A master’s degree in history is a surprisingly versatile investment. While many graduates become educators and researchers, there is a wide range of career opportunities—degree holders also become journalists, documentary editors, and librarians. But as surprising as this may be to some, a deeper look reveals that it shouldn’t be. After all, at their core graduate programs in history provide intensive training in research and critical analysis which are skills with wide reaching applications.
To be more specific, students can expect advanced courses on historical periods and events. During the courses, students learn to situate and analyze social and political context and to develop conclusions that shape our understanding of history. The resulting conclusions help us to understand the historical frameworks that continue to shape contemporary perspectives. Underlying the material is a focus on identifying complex patterns and communicating clear interpretations—a skill that has far reaching practicality.
It’s no secret that a knowledge of history is essential to the progression of society. The research and communication skills students gain from graduate programs in history make this statement more true than ever. In short, a program in history opens the opportunity to fulfilling and culturally significant careers.
What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in History Program?
An online master’s degree in history provides students with the opportunity to seek higher-paying or more complex jobs in their fields. Students who complete these programs may work as educators in high schools or colleges, museum curators, archivists or cultural resource managers, for example. Online programs provide the same professional, quality education that on-campus programs do, and the flexibility of distance learning makes it possible for those with existing careers to step forward into new opportunities or make a change while continuing to fulfill work and other obligations. When you’re enrolling in a master’s in history program, it’s important to consider all your options to find an online degree program that meets your unique needs.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in History
|CONCENTRATION||DESCRIPTION||POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR|
|European History||A concentration on histories of nations in Europe and historical events relevant to that part of the world.||Educator at the college or high school level, researcher, writer, documentary editor, archivist, information manager, museum curator|
|U.S. History||A concentration on the history of the United States.||Educator at the college or high school level, researcher, writer, documentary editor, archivist, information manager, museum curator|
|Global History||A broader approach to history from a global perspective.||Educator at the college or high school level, researcher, writer, documentary editor, archivist, information manager, museum curator|
|Public History||Education that concentrates on how historical information is prepared for, distributed to and consumed by the public.||Government historian, curator, historical interpreter, museum director, cultural resource manager, consultant|
Curriculum for an Online Master’s in History
Specific classes for any online master’s in history program depend on your concentration. Someone concentrating in American history may take courses on early Americana, the Revolution, the Civil War, Manifest Destiny and America’s role in the World Wars. Someone concentrating in European history would take courses relevant to that part of the world, though they may cover the same time periods.
In addition to classes that cover specific historical events and people relevant to your concentration, coursework may include:
|Historical Methods||approaches to discovering and understanding history.|
|Archiving||Examines ways to archive and manage manuscripts and other data.|
|Document Protection||Prepares students to work with ancient and historical texts and protect those documents from damage.|
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in History?
The total time you spend in an online master’s degree in history program depends on a variety of factors, including the school itself, the type of program, whether you attend full- or part-time and how many credits you can transfer in. Some online programs let you transfer as many as 50 percent of your master’s credits in, which can substantially reduce the time it takes to earn your degree if you have made previous attempts in another program.
Accelerated full-time master’s of history programs can take as little as 15 months to complete. Some programs take two years at a full-time pace, especially if you select a cohort model. Programs that follow a cohort model allow admissions only once or twice a year; admitted students all follow the same curriculum together throughout the degree. Other programs let you learn at your own pace and accept admissions multiple times a year, which can allow for a faster pace.
Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in History Prepares For
|History Teacher||While you typically don’t need a master’s in history to earn a teaching certificate or license in each state, students who combine their education with student teaching or other relevant coursework can take the Praxis Series competency exams in most states to become a certified history teacher.|
|Museum Certification||Individuals who wish to work in small museums can seek a certificate through the American Association for State and Local History. This involves completing online courses via the association.|
|Archivist Certification||If you want to work in document and archive management, the Academy of Certified Archivists offers a certification exam. A master’s degree is a prerequisite of this exam.|
Accreditation for Online Master’s in History Degrees
An important consideration with choosing any online degree program is accreditation. Accredited programs are typically seen as more important or professional by employers. This is because the accrediting agency conducts a full review of the program, including the type of coursework, what’s required of students and the experience and capability of the faculty. Employers can be more certain that students in accredited programs have been held to appropriate standards and have completed a rigorous program of study.
