Historians play a vital role in keeping stories and lessons from the past alive. In fact, many historians also uncover new truths about important figures and events. Individuals with a passion for preserving the past might consider earning a history degree.
Some of the highest paying jobs in this field require a graduate degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports historians typically need at least a master's degree to practice. BLS data show these individuals earn a median annual salary of $63,100. The BLS projects the need for this career to grow 3% between 2019-2029.
Online history master's degrees take full-time learners about two years and part-time learners about four years to complete. Keep reading to learn about the top master's-level online history degrees, outlook for history degree jobs, and scholarships for history majors.
Question to Further Education as a History Major
Q. How much do historians make?
According to the BLS, historians earn a median $63,100 annually. Factors such as years of experience, employer type, and location impact pay.
Q. Is a history degree worth it?
Historians earn more than the median annual wage for all occupations, $41,950. Individuals who love history typically find earning a history degree worth it from a salary and job satisfaction perspective.
Q. What can you do with a history degree?
History degree jobs for individuals with an advanced degree include historians for museums or the local government. Other historians become teachers or professors.
Q. Is there a demand for historians?
The BLS projects the need for historians to grow 3% between 2019-2029, as fast as average for all occupations.
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Why Get a Degree in History?
Individuals can benefit from earning a history degree in many ways. Choosing a personally interesting major may lead to higher job satisfaction. A history master's degree gives individuals more freedom in job choices by qualifying them for various careers. Some historians may enjoy working as a teacher or professor with summers off. Others may find higher job satisfaction working at a museum.
Pursuing an online history degree comes with additional benefits. Flexible online learning allows students to continue working while they study. Online learners typically avoid paying extra student activity fees, room and board charges, and commuting costs. In the next section, we discuss an online history degree's price more in depth.
How Much Does a History Degree Cost?
National Center for Education Statistics data show average graduate tuition and required fees totaled $19,314 for the 2018-19 school year. However, tuition at public schools during the same period cost much less at $12,171. While accredited public institutions typically feature larger class sizes, students still acquire quality education from these schools.
As mentioned in the previous section, an online history degree may cost less than an in-person degree. Some colleges and universities charge a lower tuition rate for distance courses. Additionally, relocating for college costs a significant amount of money.
History degrees do not typically require lab fees except for concentrations or minors in topics like archeology. Online learners mainly need to budget for wifi, a reliable laptop, and textbooks to complete their studies.
Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.
How Much Do History Majors Make?
The exact salary for history majors varies based on multiple factors, but the BLS gives a baseline. The median pay for history majors measures at $63,100, but this exact figure fluctuates. The lowest 10% of earners receive median annual salaries under $29,540, while the highest 10% benefit from yearly salaries over $116,340.
Earning an advanced degree like a master's or doctorate qualifies historians for higher-paying history degree jobs. The same goes for pursuing certificates and licenses. To learn how employer type and job location impact salary, consider looking at current job postings. For example, a government job in a large east coast city may pay more than a midwest education job.
Years of experience significantly impacts pay. February 2021 PayScale data reports historians with 1-4 years of experience earning an average total compensation around $44,000. Professionals in the same field with more than 20 years of experience report an average salary of about $75,000.
Courses in History
The exact curriculum for history majors varies because history covers a vast array of topics. Many schools allow learners to select a concentration or minor to become an expert in a specific history topic. Most online history master's degrees require a thesis to prove a historical theory or contribute new research. A thesis takes several semesters to write, and a board of professors typically reviews the writing to determine a pass or fail.
Through their studies, history majors hone their critical thinking, writing, and research skills. In this section, we highlight three example courses often included in an online history degree.
A Critical Discussion of the United States Before 1776The course goes beyond a typical undergraduate U.S. history course. In the class, students analyze the historical events that led to the nation's independence and government formation. Learners discuss these events' modern implications and read primary sources. The primary sources include personal journals and papers written in the 1700s.
A Critical Discussion of World HistoryAn online history degree typically requires multiple courses on world history. A world history course may focus on one region or topic, like European history or the history of governments worldwide. Regardless of the specific topic, a master's course goes beyond teaching basic facts such as dates and names. This class requires learners to think critically about past events and even question the accuracy of some statements.
