An online master’s degree in history provides you with skills to work with historical documentation, as well as look at political and social trends. This online degree is also popular amongst professionals that want to pursue a doctoral degree and focus on a specialization. You may choose to earn an online history master’s degree to gain critical thinking, analytical, and research skills useful in many fields, including government, business, education, and law. Most master’s degrees in history can be completed in two years, although you may take longer if you enroll part-time.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for history-related jobs like anthropology or archaeology is projected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029.
This guide covers important information for anyone considering an affordable master’s in history, including common courses, concentrations, and prospective careers.
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Here’s What You Should Know About Earning an Online Master’s in History Degree
How much does an online masters in history degree program cost?
Costs vary depending on the type of school you apply to. State institutions are generally more affordable and may charge $300 or less per credit. Private colleges and universities may charge $500 or more per credit. Scholarships, fellowships, and federal grants or loans can impact the amount you pay for your graduate education.
What master’s degree can I get with a BA in history?
A general master’s-level program in history will prepare you to pursue a doctoral degree in a particular area of history, such as the history of 19th century America. A bachelor’s in history also provides a good foundation if you want to enroll in a J.D. degree or pursue a degree in government studies. You may also be well-prepared for a master’s degree in museum studies or curatorial and art historical work.
What can I do with a master’s degree in history?
A master’s degree in history prepares you for a broad range of professions. You may enjoy a career teaching history and social studies at the primary and secondary levels. You might become a historian or archivist, working for a museum or library that specializes in historical documents. You may also consider working for the government. A master’s degree in history can also be a gateway into the world of law, but you would need further study if you wished to become a lawyer.
How much can I make with an online masters in history?
Your salary will depend on the job you accept after receiving your degree. According to the BLS, the median salary for a historian is $63,100 annually. Archivists and museum curators earn a median pay of $52,140, while paralegals earn $52,920 a year. Educators, meanwhile, earn $60,660 at the elementary school level and $62,870 for teaching in a high school setting.
What is an Online Master’s in History Degree?
An online master’s in history degree will include foundational courses in the historical method and overviews of the world, European, and American history. More advanced courses will allow you to focus on an area that interests you, such as women’s history or the history of the Civil Rights era. Many programs require a thesis or practicum in an area of applied history.
Schools generally require you to earn between 27-46 credits for your degree. Studying full time, you may be able to earn your degree in less than two years. Part-time students may take four to five years to complete their degree. When you decide whether to go full or part-time, consider that you will need to spend about four hours a week for every credit hour you are taking.
Courses in an Online Master’s in History Program
The study of historical writing, this basic course will give you an overview on how to view sources critically and understand a period of history through primary and secondary sources. You will be challenged to analyze sources for accuracy and use them appropriately in research and writing.
This broad-ranging course introduces students to the span of history across the centuries and continents. Increasingly, global history courses focus on non-Western civilizations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
This discusses the history of Europe, reaching back as far as pre-historic times. Some European history courses may focus on a particular time or region, such as the history of the French Revolution or an overview of the British parliamentary system.
This covers U.S. history, beginning with the pre-colonial era. Colonial history, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and the history of slavery in America will be covered. Courses may include research and writing opportunities so you can focus on an area of interest.
Common Concentrations in a Master’s in History
The broad scope of the historical field allows for many possible concentrations. In most programs, you will take several basic courses and then have the option to choose an area of interest. Your program may culminate in a thesis or research paper that allows you to explore your chosen focus in-depth.
You may choose to focus on a particular country’s history, such as the history of the United States or Russia. This focus may be helpful to for teachers, especially those at the secondary level.
Focusing on a specific era is another popular option and includes the possibility of diving into the post-World War II era or the colonial era in South America. A focus on current events is a good option for anyone hoping to enter the world of government and politics.
You may also consider homing in on a particular topic in history, such as the past events of the environmental movement or military history. This option is well-suited for those who intend to pursue a career as a researcher or museum curator or those continuing with doctoral studies.
