The skills you’ll develop in an online master’s in history program can be used in a variety of fields, making the degree versatile and adaptable across disciplines. Organizations and businesses benefit from leaders who can construct logical arguments, compile research and write effective communications, all key focuses areas in a history master’s program. Find out the common course offerings and specializations and which careers they can lead to. Plus, discover which colleges and universities offer the best online master’s in history programs.
Choosing the right online master’s in history program isn’t a decision students should make lightly. However, as more and more colleges and universities introduce online master’s degrees, it can be difficult to find the right program amongst all the available options. Taking into consideration factors like graduation rates and affordability can help narrow down the list.
The following list of best schools was compiled from data from the Department of Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, as well as the university’s own published materials. All schools in this list have been accredited.
Students in a master’s in history program are expected to develop expertise in their specialization so they can contribute meaningful scholarship after graduation. Therefore, many programs focus extensively on research analysis and academic writing.
Programs often consist of 30-33 credit hours, depending on the student’s specialization and track. Many schools offer thesis and non-thesis tracks, with the thesis track designed for those who will seek their doctorate. Internships are typically available and sometimes required by the program. Length of time to complete a program can also vary depending on how many online courses a student takes each semester.
All coursework in a history master’s program will vary depending on the university and the specialization of the student. However, there is some crossover between colleges. Course offerings in an online master’s in history program will usually be the same as it’s on-campus equivalent.
Common courses include the following:
Students study and put into practice various methodologies and techniques for studying history and handling historical data, including the relationships and differences between method, theory and interpretation of historical data.
Most programs include a core course in historiography, the study of how history is written and interpreted, including the historian’s bias, source materials and the relationship of history to society. Students will study how history has been interpreted rather than learn the facts of a historical event.
Comparative research helps students develop effective research practices to study connections across cultures and historical events, including identifying useable sources, analyzing contexts and crafting informed arguments.
Students understand the value and necessity of preserving, organizing and storing historical documents for later retrieval as well as determining documents’ authenticity and reliability.
Using in-depth study of extensive military literature, students study military history from the colonial days through present time, including military culture, diplomacy and the theories used by military leaders to make decisions as well as differences in Eastern and Western approaches.
Most historians have an area of concentration and expertise with the common thread being how past events have impacted the world today. Online master’s in history programs offer a variety of specializations. The following are some of the more common ones:
Students deepen their understanding of American history, including themes and trends, while mastering research, critical thinking and writing skills. Students will explore major changes in American society, including political, social, economic and cultural shifts.
A specialization in public history prepares graduates for work in museums and includes the theory and practice of public history, training in oral and digital histories, development of educational programs and engaging with community members. Some programs include documentary editing among the coursework.
Students will assess and evaluate wars and conflicts through the lens of economic, social and technological contexts. Study topics might include the Civil War era, World Wars, Chinese and British imperialism and military thought.
Many historians begin with a specialization in the history of a geographic region. Some of the more common areas include Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Historians in this specialty typically narrow their focus to a specific theme, such as politics, indigenous histories and labor.
Most online master’s in history programs include a capstone project, typically a three-credit course, in the final semester or year. This project in the student’s area of specialization is designed to integrate knowledge and skills developed in previous coursework and provide a portfolio of the student’s work. Some programs may require the student to take a capstone preparation course, which will help them determine an area of research. This is in addition to the formal capstone course, in which students will actually complete the capstone project.
When selecting an online master’s in history program, look for one that focuses on research skills and critical thinking and includes the desired area of specialization. Students should also review the faculty and make sure that they are experienced in their field and have recent and relevant publications.
A quality online history degree program will be fully accredited at the national or regional level. Schools accredited at the regional level are typically considered slightly more prestigious than nationally accredited schools. Look for your university’s history program to be accredited by an organization such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. Accreditation information should be listed on the school’s website, but students can contact the school directly if this information isn’t readily available.
The skills developed in a master’s in history program can be utilized across a wide range of fields and businesses. The ability to research and communicate effectively in presentations and writing are highly sought-after skills, particularly in leadership positions. In addition to careers directly related to history, those with a master’s degree in history often find positions in journalism, law and public service.
Post-secondary teachers are those who teach students beyond high school and are often considered professors. These instructors typically teach classes in a specific area of study, such as history, and are expected to engage in research and publish scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals. A specialization in any branch of history would be beneficial, particularly American History and Geographic History.
Archivists authenticate and appraise historical objects and documents, preserve historically significant documents and records and organize records of archived objects. Curators do similar work but also acquire and oversee storage of historical collections and objects. A master’s in history with a public history concentration might be required for this position.
Historians research, analyze, interpret and present historical data for businesses, government entities, nonprofits and other organizations. A general master’s in history degree may be the minimum requirement, although a specialization in a specific area might be required.
As documentaries become increasingly popular, editors are needed to input, log and organize footage, creating a cohesive and informative film. They are expected to be able to use a variety of hardware and software in the process. A master’s in history degree with a public interest specialization will give candidates an edge.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Jobs for historians are expected to grow six percent by 2026, which is slightly lower than the expected rate of seven percent for all occupations. However, related careers are expected to grow at a much higher rate. For example, archivist and museum curator positions are expected to grow by 13 percent.
Many people who hold a master’s in history degree do not necessarily work in a history-related position, since the skills of research, critical thinking and writing are highly transferrable and vital for roles in many industries. Those working in other industries may see a higher rate of job growth.
Joining a professional organization after earning a master’s in history can provide graduates with opportunities for professional growth, networking and additional resources. Most organizations typically tailor their resources by specialization, so it is important to find the correct fit when selecting one. Students and graduates are encouraged to talk with faculty and peers to find the appropriate organization.
The American Historical Association, the largest group of history professionals in the country with 13,000 members, advocates for history and historians, influences history curriculum and provides networking opportunities. Graduate students can apply for a Jerry Bentley World History Travel Grant, which provides $200-$400 for students to travel to the annual meeting. Membership includes access to publications, industry news and eligibility for grants and awards.
The OAH is dedicated to the study and teaching of American history. Membership includes access to publications and other resources as well as professional discounts. The OAH website includes fellowship and postdoctoral opportunities, resources for job seekers in American history and current job listings.
The WHA is a professional organization of scholars, teachers and students that seeks to promote the broad study and research of world history using cross-cultural, comparative and global approaches. Membership includes access to publications and conferences.
Before applying to any online graduate in history degree program, students should research their options for loans, scholarships and grants. There are a variety of ways to lessen the cost of earning a degree, including for online students.
Prospective students should follow the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process to apply for scholarships and graduate assistantships at their select college.
Many professional organizations and associations offer scholarships to graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in history. For example, the American Historical Association provides a variety of grants for research projects each year, including those about colonial America, U.S. legal history and European history. Grants can be used for travel and other costs associated with historical research projects with varying award amounts granted.
Many schools or specific departments within the school will offer scholarships to graduate students. For example, Arizona State University offers a variety of scholarships for graduate history students, including the Lorig Public History Scholarship. This $1,000 scholarship is awarding annually to a student pursuing a degree in history with a focus in public history.