ENG 602 Advanced Studies in Theory and/or Criticism
    • AME 530 Experiential Media Methodology & Theory 1 
    • AME 531 Experiential Media Methodology & Theory 2
    • AME 591 Seminar: Critical Theory
    • ARS 591 Seminar: Critical Theory
    • PHI 582 Studies in Modern Philosophy
    • WST 602 Mapping Intersections of Gender
    • GCU 529 Contemporary Geographic Thought
    • GCU 514 Human Dimensions of Sustainability
    • DSC 598 The Culture of Objects
    • THE 504 Studies in Dramatic Theory
    • THE 505 Critical Theory and Performance
    • COM 691 Rhetoric and the Public Sphere
    • COM 691: Critical/Cultural Approaches to Communication Studies
    • SLC 598  Film Theory and Criticism

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Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to recognize and apply the affordances and limitations in the applications of foundational concepts of critical theory.
  • Students will be able to build on, qualify or challenge claims in critical theory.
  • Students will be able to apply the paradigms of critical theory to develop original research projects.

Career Opportunities

Writers and other content professionals are in demand today, not only in traditional print media, but also on digital platforms. Critical theory provides valuable skills in logical argument and conceptual analysis that are useful across the media spectrum, from scholarly writing to popular magazines and websites with social, cultural and political themes. Students of critical theory also are increasingly involved in multimedia work and technologies, such as AI, in both academic and commercial innovative institutional ventures, such as tech startups.

Career examples include:

  • analyst for cultural tech company
  • content provider for social media
  • freelance cultural critic (on- and offline)
  • grassroots activist
  • instructor in critical theory, cultural studies or media studies
  • political strategist or campaign worker
  • writer in marketing and advertising

Global Opportunities

Global Experience

With over 250 programs in more than 65 countries (ranging from one week to one year), study abroad is possible for all ASU students wishing to gain global skills and knowledge in preparation for a 21st-century career. Students earn ASU credit for completed courses, while staying on track for graduation, and may apply financial aid and scholarships toward program costs.

Program Contact Information

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