By looking at past events, exploring several primary and secondary sources, and using unique research methods, historians perform many tasks for different industries and organizations. An online master’s in history degree does not just lead to a career as a historian; in reality, those who complete a history online program end up working in many fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that professional history educators or postsecondary teachers, a common landing spot for history graduates, earn a median annual wage of $79,540. Other graduates become political scientists who, according to the BLS, enjoy a median annual salary of $122,220. This guide explores the best online master’s in history programs, including what to expect from a history degree program and how to prepare for a wide range of careers related to history.
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Many colleges offer an online history degree, though prospective students may not know which programs are better than others. By looking at numerous factors, including accreditation, flexibility in online learning, program outcomes, quality of faculty members, and prestige, OMC has drawn up a list of the top online graduate history programs:
History is a broad subject, and many colleges require graduate online students to select an area of focus for their degree. This area of focus prepares students for specific career outcomes. While a history degree online may require different courses, schools usually try to teach the same skills during the graduate program. The degree and online learning structure and requirements vary by school, but many master’s history degrees follow a set structure to remain accredited. This and cost-effectiveness become very crucial when deciding which history program offers the best bang-for-buck. Here are some of the most affordable history programs available:
Understanding an Online Master’s in History Degree
History is a broad subject, and many colleges require graduate students to select online courses in an area of focus for their degree. While coursework in a history MA program is akin to that of undergraduate history coursework, some differences do set them apart. Furthermore, an area of focus can allow online students to pursue careers in a variety of settings, such as African American history, world history, global history, military history, etc. Online learning in history programs may require different courses, along with directed research. Non-thesis students may find themselves doing a lot of historical writing, while thesis students can better prepare themselves for a doctoral degree, or to become professional history teachers. Students interested in a history master’s degree must always read the history program overview, consult the history department at the college, or speak with faculty members, for more and exact information.
Common Specializations for an Online History Program
When enrolling in a master’s in history program, colleges often require students to select an area of focus. Areas of focus, also known as history majors, specializations, or concentrations, determine which courses online students complete en route to graduating. Specializations can be taken up by thesis as well as non-thesis students, some of which can form the basis for a doctoral degree, and others that can lead to immediate careers. Here are a few areas of concentrations in an online masters in history:
Area of Focus
Careers this Concentration Prepares for
Art history often combines history courses with art and archeology courses. This focus prepares students for careers working in museums or conducting private historical research. Those that choose this specialization usually plan on continuing their education and earning a Ph.D. in art history.
Archivist, Curator, Postsecondary Teacher
Sometimes combined with studying the American Government, the American history specialization focuses entirely on U.S. history and its impact on the world. Coursework could cover government structure, social studies, education, and American culture.
Postsecondary Teacher, Government Historian, Curator
Ideal for anyone interested in museums or tourism, the public history track focuses on the history of a specific region, area, or city. On top of selecting public history, graduate students with this specialization choose an area of expertise for research. Graduates tend to find work-related directly to their area of expertise.
Public Historian, Postsecondary Teacher, Middle School/High School Teacher
Like American history, European history deals with Europe’s complicated history and its impact on the world. Students who select this area of focus can further specialize in medieval history, French history, English history, or the Renaissance.
Curator, Archivist, Postsecondary Teacher
Military history combines history with military tactics and education, a great fit for anyone involved in the U.S Armed Forces. Students in this specialization learn to think historically about war, how war is conducted, and the consequences of war. Graduates of this program end up in various careers or choose to pursue a doctoral degree.
Postsecondary Teacher, Historian, Military Analyst, Archivist
Because music is a vast field spread over hundreds of years, those studying music history often work with faculty to design the program’s curriculum. As a result, music history students end up in various roles, though many continue to complete a Ph.D. in music history or a related field.
Postsecondary Teacher, Music Librarian, Music Historian
Sometimes referred to as Christian history, church history provides an advanced study of Christian materials, including the Bible, historical sources, and foreign language studies.
Christian School Faculty, Pastoral Minister, Postsecondary Teacher
Online Master’s in History Admission Requirements
While schools set different curriculum requirements for master’s in history degree students depending on their selected area of focus, most colleges use similar admission standards for online programs. Since all history degrees are master of arts, online students are required to exhibit strong research skills (by the submission of a research paper) and an interest in the field, when applying. Some schools also ask for an academic writing sample or personal statement. In general, the admission requirements could include:
Bachelor’s Degree: Every master’s in history program requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
Personal Statement: Graduate programs often require applicants to submit a personal statement to explain why they are interested in the program. The personal statement is usually in the form of a short essay.
