History Programs

What You Will Learn in a History PhD Program

When students enroll in a history PhD program, they will gain knowledge and skills that will be vital to their careers later on. Students will gain a deep and comprehensive understanding of historical disciplines and methods of inquiry, critical thinking skills that can be applied to a variety of historical sources and commentaries, and will learn how to conduct original research that provides a noteworthy scholarly contribution to the field overall.

Skills Needed and Expectations

Students who are seeking to complete a PhD in history will need to choose a specialty since the field of history is so broad. Some of the specializations that students can select include medieval European history, African-American history, Latin American history, womenís history, ancient Egyptian history, and many others.

Within each of these specializations, students will be expected to study, understand, and be able to speak authoritatively on various aspects of these civilizations. These aspects include the overall culture, the political philosophy, and the place of women and men in each of these societies. They will also need to be able to reflect on the artistic, literary, or other contributions that each society has produced and discuss how these contributions do or donít reflect the mores of the era they are studying.

Students in history Ph.D. programs need to be able to research and write well, since much of their coursework will require them to write well thought out papers on certain subjects related to both history in general and in their chosen specialization.

Students will also need to make connections between general and specific concepts, examine and evaluate the theories of other scholars, and form logical and coherent arguments. They will be required to demonstrate background knowledge of the discipline on their qualifying exams. The dissertation thesis will require them to write an extremely thorough and well-researched paper on a topic of their choosing, in addition to an oral defense of this paper.

What Do Online History PhD Programs Have to Offer?

There are few online history PhD programs. Those that exist tend to be multi-disciplinary in nature.

The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee offers a doctoral program in the Social Foundations of Education, which prompts the student to explore the history and politics of education in urban areas. Students who choose the online option will pay in-state tuition. More information about the program can be found through direct contact at the PhDSoe@soe.uwm.edu, or by going to the program website at cms.uwm.edu.

The London School of Economics and Political Science offers an online Ph.D. in international history. This is a prestigious program that requires rigorous scholarly work from its students. Students will perform research on foreign languages and will attend seminars at the Institute for Historical Research and special research seminars. In addition to extensive research training, this program will train students in foreign languages and computing. The website for the department is www2.lse.ac.uk.

What Do Offline History PhD Programs Have to Offer?

Most major universities have history departments offering bachelorís and doctoral degrees. An overview of some of the top-ranked doctoral history programs is given below.

University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvaniaís doctoral history program is a small program with an impressive reputation of excellence and in placement of students in employment after graduation. It requires students to complete sixty credits over the course of three years, divided up by twenty credits each.

Students will choose an area of concentration focusing on a geographical location and a field of specialization within that location. Students will also need to demonstrate foreign language competence and complete a dissertation, which usually concludes after two years of research and writing (following the three years of course work). To find out more, contact the program at gradinfo@history.upenn.edu. The PhD program website is located here.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral history program is a large and extensive program. Much of the research undertaken in this program is seen as experimental and interdisciplinary, using research methods from subjects such as anthropology, sociology, geography, and international relations.

Students can choose from African history, Central Asian history, comparative world history, East Asian history, European history, gender and womenís history, Latin American and Caribbean history, Middle Eastern history, South Asian history, Southeast Asian history, and United States history. To complete the degree, students must complete 48 credits, demonstrate reading knowledge in at least two foreign languages, and complete a dissertation and an oral defense.

For more information, the department contact is historyinfo@lists.wisc.edu. Be sure to stop by their website at history.wisc.edu.

University of Washington

The University of Washingtonís doctoral program in history requires a preliminary examination, foreign language proficiency, and a dissertation and oral defense. Students have a wide variety of fields of study from which to choose, including ancient Greece, ancient Rome, ancient Near East, Russia and Eastern Europe, pre-modern Asia, modern Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, United States, the history of science, and comparative history.

A few courses in this program, such as the History of Modern Japan and the History of the Pacific Northwest, may be taken online. The University of Washingtonís history Ph.D. program has an excellent graduate job placement record. To find out more, contact them at histgrad@u.washington.edu. Their website can be accessed at depts.washington.edu.

Harvard University

Harvard Universityís doctoral history program provides students training in researching and writing about history. Students who complete the program often find themselves in teaching positions, or sometimes they end up working in legal or government careers. If they choose, students can study history in combination with law at Harvard Law School. Harvardís graduate student resources include fellowships, grants, lectures, and conferences.

Harvard requires a personal statement, a writing sample, and reading ability in two foreign languages. This is a competitive program to which only serious students are encouraged to apply. Students will spend the first two years on coursework and on preparation for the general examination. They will also be given instruction on teaching practices to prepare them for their careers as professors.

To contact the program, e-mail the department at history@fas.harvard.edu or visit Harvardís website at history.fas.harvard.edu.