Online Master’s in History Admissions Requirements
Most programs require you to have a certain number of credits in history at the undergraduate level. Some, but not all, schools require you to have taken the GRE. The application process may include obtaining letters of recommendation, as well as a personal statement that indicates your reasons for wanting to attend the institution.
Admissions counselors will look at your undergraduate grades and may have a GPA cut-off of 2.5 or 3.0. You will need to submit transcripts and a resume or CV.
Career and Salary Outlook for History Graduates
Many history scholars work in museums and archives, where the median salary is $52,140, according to the BLS. Another popular area for those with a master’s degree in history is law, where they can earn a median pay of $52,920 as a paralegal, and $126,930 if they continue their studies to earn a J.D. degree.
If you become a teacher, expect to make a median salary between $60,000 and $62,000. Although most teaching jobs at the college level require a doctoral degree, you may find employment as a lecturer at a community college, which pays a median salary of $80,790 annually.
History majors are well-suited for jobs where critical thinking and writing skills are paramount. This includes positions in business and industry as well as more common areas of historical interest. Here are just a few job opportunities available for those with a master’s degree in history:
Writers: Writers work for clients who need press releases, speeches, web pages and other written material. The median salary of a writer is $67,120, but the profession is expected to shrink slightly, by 2%, over the next decade.
Political scientist: as a political scientist, you will earn a median pay of $125,350; the growth rate for the job is excellent, as it is expected to grow by 6% by 2029.
Public service: these positions include administrators for nonprofit organizations or government, political analysts, and advocacy experts. Salary varies greatly, with administrative professionals at the federal level, for example, earning $85,343 annually.
What Professional Organizations Are Available for History Graduates?
There are several major support organizations for history professionals.
American Historical Association
The American Historical Association advocates for history education and professional historians in any field. Paid membership earns you a discount on Oxford University Press books and other publications as well as access to grant programs and networking opportunities.
Organization of American Historians
The Organization of American Historians promotes excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history. Paid membership gives you access to job listings, teaching tools, and a periodic journal of history.
The National Council for History Education
The National Council for History Education focuses on educators in the field of history. There are multiple levels of paid membership, for which you receive the journal History Matters, discounted admission to museums and historic sites across the U.S., and access to archives that include a history-related curriculum.
Rankings of the Best Affordable Online Master’s in History Programs
The online master's in history program at Fort Hays State University requires learners to complete 30-33 credits at the 600 level or higher. Students explore American, world, and European history and gain skills in research, writing, and editing. History majors do not need to complete a thesis for the online MA. Required courses include historiography, advanced historical methods, and two seminars that require major research papers. Students also must pass an eight-hour written comprehensive exam and demonstrate their ability to conduct historical research by submitting their best graduate research paper to their graduate advisor. Admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree that includes 18 credits in history courses, including a historical research methods course.
Missouri State University's online history master's degree typically takes about two years to complete. The history department recommends that distance students begin the program in summer. Historiography and the historical method, the recommended first course for MA history students, is available online only in summer. Other available courses include American history readings seminar, women's history primary source seminar, and the American Revolution. Online student opportunities include participation in internships, a local chapter of the national history honor society, and an annual essay contest. Distance learners in the history MA program also may qualify for scholarships, grants, loans, and work study.
The 30-credit online master's in history degree from Arizona State University requires students to complete ten courses. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which offers the program, includes faculty members with Pulitzer Prizes, Nobel Laureates, and one MacArthur Fellow. Students take courses like oral history, comparative colonialism, genealogy, and global environmental history. The MA in history's selective admissions process requires applicants to hold a minimum 3.3 GPA and a bachelor's with at least 18 credits in history or other social science and humanities fields. Students also must submit a resume, statement of purpose, writing sample, and three references. Online history graduate students at ASU may qualify for numerous scholarship opportunities.
The MA in history from American Public University stands out from other history master's programs online because it lets you transfer up to 15 credits towards the 36-credit degree. Full-time students can finish the program in two years, with monthly start dates. Learners take core courses including historiography historical research methods, and must complete either a thesis or a practicum in applied history. Concentrations available include American history; European history; ancient and classical history; global history; and public history. Graduates of the program can assess primary and secondary resources, understand major historical theories, and make persuasive arguments.