Grade Point Average (GPA): Every school sets different GPA requirements, but most graduate programs prefer applicants with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Higher GPAs increase the quality of an application.
Resume: Depending on the field, schools may prefer applicants with several years of relevant professional experience. Applicants must submit this information through a resume.
Letters of Recommendation: Graduate schools typically require 2 to 3 letters of recommendation. History applicants should submit letters from previous history professors to strengthen their applications.
International Students applying for a history graduate degree are generally required to submit a TOEFL score to prove proficiency in English.
Types of Online Master’s in History Programs
There are many types of master’s degree available today, but an online program in history at the graduate level is almost always the master of arts in history. This online master’s degree in history is the most common offering across the United States. The master of arts in history teaches a variety of history courses and also develops the research skills of students, preparing them for diverse careers.
Online History Master’s: No GMAT or GRE Requirements
Many schools, including well-respected institutions like the University of Arizona, do not set GRE requirements for masters in history students. Choosing these programs saves applicants time and energy by avoiding the GRE preparation and the test-taking process. However, it must be noted that many programs that do not require a GRE test score will need the GPA of the bachelor’s degree to be on the higher side. Here are some masters in history No GRE programs:
(The Sam Houston State University (SHSU) waives GRE for those who hold another MA level degree)
Curriculum for an Online Master of Arts in History Program
As with a bachelor’s degree, the curriculum and history courses for an online master of history program vary from program to program and also depend heavily on the area of focus students select. To give prospective history students an idea of what they might study, these online courses outline topics that some graduate students take during their master’s degree:
Public History Methodology: Required for most students choosing a public history specialization, public history methodology looks at the problems and potential opportunities in public history. Skills gained in this course include historical research methods, formulating methodologies, and interpreting historical documents. This course also prepares students to present findings through essays and exhibitions.
America and the World Wars: An important topic in American history programs, America and the World Wars analyzes the United States’ impact on both World Wars and changes to American culture, politics, and economics in between the two events. Those studying art history or military history might also take this course.
Historiography: Usually covered in the public history focus, historiography deals with the study of historical methods and historical writings. Students learn to interpret writings by using the era, atmosphere, and events to provide context. Learners then compare their analyses with each other.
Documentary Editing: Another course required in many public history programs, documentary editing teaches students to use documentaries to create a historical narrative. Some public historians create documentaries or write biographies, making this an important course for future careers.
The Russian Revolution: The Russian Revolution, one of the most important historical events in global history, plays an integral part in European history. Students analyze the events leading up to the Russian Revolution, the people involved, and the events that transpired after the revolution.
Some examples of other history degree courses include:
Global Military History
North American History
African American History
Public and Digital History
Choosing a Quality (and Accredited) Online Master of Arts in History Program
Prospective students of online master’s in history programs who are concerned about the quality of their online degree should look for accreditation. Accreditation means that the school meets a minimum academic standard for all its programs, which includes the online program in history. It endorses the scope and depth of history courses offered, the quality of faculty members, and the overall credibility of the institution. While no major history accreditations exist, students should apply to colleges and universities that have received regional accreditation from bodies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). More information on accreditation is available in the Accreditation Guide.
Skills Gained in an Online Master of Arts in History Program
While history graduates work in different fields, the skills learned in a master’s program apply to most jobs. History students master these skills during coursework and while interacting with other students. Upon graduation, students are ready to begin new careers that depend on the following skills:
History students look closely at various documents to extrapolate important information. These analytical skills, along with critical thinking, apply directly to careers as a historian, curator, or archivist.
Before analyzing documents, history, students must find relevant documents. The intensive use of research methods could require building on previous history-related experience to determine where to find new valuable information. History students develop a host of research skills, required to prepare a research paper.
History requires a vast amount of knowledge of different events, people, and eras. Students master critical thinking skills during their graduate program and apply these skills to most career outcomes.
From drafting a publication for a journal to composing an email, history graduates use writing daily. Most master’s degree programs emphasize writing, so students graduate with excellent writing skills.
