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Secondary Fields

PhD students can broaden their course of study and enhance the professional reach of their degree by pursuing a secondary field.

To earn a secondary field, students take four or five graduate courses in a discipline, interdisciplinary area, or intellectually coherent subfield.  

Secondary Fields Offered 

African and African American Studies 

A secondary field in African and African American Studies allows students to explore a variety of social, cultural, economic, political, and historical processes from the perspectives, experiences, and intellectual contributions of Africans and their diasporas, particularly in the Americas. The field provides analytical tools and critical understandings for the study of race, racism, inequality, slavery, colonialism and postcolonialism. 

See policies for African and African American studies secondary field requirements. 

American Studies 

Harvard’s American Studies program is devoted to the multidisciplinary study of the culture and history of the United States, set within a hemispheric and global context. A secondary field may include focus on the interplay of political and economic structures, the formation and transformation of subcultures and identities, and/or the dynamics of race, class, gender, sexuality, and empire. Recent students taking secondary fields in American Studies have come from English, music, and the joint program with the Graduate School of Design on Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning; others are welcome.  

See policies for American studies secondary field requirements.  

Ancient Studies

The Ancient Studies secondary field offers PhD students from across the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences an opportunity to take advantage of Harvard’s extensive expertise in the ancient world, here understood globally and flexibly as everything pre-medieval. By providing an instructional framework for students to engage substantively with interdisciplinary coursework and research, the Ancient Studies secondary field fosters productive interaction among faculty and graduate students across a vast array of Harvard departments, programs, committees, and institutions dedicated to the study of the ancient world. The secondary provides space and support for students to follow research questions beyond disciplinary or methodological limits imposed by departmental boundaries, to provide evidence of sustained and programmatic interdisciplinary work on job and fellowship applications, and to establish a community and network of peers and advisors across a diverse collection of Harvard departments and programs.

See policies for ancient studies secondary field requirements. 


See policies for anthropology secondary field requirements. 


Archaeology embraces all aspects of the human past through the study of its material physical remains. It is a capacious discipline that welcomes, incorporates, and reinforces the approaches of all fields involved in the study of the past. From the investigation of ritual and sacred spaces to biomolecular research on human health and disease, there are few forms of investigation of the human past that do not find new insights through the application of archaeological approaches. Precisely because of its great interdisciplinarity and the broad spectrum of its potential contributions to advanced research and distinguished teaching, graduate students working in fields as diverse as classics, history, chemistry, history of art and architecture, human evolutionary biology, and so forth may find it advantageous intellectually and academically to gain serious exposure to the methods and materials of archaeological research. To that end, the Standing Committee has developed a secondary PhD field in archaeology. 

 See policies for archaeology secondary field requirements.  

Celtic Medieval Languages and Literatures 

See policies for Celtic Medieval Languages and Literatures secondary field requirements.  

The Classics (classical archaeology, classical philology, classical philosophy, and Greek and Roman history) 

Classics is a field that covers every aspect of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome—language, literature, art, law, and science, to name a few—and the methods employed to conduct research into those civilizations and their heritage. Students in other departments may demonstrate interdisciplinary interests with a secondary field in one of the following programs offered in the department: classical archaeology, classical philology, classical philosophy, or Greek and Roman history. 

See policies for the classics secondary field requirements. 

Comparative Literature 

The Department of Comparative Literature offers comparative literature as a secondary field in Harvard Griffin GSAS to enrich the education of PhD students in other departments who seek to do research and teach across the institutional boundaries of national languages and literatures. As faculty members, students specializing in a national literature may be called on to teach comparative courses or courses in general or world literature. The secondary field in comparative literature prepares them to do so by introducing them to basic issues in the field. Although the department recognizes that literatures in a single language constitute a coherent tradition, comparative literature seeks to develop an awareness of how literary works move across language borders, both in the original language and in translation. The department calls attention to theoretical issues shared not only across the boundaries of languages but also across very different traditions.  

See policies for comparative literature secondary field requirements. 

Computational Science and Engineering 

See policies for computational science and engineering secondary field requirements. 

Critical Media Practice 

Critical Media Practice (CMP) is for Harvard PhD students who wish to work with media in tandem with their written scholarship. The CMP secondary field reflects changing patterns of knowledge production; in particular, it recognizes that knowledge is increasingly incorporated into multimedia configurations in which written language plays only a part. Students are required to take studio art, film, and media production courses, to discuss their work twice a year in CMP-wide critiques, and to produce a capstone project in still or moving images, sound, installation, performance, web-based applications, or other media. 