History's Methods and PhilosophyHistorians often contest other professionals' claims to arrive at accurate accounts of past events. This course prepares the next generation of historians to think critically about claims using a series of methods. Learners engage in discussions about the philosophy of why historians interpret and investigate the past.
Certifications and Licensure for History
Historians often pursue certifications and licensure to demonstrate their expertise or pursue raises. These achievements typically require on-the-job experience and a series of tests. Unlike an academic certificate, a certification does not require traditional coursework including essays or class discussions. Below, we highlight three common certifications and licenses for historical professionals.
Historians spend much of their time researching and uncovering facts about the past. Earning this certification demonstrates a dedication to the research practice. To qualify, individuals must complete 12 education credits and an exam. The certification granting organization provides an online prep course for the test.
The Academy of Certified Archivists oversees this certification. Individuals who become certified archivists know how to preserve, protect, and maintain access to primary historical sources. Before taking the exam, applicants must earn a master's degree plus nine graduate hours of archival science courses. The certification also requires 1-2 years of professional experience.
Individuals who love helping people uncover details about their family tree should consider becoming a certified genealogist. To qualify, applicants must submit work samples in a portfolio. A board then judges the submission's quality based on research, writing, and documentation standards.
Scholarships for History
Scholarships make pursuing an online history degree more affordable. However, scholarships usually feature competitive applicant pools. To increase chances of earning one, students should focus their search on awards for graduate history students. To aid in the search, we highlight three scholarships and the corresponding qualifications below.
Online Master's in History Programs 2021
Sam Houston State University
Named for a prominent American soldier and politician who played an important role in Texas' history, Sam Houston State University offers a Master of Arts in history program, which may be earned entirely or partially online. Students may opt not to complete a thesis and defend portfolios of written work instead (upon approval from a department chair). This 30- to 36-hour program may be completed in 1 of 3 educational tracks: rights and identity, war and violence or encounters and exchanges. To apply, a prospective student should submit the application and fee with transcripts of all college-level work, GRE scores, 2 letters of recommendation, an academic writing sample and a statement of intent, which will act as the cover letter. Online students may benefit from lower tuition costs than on-campus students, due to a lack of required fees. Once enrolled, these students also receive access to SHSU Online's Student Central, an online campus community that offers peer connection, information and advice about online learning. Other resources that may help online students at SHSU include career services, the writing center, the math center, online tutoring, degree planning and student mentoring.
Missouri State University
At Missouri State University, students interested in graduate-level history studies may complete their Master of Arts in history degrees online. The program enables students to concentrate in U.S. history, U.S. and world, or a specific global area (such as Europe). The program is designed to be flexible, with options to add a secondary education sub-track (for students looking to teach history at the high-school level), to do a thesis or not, to do a traditional or accelerated degree path and to complete the degree partially or fully online. M.A. students studying history also are highly encouraged to become proficient in a foreign language, and some advisers may require it. Interested prospective students must show evidence of bachelor's degrees with cumulative GPAs of at least 2.75. In lieu of this GPA, students with lower GPAs may have the option to submit GRE scores along with written recommendations from the Missouri State University history department head and the dean of the college. Online students do benefit from reduced tuition, with the average online tuition being more than $1,000 less than in-state, on-campus students, due to the lack of required student fees. Numerous student services are available to online students, include academic planning help, thesis resources, career counseling and tutoring.
The online Master of Arts in history at Jackson State University can be completed with or without a thesis, in 1 of 3 concentrations: global, U.S. or African diaspora history. The 36-credit-hour program includes 30 hours of coursework, 6 hours of research and a thesis, or for the non-thesis option students complete 33 hours of coursework, 3 hours of research and a research project. A competency exam must be successfully completed in the first semester as well. To apply, an interested student must submit, along with the application, 2 official copies of transcripts from each college attended showing a GPA of 3.0 or higher, immunization records, 3 letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and a writing sample. New online students take an online student orientation that familiarizes them with the online platform. A wealth of online library tools and online tutorials about various software applications are available to online students as well.