While history students are not required to master foreign languages, many documents require the knowledge of different languages. Those who select a focus area in a non-English speaking region must learn to understand documents in other languages.
How to Pay for a Master of Arts in History
While some career outcomes for master’s in history students pay good wages, prospective students might be concerned about a degree’s costs. Fortunately, online history students can use multiple funding mechanisms to pay for a degree.
Mechanisms for Paying for Your Master of Arts in History
Grants work like scholarships, providing students with free money to go toward their degree. Students interested in seeking external funding can secure grants from public, private, and non-profit organizations.
To secure funding for projects, graduate history students often use fellowships. Fellowships, such as the American Antiquarian Society Research Fellowship, help students pay for their degrees while also providing them with relevant work experience.
Financial aid comes from colleges, universities, and the federal government. History students should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and express a financial need to qualify for financial aid.
History students have access to plenty of excellent scholarships, including some that only accept applicants pursuing a master’s in history. Some of the history scholarships to consider applying for include:
Who can apply: Phi Alpha Theta awards three scholarships to graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in history or library science archives. Two winners earn $1,000 while the third wins $1,250. Amount: $1,000 to $1,250.
Who can apply: Those earning a degree related to archival studies, including a master’s in history, can apply for the F. Gerald Ham and Elsie Ham Scholarship. The winner is selected based on past performance and current studies. Amount: $10,000.
Who can apply: Daughters of the American Revolution can apply for a range of scholarships, though students must study toward a specific degree, including a master’s in history. Winners are selected based on merit and financial need. Amount: Varies
Who can apply: The Littleton-Griswold Research Grant works like a scholarship, awarding up to $1,000 to multiple winners. Applicants must be members of the American Historical Association. Amount: Up to $1,000.
Who can apply: Named in honor of the late Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison, this scholarship awards 22 students pursuing a degree in history, international relations, or a related field. The award covers research-related costs. Amount: Varies.
Career and Salary Outlook for Online Master’s in History Program Graduates
After completing a master of arts in history, graduates become eligible for many positions. The specific career opportunities available to graduates could depend on their specialization, where they live, and previous experience. Some potential history careers come with high salaries, and the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects others to demonstrate strong job growth over the coming years. While history careers take many paths, these are common landing spots for online master’s in history graduates:
A professional historian studies past documents and sources. Duties include gathering information and data from sources, analyzing the information for significance, and writing reports on the findings.
Those that pursue a master of arts in history could find positions as anthropologists and archeologists. These professionals explore historical methods, plan research, travel & collect data, and analyze information in labs to discover unknown aspects of human history.
Political scientists study and analyze political systems. Professionals usually specialize in a field, such as national politics or international relations. This research-intensive role often requires extensive historical research.
Archivists, curators, and museum workers often require at least a master’s degree in history. These professionals understand historical methods, catalog items, maintain records, preserve historical items, and organize displays for others to enjoy or learn from.
What can I do with a master’s degree in history?
A master’s degree in history leads to various careers, including education, public administration, and research.
Is a masters’ degree in history worth it?
Many potential careers require a master’s in history, making the degree worth it for anyone interested in these niche careers.
How do I get a master’s degree in history?
Some schools allow students to complete their master’s degree in history entirely online. A list of the best and most affordable schools is available in this guide.
Resources for Online Master’s in History Students
Current history students and those who have earned a graduate degree can advance their careers and continue their professional development through professional organizations. These resources also connect historians with other professionals in their field, serving as a great way to network.
American Historical Association: Founded in 1884, the American Historical Association serves as a leader for various history professionals. Members receive advocacy, career development, and learning opportunities.
American Alliance of Museums: With over 35,000 members, AAM acts as a leader for all museum professionals. Members get connected with international professionals and receive valuable industry information.
National Council on Public History: NCPH works to form connections between historians and the public. Historians can join as individuals or students to gain access to industry publications, discounts, and networking opportunities.
American Association for State and Local History: An industry leader for professional historians, AASLH has various membership levels. Benefits of joining AASLH include access to subscriptions, discounts, and an introduction to a vast network of historians.
Organization of American Historians: Founded in 1907, OAH is the largest organization dedicated to American history. Besides access to many publications, members also get professional discounts, advocacy, and access to a job board.
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