Syracuse University

Syracuse Universityís history doctoral program is located in the Maxwell School, a social science institution that allows students to pursue interdisciplinary studies in order to give them a well-rounded education. Students need to submit a personal statement and demonstrate competence in two languages beyond English. Students can take courses in American history, European history, the history of India, and womenís history.

Prospective students should e-mail the school about the program at history@maxwell.syr.edu. The website is www.maxwell.syr.edu.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University has a renowned doctoral history program which has garnered it numerous research fellowships and book awards. Many members of the faculty have also won teaching awards. It is a small program, only admitting (at most) 20 students per year. Most students choose to focus on American, European, or African history, though Latin American and Asian history do exist as options.

Because of the small size of the program, students benefit from close interaction with the faculty members and can receive more personal attention. Students will be taught profound understanding of the field and historical criticism and analysis in preparation for conducting their own research for their dissertations. E-mail history@northwestern.edu for additional information, or see the website: www.history.northwestern.edu.

Stanford University

Stanford Universityís doctoral history program offers students 14 fields of study from which to choose, including African history, ancient history, British history, early modern European history, East Asian history, Eastern European/Russian history, Jewish history, Latin American history, medieval European history, Middle Eastern history, modern European history, scientific history, transnational, international and global history, and the history of the United States.

Admission to the program is very competitive. For more information, contact the Graduate Program Administrator at apalmon@stanford.edu. See Stanfordís history graduate program website www.stanford.edu.

University of Miami

The University of Miami requires a comprehensive examination, passing of written and oral exams, and a dissertation. The number of credits required to complete the coursework depends on the students prior education levels, ranging from 45 credits if the student has a B.A. to 27 credits if the student has an M.A. Students must also demonstrate their ability to read in at least one foreign language.

Some of the fields that students can specialize in include medieval Europe, modern Europe, early American and modern American history, colonial and modern Latin America, East Asia, Russia, Russia, Africa, the Caribbean, the African diaspora, the history of religion, science, crime, law, labor, and military history, among others.

Interested students should contact the Director of Graduate Studies at mbmiller@miami.edu. Their website can be found at www.as.miami.edu.

Georgetown University

Georgetown Universityís history PhD program offers a variety of fields of study to its students, including the history of early modern and late medieval Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, modern Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe, the United States, and transregional history. However, the department also allows students to inquire about other fields in accordance with the expertise of the faculty, including the history of science, African history, and environmental history.

This program requires students to complete the core curriculum, part of the 36 hours of required graduate coursework. Students must take comprehensive examinations to prove their knowledge of the field, and must also pass a language proficiency test in which they demonstrate their capability in reading in a relevant language other than English.

Students wanting to learn more should contact the Director of Graduate Studies at gamesa@georgetown.edu. Visit the website at history.georgetown.edu.

Jobs and Employment Opportunities

A career as a historian or a college history professor is the most likely career choice for people with doctorate degrees in history. This profession requires teaching courses to undergraduates and graduates at the university level and will also involve performing research and publishing papers in oneís area of expertise. It may also involve mentoring history students as an academic advisor. A small number of doctorates in history may be able to secure positions with government agencies and think-tanks.

Job Growth

The job market of this discipline is contracting, and has continued to do so as the economy has worsened. The number of Ph.D.s awarded to history students has increased, while the jobs for people with this specific degree are decreasing. There also have not been any drops in the number of students enrolling in doctoral history programs, which means there will likely be too many candidates for too few jobs in the years to come, even as doctoral history students diversify their educations.

Salary Information

The median average salary of history professors according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is about $60,000 a year. Historians and history professors can advance in their careers and increase their earnings by publishing their research in academic journals and publications. Full-time university faculty in the history department on the tenure track can expect to earn between $80,000 and $100,000 a year.

3 Responses to “History Programs”
  1. Looking for a far distance PhD or Master Course in American History/Military History. Recently I have published a book in German Language about German Fraternity Members in the US Civil War:
    http://versand.akadpress.de/produktinformation.html?cPath=22&products_id=381;

    My current educational back ground is a Master of Science in Engineering (Dipl.-Ing.) from the Technical University of Berlin.

    thank you and kind regards

    Rüdiger B. Richter

  2. Scarlett Virden
    09.16.2011

    I have my MSN and currently I am a nursing instructor, however, history in many areas, anchient foremost is a passionate interest of mine and instead of continuing a degree in nursing I would like to follow my interests. Would a science major like myself have a long way to go to get a doctorate in a history field?? Thank you for any help you have on this matter.

  3. Danyaya Shehu
    02.01.2015

    I read B.A. and M.A. History and I want enroll into phd prohramme in history. I will be glad to hear from you


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