University of Nebraska at Kearney
At the University of Nebraska Kearney, students have the option to complete their Master of Arts in history online. This 36-credit-hour program offers flexibility: the choice to complete the degree with or without a master's thesis and fully or partially online. A public history track is also available. Students wishing to enter the program must have bachelor's degrees and at least 18 hours of college-level history coursework, as well as undergraduate GPAs of at least 3.25 (or, if lower, GRE scores). Additional admissions requirements include a letter of intent, a writing sample and 2 letters of recommendation. While enrolled, students must maintain GPAs of at least 3.0 in order to complete their degrees successfully. Students opting to complete the non-thesis program must compile academic portfolios and maintain GPAs of at least 3.5 in at least 12 credit hours. Online students may benefit from a number of resources designed to help students, including online video tutorials, online library tools, career services and test proctoring.
Wayland Baptist University
Wayland Baptist University is a private, Christian institution that offers students interested in studying history at the graduate level a Master of Arts in history degree fully online. This 37-credit program features courses in U.S., British and world history as well as special topics such as World War I, World War II, the American West of the history of Latin America. Students may opt to complete a thesis or take 2 additional subject area courses. All students must pass a comprehensive exam to earn their degrees. With 4 terms in each year, classes are each 11 weeks long. Prospective students may earn college credit for work experience or professional training. Applications must be accompanied by official transcripts showing GPAs of at least 3.0, in which case admission is automatic. With a GPA of 2.7 to 2.99, transcripts must be accompanied by a writing sample; for 2.5-2.699, the writing sample and an interview are required and admission is probationary. WBU students have access to career services, counseling, tutoring and a number of other valuable student resources.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University
Southwestern Assemblies of God University offers online learners the option of studying history at the graduate level. The master's degree in history can be earned either through a 30-credit-hour thesis or nonthesis option, or students may opt to complete an education track for 33 credit hours, with its emphasis on secondary education. The program doesn't provide teaching certifications; the necessary courses to do so must be taken in addition to the master's in history program. Both the thesis and non-thesis options include research components, but the non-thesis students complete research projects in lieu of their theses. All of SAGU's programs are delivered in the context of the Christian bible, and applicants must show evidence, through a minister's recommendation, of having a born again Christian experience in accordance with scriptures. Additional admission materials include official transcripts showing a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5, a recommendation from a college faculty member or administrator and GRE scores of 150 on verbal and 3.5 on analytical writing. Applicants also must have credit for 12 or more semester hours of upper-level undergraduate history under their belts. Once enrolled, SAGU students gain access to such resources as the career center, the on-campus wellness center and counseling.
Students at Indiana State University who are interested in history may earn a fully online Master of Arts in history, which is primarily intended for future doctoral-degree candidates, or a fully online Master of Science in history, a more professional-oriented program designed to prepare students for work as historians, educators, archivists, curators or even writers. In either the M.A. or M.S., students may select a concentration in U.S., European or world history. Both 33-credit degrees can typically be completed in 3-5 years. The program is closed to students outside the U.S. and Canada except for certain military personnel and their families. Applicants must hold undergraduate degrees in history or related disciplines, with GPAs of at least 2.7 (and 3.0 in the last 60 hours of undergraduate work). GRE scores are also required for admission. Online learners receive support from the Student Services Concierge, which provides advice and guidance on academic matters, as well as from the career center, distance learning library tools, online time-management tools, distance education newsletters and a math and writing center.
University of North Alabama
University of North Alabama offers a fully online Master of Arts in history with the option to earn the degree with or without a thesis. Students must select their preferred options by their second semesters, and those in the non-thesis program must successfully complete a comprehensive exam. This 33-credit-hour M.A. program is designed to be completed, with full-time study, in 2 years. Though it's a generalist program, courses emphasize U.S. history, and the degree can prepare students to teach secondary-school history, pursue doctoral-level study or enter professions in law, government, education, journalism or other fields complemented by a foundation in history. Applicants must show GPAs of at least 2.75 from their completed bachelor's programs, as well as satisfactory GRE scores, 3 recommendations, a short essay and a writing sample of at least 4 pages. Online students benefit from paying in-state tuition. Students gain access to resources including tutoring, study help and writing and math assistance.