What type of accreditation a program has depends in part on the school. Public nonprofit schools typically hold a regional accreditation, for example, while their private brethren may hold a national accreditation. To understand whether a degree program is accredited, you can check the databases of the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Employment Outlook for Master’s in History Graduates
Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s
Individuals with a master’s in history enter into a growing workforce that needs qualified, educated candidates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job market for postsecondary teachers will grow by 15 percent through 2026 and the market for museum curators and archivists will grow by 13 percent. The BLS also reports that, at minimum, successful applicants for these fields must have a master’s degree.
When you consider that the BLS only expects the number of high school teaching jobs (for which you only need a bachelor’s degree) to grow by 8 percent in the same time period, you can see how a master’s degree expands your potential job opportunities.
A master’s degree in history improves your chances at earning a higher salary. Where you work — both geographically and the type of employer — can make a big difference in annual salary. As you can see below, working for the federal government, colleges or organizations that conduct scientific research tends to bring salary opportunities up. At the same time, these are competitive positions, so your master’s degree may give you an edge during the application process.
Industry Specific Annual Mean Wages for Historians
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Geographical location also plays a role in salary. Consider this map, which provide the mean annual pay for postsecondary history teachers nationwide. Blank states indicate information was not available.
Postsecondary History Teacher Mean Wages by State
Figures in US Dollars per year
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Individuals with master’s in history degrees can pursue a variety of unique and exciting careers. Depending on your concentration, you may work for historical organizations, schools or public programs.
|JOB TITLE||JOB DESCRIPTION||MEDIAN SALARY||PROJECTED GROWTH RATE|
|Archivist||Archivists work with historically valuable or public documents, processing, curating (cataloging) and preserving them. They may be called upon to assist in research when these documents are involved.||$47,360 per year||13%|
|Curators||Curators oversee collections within a museum or other facility environment. They may be tasked with appropriately adding to collections or managing technicians and conservators, who prepare items for display.||$47,360 per year||13%|
|Postsecondary teachers||Postsecondary teachers provide instruction in universities and colleges. Individuals with master’s degrees typically teach lower-level courses or work in conjunction with PhD staff..||$76,000 per year||15%|
|Historians||Historians work in a variety of industries to analyze and research the past and present it in writing or other format to others.||$59,120 per year||6%|
Professional organizations make it possible for you to network with other individuals in your industry, expanding job and continuing education opportunities. Individuals with a master’s in history can choose from a number of professional organizations, including those below:
The National Council on Public History: This organization works to build community among histories and provide resources that make collaboration in public history possible. Members have access to educational resources, including workshops and career support.
The Organization of American Historians: Membership in the OAH provides a number of benefits to qualified individuals, including access to professional discounts and publications in your field. You can also choose to participate in the Trust for Insuring Educators as a way to save on vehicle, life and other types of insurance.
Financing Your Online Master’s in History
Online master’s degree programs are often more affordable than on-campus programs, and individuals may be able to transfer existing credits or take accelerated coursework to save even more money. Even so, many individuals still require assistance in covering the total cost of a graduate education. The first step you should take in seeking any type of financial aid for college is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This process helps you learn about and qualify for many federal grants, loans and other financial aid options. However, private grants and scholarships are also available to individuals who are seeking additional education. Check out some of the resources below to find out more.
Roosevelt Archival Internships
Undergraduate or graduate student with basic research skills and knowledge of programs such as Word and Access. Preference given to history, political science, archival and library majors. Must be able to perform six- to seven-week summer internship.
ISI Henry Salvatori Fellowship
Eligibility: Must be a member of the Intercollegiate Students Institute, engaged in grad studies, plan to teach history at a college level, be a U.S. citizen and be a full-time grad student. An essay is required.
IHS Humane Studies Fellowship
Eligibility: Graduate students who are alumni of IHS programs and events.