See policies for critical media practice secondary field requirements. 

Film and Visual Studies 

See policies for film and visual studies secondary field requirements. 


The graduate secondary field in German offers a coherent program of literary and cultural study designed to complement and further a student’s primary course of graduate study. The plan of study is developed in consultation with the director of Graduate Studies.  

See policies for German secondary field requirements. 

History of Science 

Students enrolled in a Harvard Griffin GSAS PhD program may earn formal recognition for completing a secondary field in the history of science. Central to the intellectual mission of the department is endeavoring to understand the sciences, technology, and medicine in their historical, cultural, and current contexts. We employ historical as well as sociological, anthropological, and other methodologies to illuminate how knowledge of various kinds has come to be configured as it is today. Our approach is broadly interdisciplinary, explicitly connecting the sciences, social sciences, and humanities—globally and across time periods. 

See policies for history of science secondary field requirements. 

Historical Linguistics 

A secondary field in historical linguistics presents students with the knowledge of how languages change over time, along with both the general study of language change and the history of specific languages and language families. Students enrolled in this program will become familiar with linguistic theory and the areas traditionally known as philology.

See policies for historical linguistics secondary field requirements. 

Latinx Studies 

See policies for Latinx studies secondary field requirements. 

Linguistic Theory 

The Department of Linguistics offers a secondary field in linguistic theory for PhD students enrolled in other departments at Harvard. Linguistic theory, the core of the modern field of linguistics, seeks to characterize the linguistic knowledge that normal human beings acquire in the course of mastering their native language between the ages of 1 and 5. Studied as an internalized formal system, language is a source of insight into a wide range of human pursuits and abilities, some of them traditionally approached through the humanities, others through the social sciences, and others through the behavioral and natural sciences. The major divisions of linguistic theory are syntax, the study of sentence structure; phonology, the study of sounds and sound systems; morphology, the study of word structure; and semantics, the study of meaning. Courses in these areas regularly draw students from other Harvard departments, especially psychology, philosophy, and other departments associated with the Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative. The secondary field in linguistic theory allows such students to receive official recognition for their linguistics coursework. 

See policies for linguistic theory secondary field requirements. 

Medieval Studies 

The secondary field in medieval studies provides students with a broad interdisciplinary perspective on the medieval world, encompassing the history, literature, music, and visual cultures of Europe, the Mediterranean, western and central Asia, and Africa in the millennium from c. 500 to 1600 CE.  

See policies for medieval studies secondary field requirements. 

Mind, Brain, and Behavior 

See policies for mind, brain, and behavior secondary field requirements. 


Students may complete a secondary field in musicology or ethnomusicology. Students will be able to explore wide-ranging geographies and subjects and grasp historical and cultural approaches to the study of music. 

See policies for music secondary field requirements. 


See policies for philosophy secondary field requirements. 


See policies for religion secondary field requirements. 

Romance Languages and Literatures 

See policies for romance languages and literatures secondary field requirements. 

Science, Technology, and Society 

This secondary field provides grounding in how science and technology interact with and are shaped by their social and political contexts. Through a structured program of study and a capstone experience, students will develop critical analytic skills that will serve a wide range of career plans in academia and in professional fields such as science policy, science communication, and bioethics. 

See policies for science, technology, and society secondary field requirements.  

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 

See policies for studies of women, gender, and sexuality secondary field requirements.

Slavic Literary/Cultural Studies 

See policies for Slavic literary/cultural studies secondary field requirements.

Translation Studies

The graduate secondary field in translation studies offers graduate students the opportunity to undertake sustained study of the theory and practice of translation, broadly understood, across languages, media, and the arts. The secondary field has a triple rationale: intellectual, multidisciplinary, and practical. By examining a range of linguistic encounters and cultural exchanges, students pursuing the secondary field have the opportunity to root their translation work within their knowledge of at least two languages while expanding their engagement with the craft of translation. As they move through the curriculum, graduate students do more than simply examine how meaning is transferred from one language to another; they acquire the knowledge necessary to intervene in current scholarly debates in translation studies and the ability to teach translation to undergraduate and graduate students. While deepening their expertise in at least two languages, students enroll in a range of courses offered across departments that consider theoretical issues raised by and through the process of translation and will then complete a capstone project, supervised by a faculty advisor. 

See policies for translation studies secondary field requirements. 

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