University of North Carolina Wilmington
The online Master of Arts for history educators at the University of North Carolina Wilmington is specifically designed to train professional history teachers by providing them with the opportunity to conduct advanced history studies, an understanding of the latest research methods for historians and preparation in the most current teaching practices for the teaching of history. This program is designed to be taken year round, so that students can complete their degrees in 2 years. Students take 2 fully online courses during each of their 4 semesters, but they are required to take part in 2 on-campus summer institutes of 1 week each. The online courses are taught asynchronously, so there's no requirement to log on at any particular time in order to complete assignments. The program culminates in a capstone experience, during which students participate in hands-on applications of learning they've accumulated in teaching situations, as well as produce historiographic essays and successfully complete comprehensive exams covering program content. Professional educators in North Carolina are the preferred candidates for this program. To apply, prospective students must submit, with their applications, transcripts, GRE scores, 3 recommendations (2 from academics), a 500-word essay and a writing sample (a research paper is preferred). Online students at UNC Wilmington can access online training videos on a variety of topics, as well as the career center, academic support services such as a math lab and peer study sessions, tutoring and writing help.
Western Kentucky University
Bowling Green, KY
At Western Kentucky University, an aspiring history teacher or doctoral-level historian can begin those career paths by earning a Master of Arts in history. A traditional, on-campus, thesis-required degree program is available, but for those interested in completing this degree online, a non-thesis, online version is offered at WKU. This online program is structured so that classes take place throughout the year on a rotating basis, thus students may be able to complete their 36 hours of coursework and earn their degrees in 3 years. Students must take 3 hours of historiography, plus 12 hours (4 courses) in a concentration area and 21 hours of electives, as well as demonstrate competency in a research tool, which may include foreign language proficiency. A prospective student must possess a bachelor's degree and, with the application and fee, submit transcripts showing at least 18 undergraduate credit hours of history with a minimum GPA of 3.0, as well as a personal statement, a sample research paper and a GRE showing at least a 500 (pre-2011) or 153 (post-2011) verbal reasoning score. Online students have access to such resources as an online math lab, online writing lab, an online presentation coaching center and its Coaching for Academic Readiness Excellent & Success (CARES) resources. Through CARES, students sign up with coaches to develop personalized learning plans that address challenges such as time management and academics, and the coaches motivate and support students.
The fully online Master of Arts in History program from the University of Memphis's U of M Global division is available in both thesis and non-thesis formats. U of M recommends that students who intend to pursue a doctoral degree and a career in advanced research or teaching at the university level choose the thesis option. Students intending the MA in History as their terminal degree most often choose the non-thesis option. Non-thesis students pursue careers as secondary or community college teachers, or in positions with private companies, nonprofit organizations or government agencies. Both degree options require 33 credit hours of coursework, which can be completed in 2 academic years. However, part-time study with a longer completion time is permitted. Admission into the program requires a bachelor's degree with at least 18 credit hours of history coursework earned with a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 or better. U of M determines admission based on an evaluation of several factors, including the nature of undergraduate coursework, standardized test (GRE or MAT) scores, a personal statement, a writing sample and recommendations. All U of M History graduate students are eligible for a wide range of support services, including comprehensive academic advisement, career counseling, graduate school workshops and access to additional professional development opportunities. Distance learners also have access to the extensive resources of the U of M University Libraries system.
Pittsburg State University
Pittsburgh State University's 100% online Master of Arts in History program provides individuals with solid research and investigative skills applicable to a broad range of professional and academic careers, including as history teachers. It also lays the foundation for continued doctorate-level academic pursuits. PSU's MA in History degree is available in 2 options. The Thesis option is strongly recommended for students intending to pursue a doctorate program, as it provides excellent preparation for researching and writing a dissertation. Thesis students must complete 30 credit hours of coursework to earn their degrees. The Seminar option requires passing 2 graduate seminars in history and completion of 1 of 3 track choices: a curricular project, including annotated bibliography and classroom materials; presentation of 2 revised and expanded seminar papers; or taking and passing a comprehensive exam covering a broad historical field. Admission into the degree program is determined by an evaluation of the applicant's academic background and experience. Applicants with a strong background in history may be admitted unconditionally, while students with an undergraduate GPA below 3.0 on history courses or less than 24 credit hours of undergraduate history coursework may be admitted conditionally and required to complete additional undergraduate coursework or meet certain other conditions set by the History Graduate Faculty.