The University of Nebraska's 36-credit online history master's degree includes both a thesis and a non-thesis option. Non-thesis students choose a major field of study in early America, modern America, early Europe, modern Europe, and public/digital history. They also take nine credits in a minor field of study, including American West, military history, and 20th century U.S. The graduate committee will consider other potential fields of study. Non-thesis students must complete a comprehensive academic portfolio that they submit in their last semester. The history department encourages students who complete a thesis to present their research at the Missouri Valley History Conference.
The University of North Alabama offers a 33-credit MA in history with a thesis or non-thesis option. Students who decide to complete a thesis take six credit hours to work on their thesis and must successfully defend it. Those who choose the non-thesis option take six credits of directed research and study must pass a comprehensive exam. Core courses of study in UNA's online master's in history program include seminars in U.S. history and world history. Highly qualified instructors teach in the program, which emphasizes U.S. history and prepare students to teach history at the secondary or higher level.
The online MA for professional history educators from the University of North Carolina Wilmington seeks to give graduates deep understandings of current research practices, historical content, and questions about historical problems. Applicants to the online master's in history must submit a 500-word application essay explaining the prospective student's love of history. History master's students at UNCW graduate in two years by taking two sequential courses each semester and attending two one-week on-campus summer institutes. Full-time UNCW faculty members with extensive experience teach all courses in the program. Rather than completing a thesis, students end their time in the program with a capstone experience.
Students can complete the 30-36 credit MA in history from Sam Houston State University entirely online or as a hybrid online and in-person program. The program offers two culminating projects for learners to choose from: a thesis or written portfolio option. Courses available include recent African American history, the American West, and early modern Europe. History master's students choose to pursue one of three tracks: rights and identity; war and violence; and encounters and exchanges. Graduates gain analytical, reading, and critical thinking skills. SHSU accepts applications to the online history master's degree program on a rolling basis, with three starts times each year: fall, summer, and spring.
The online master's in history from Indiana State University requires students to take 33 credits. Part-time learners typically complete the degree in three to five years, but can take as long as seven years. Students who can blend online and in-person courses can finish in as little as two years. The flexible curriculum lets learners customize their course of study to reflect their own personal academic interests. The program strongly encourages the MA in history for individuals planning to earn their history doctorate at ISU. Students interested in pursuing professional career in history in areas like law, high school teaching, journalism, and government may want to consider ISU's online master's of science in history.
Pittsburgh State University's online history master's degree prepares graduates to teach history and gives them research skills applicable to a wide range of professional and academic situations. The History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences Department, which offers the degree, encourages students to take a multi-disciplinary approach, exploring other fields as they relate to students' specific research interests. For their culminating experience, students can complete a thesis or pass two graduate seminars in history. The thesis option takes 30 credits and the seminar option 32. Pitt State offers a variety of scholarships and other types of financial assistance to students.
Prospective history Ph.D.s, secondary teachers, and individuals interested in careers in public history graduate from the online master's in history program from Emporia State University. MA students at Emporia explore three facets of history: factual knowledge, historiography, and methodology. Available part-time or full-time, the program includes three concentrations: thesis, non-thesis, and social sciences education. Students can apply some credits from the history MA towards a master's in library science, to earn a dual degree. Emporia also encourages history MA students to add a certificate in archival studies to their degree. Full-time students able to come to Emporia's campus during spring and fall semesters can apply for graduate teaching assistantships.
Liberty University, a private, Christian university in Virginia, offers a 36-credit online history master's degree. The MA takes full-time students about one-and-a-half years to complete. The 100% online program features eight-week courses, and learners can transfer up to 50% of credits needed to graduate with the MA. Faculty members give online students one-on-one attention and provide mentorship. Courses available include historical methods and interpretations; history of slavery and servitude in the western world; and Protestant reformation. The program helps students understand history using theoretical, historiographical, and methodological perspectives. The program also incorporates an understanding of historical events as part of God's plan.
