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Asian Studies Major

The Asian Studies major offers students an opportunity to pursue interests in the traditional and modern civilizations of Asia. The particular courses to be counted toward the major requirements will depend on the individual student’s chosen sub-major: Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, Korean Studies, South Asian Studies, and Southeast Asian Studies. Students also have the option of choosing a field of study to complement their sub-major. The most common fields of study include History/Civilization, Literature, Religion, Linguistics, Cultural Studies, and Film. 

The Asian Studies Major Requirements

Minimum Credits: 34

Language Requirement: All majors must have fourth-term proficiency in an Asian language taught within the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. Majors are strongly encouraged to continue their language training beyond the second-year requirement. The Asia language used to meet this requirement will define the student's regional specialization.

These credits do not count towards the credits needed for the major.

Required Courses

All courses used toward the major, except those courses used to acquire a second Asian language, must be at the 200-level or above.

Students must take:

  1. ASIAN 235: Introduction to Asian Studies
  2. ASIAN 381: Junior/Senior Seminar for Majors
  3. Eight or more elective courses
    • At least four elective courses in ASIAN or ASIANLAN must be at the 300-level or above (excluding ASIAN 381), one of which must be an ASIAN course at the 400-level or above.

Sub-major Requirement

In consultation with a department advisor, majors must take at least 4 300-level or above elective ASIAN or ASIANLAN courses (excluding ASIAN 381) focused on or related to the sub-major. 

Optional Cognate

Students have the option of electing one course (up to four credits) from outside of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures.


At least 5 courses must be elected on the Ann Arbor campus, or an Ann Arbor campus extension that is taught by Ann Arbor faculty. This includes Camp Davis, Biological Station, MIchigan-in-Washington, but NOT STDABRD.

The plan for the major is designed in consultation with and approved by a department advisor.

The Asian Studies Major Requirements - pre-Fall 2020


PREREQUISITE  ASIAN 235: Introduction to Asian Studies (taught each Fall term) and one year or first-year proficiency of an Asian language taught within ALC and applicable to the chosen sub-major. 

THE ASIAN STUDIES MAJOR (30-credits) All courses used towards the program must be at the 200-level or above, with at least 15-credits at the 300-level or above. Students must take a minimum of 15-credits at UM-Ann Arbor or at an overseas program associated with the University. All courses must be approved by an ALC academic advisor. Students must have earned a C- or better in a course for it to be used.

LANGUAGE REQUIREMENT Fourth term or second-year proficiency in an Asian language appropriate to the sub-major. Majors are encouraged to continue their language study beyond this requirement. 

SUB-MAJOR REQUIREMENT (15-credits)  Courses focused on the culture or language of the sub-major. Courses in this requirement can also complement a field of study, if one is chosen. Up to 10-credits from language courses at the 300-level or above may be used. Classical languages may also be used to fulfill this requirement. 

BREADTH REQUIREMENT (9-credits) includes 1) ASIAN 381: Junior/Senior Research Seminar for Majors offered every Fall and Winter semester, and 2) At least 6-credits from either or both of the following: (a) courses focused on a sub-major outside of the student's own, or (b) trans-regional Asian studies courses focused on more than one sub-major (which can include the student's sub-major). 

COGNATE REQUIREMENT (6-credits) courses elected outside of those taught by ALC from either or both of the following: 1) theory or methodology courses that focus on a discipline complementary to Asian studies rather than on Asia (e.g. LING 374: Language and Culture offered by Linguistics), or 2) courses in the student's sub-major offered by a different department and not listed under ASIAN (e.g. a Japanese Studies major could take HISTORY 451: Japan's Modern Transformations offered by the Department of History). The department maintains a list of recommended cognate courses for each sub-major. 

Asian Studies FAQs

When should I declare an Asian Studies major?

Students are encouraged to come in for advising appointments as soon as they know that they wish to pursue an Asian Studies major and can declare at any time.

Can I declare more than one sub-major?

No. The way that the major is written, students can only declare one sub-major.  Students are able to use courses from outside of the declared sub-major towards the major including coursework in a second or third Asian language.

Can I get a major and a minor within ALC?

Yes. Know that the focus of the major and the minor cannot be the same and the course work should not overlap. For instance, a student getting a Chinese Studies major should not get a Chinese language minor.

The major says, “All courses must be approved by an ALC academic advisor.” Is that true?

Yes.  Due to the flexible nature of the major, no courses beyond ASIAN 235 and ASIAN 381 are automatically approved to meet the requirements. Which courses to take is a conversation that must happen each semester with an ALC advisor—either through a one-on-one advising session or in an email to During these appointments, the courses are then added to your progress towards degree (PTD) worksheet that is stored on your advising file. After the course is taken, your Wolverine Access audit is then updated accordingly.  If you do not get approval from an advisor, there is no guarantee that the courses you take can be used towards the major requirements.   

Can I use study abroad credit towards my major?

Yes, however, at least 15 credits must be in residence at the University of Michigan (including CGIS Study Abroad credits).

Please see the study abroad web page on our site for more information.

Can I count language credits towards the Sub-major requirement?

Yes. Language credits can be counted towards the major for any requirement except for the 400-level coursework requirement.

Do I have to take ASIAN 381: Junior/Senior Research Seminar for Majors?

Yes.  The Department does not grant exceptions to this course. If you have concerns about your ability to take ASIAN 381 before you graduate, please speak to an advisor.

What do I do with an Asian Studies degree?!

The possibilities are too numerous to count!  UM Asian Studies graduates have a higher placement rate upon graduation than the College of LSA average.  We realize that it can be difficult, though, to narrow your options down. For this reason, ALC pairs with the UM Career Center regularly to offer workshops and one-on-one advising for students.  In these sessions, your personal interests and capabilities are explored to help pinpoint a possible field for you.  Students are also encouraged to seek out faculty in their sub-major field/region to discuss options after graduation.  ALC advisors will regularly host a workshop during the academic year to discuss graduate schools in Asian Studies, if that is one of your considerations.  Lastly, the Career Center’s Asian Languages and Cultures Career Guide is a great start to see where Asian Studies graduates go after graduation.