Louisiana Tech University
Students interested in pursuing careers as secondary social studies teachers or continuing their academic studies into doctoral programs may want to consider the Master of Arts in History offered by Louisiana Tech University. LTU's MA in History degree program is offered with both thesis and non-thesis options. The thesis option is recommended for students intending to continue their academic studies after obtaining their MA degree. Thesis students are required to complete a total of 30 credit hours of graduate work, 6 hours of which are devoted to thesis completion. The non-thesis option is intended primarily for students not anticipating doctoral-level studies. Non-thesis students are also required to complete 30 credit hours of coursework, submitting a minimum of 2 substantial research papers in lieu of a thesis. The program can be completed entirely online. Admissions criteria for LTU's online MA in History program include a bachelor's degree with a major in history or the equivalent of a history minor (or 21 credit hours of history undergraduate coursework). Applicants must also submit a statement of purpose describing areas of interest and study objectives. Support resources for LTU distance learners include career advisement and job search assistance through the Career Center and access to databases, articles, journals, books and more via the Prescott Memorial Library's online portal.
University of Louisiana at Monroe
The University of Louisiana at Monroe's 30-credit-hour, non-thesis Master of Arts in History degree features coursework covering a broad base of U.S., European and world history topics, as well as the history of Louisiana and the South. Students receive valuable knowledge and skills applicable to careers in fields such as law, government, politics and education, and are prepared to continue on to doctorate-level studies. All coursework for this degree can be completed entirely online. Applicants to ULM's MA in History must possess a bachelor's degree earned with an overall GPA of 2.5 or better and including a minimum of 18 credit hours of humanities and/or social science coursework (at least half of which must be in the field of history). Other requirements include a minimum combined GRE score of 283 and minimum formula (GPA X GRE) score of 707.50. Applicants not meeting these requirements may still be admitted on conditional status. Support services for ULM distance students include IT assistance from the Office of Information Technology, career counseling through the Office of Career Connections and access to books, journals, databases and other research resources through ULM's University Library.
The Master of Arts in History degree offered by Emporia State University is designed for students interested in the study of U.S. history from the colonial period to present day. Graduates with this degree often continue on with their studies to earn a doctorate degree or seek out careers as museum curators, community college instructors, historical site directors and in other related professional positions. Admissions requirements for ESU's MA in History online program include a bachelor's degree earned with an overall GPA of 3.0 or better and at least 12 hours of history coursework (also earned with a 3.0 GPA). Applicants must additionally submit a writing sample, statement of purpose and 2 letters of recommendation. The program is available in both thesis and non-thesis formats, as well as with the recently added Social Sciences Education concentration that emphasizes mastery of social sciences teaching methods within the professional educational context. The concentration, however, is not a licensure program. Students have the option of full-time or part-time study, and all courses are available in an online format, meaning the degree can be earned 100% online without any limitations on course choice. Distance learners have access to the extensive research resources of ESU's University Library & Archives system. Other student support services include career counseling, laboratories and tutoring (reading, writing, mathematics) services and IT assistance.
Slippery Rock University
Slippery Rock, PA
Slippery Rock University's 30-credit-hour Master of Arts in History program offers advanced study of European, U.S. and world history delivered in a 100% online format. Graduates may go on to careers in government, the law, the military, private businesses and nonprofit organizations. Graduates are also qualified to continue their studies in a doctoral program. Admission into the program requires a bachelor's degree earned with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. Applicants must also submit a 1-page essay on a student-selected current event that analyzes how the past influences the present as it relates to the event. Slippery Rock's MA in History program is designed to be completed with 24 months of full-time study. However, working students wishing to pursue their degree on a part-time basis may do so. Pass/fail comprehensive written exams are available in 3 geographic areas once students have completed 21 credit hours of coursework. Distance learners at Slippery Rock enjoy a number of support services, including academic advisement, career education and development (for both current students and alumni), and research assistance.