The 30-credit online master's in history from the University of Louisiana at Monroe does not require students to complete a thesis. The program's focus includes politics, law, and citizenship. Prospective students must earn a combined score of at least 283 on the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE) general test; hold a minimum 2.5 GPA; and a minimum 707.5 formula score (calculated by multiplying GRE score by GPA). They also need a bachelor's degree with at least 18 credits in the humanities or social sciences, with at least half of those in history. Some applicants who do not meet the admissions criteria may receive conditional admission.
The University of Memphis offers a 33-credit online master's in history that includes a thesis option, typically for students who plan to pursue a doctorate. Learners who view the history MA as a terminal degree usually elect the non-thesis option. Students take classes such as U.S. historiography since 1877, studies in African American history, and Russia after 1917. Online history MA students complete a written comprehensive exam rather than an oral one that on-campus learners must pass. Students can transfer up to 50% of the required credits from another university towards the MA in history.
The online history master's degree at Southwestern Assemblies of God University includes three tracks: thesis, non-thesis, or education. The program explores issues like American history, historiography, biblical backgrounds, military history, religion in America, and Medieval history. New history master's students qualify for a 15% tuition grant renewable for each year you remain in the program. Small classes allow learners one-on-one interaction with instructors. As a Christian university, SAGU incorporates a Christian worldview into the history MA's curriculum and hopes to increase students' faith. Distance students can take advantage of all the resources available to students on campus, including a career center, counseling center, and wellness center.
Western Kentucky University's 36-credit online master's in history does not require learners to complete a thesis. Courses offered on a rotating basis allow students to finish the MA in three years. Courses available include historiography, non-western world, and pre-Civil War United States. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university with at least 18 credits in history and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students also need to receive a score of at least 153 on the verbal reasoning section of the Graduate Requisite Exam. The program accepts new learners twice a year, in the fall and spring.
Wayland Baptist University, a private school affiliated with the Baptist Church and located in Plainview, Texas, offers an online history master's degree that lets learners explore historical events from a variety of different eras. The program includes the opportunity to complete a thesis. Students with graduate credits from another school may be able to transfer some of their credits to the MA. WBU offers the MA 100% online, with no in-person requirements. History MA students enroll in eleven-week courses, four times a year. Distance learners can apply for a variety of different types of financial support, including loans, scholarships, and grants. WBU's financial aid specialists help students figure out which programs they qualify for.
The 30-credit online master's in history at Slippery Rocky University focuses on advanced exploration of U.S., European, and world history. All faculty members who teach distance education courses hold doctoral degree in history. As part of the application process, prospective students must write an essay explaining how the past influences the present. All students must take a three-credit historiography class. Other available courses include Colonial America: 1607-1763, Hispanic American history to 1815, and women in history. All history MA students must pass a comprehensive exam. Graduates go on to pursue doctoral degrees in history and find employment in a variety of fields, including government, law, education, and the military.
The University of Massachusetts – Amherst offers a 30-credit online master's in history that includes supervised research, writing projects, and both required and elective history courses. Tenure-stream history faculty members teach all online MA history courses. UMass Amherst's history MA focuses on modern American and European history. Secondary school teachers looking to expand their content knowledge in the field of history pursue the MA, as do college graduates considering Ph.D. programs or those who may be considering education or work in a variety of other fields. Students take courses like research methods, introduction to historiography, and history electives, but spend a large part of their time planning for, researching, and writing a thesis.
The online history master's degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts – Boston includes courses covering special topics in history, like genealogy and family research; the international history of a revolutionary idea; and Islam and historical study. The program appeals to students with a wide variety of academic interest and takes a broad approach. Students must complete a thesis, and take nine credits devoted to planning for and writing it. The 30-credit degree program requires learners to read about 250-300 pages a week and write 25 pages each semester. Students complete all coursework 100% online, with no in-person requirements.
Mary Van Keuren
Mary Van Keuren is a contributing writer who covers higher education, online graduate programs, college planning, and more for Grad School Hub. Her writing has also appeared in MSN, Bankrate, and NextAdvisor.com.