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PhD in American History: Degree and Program Overview

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs in American history emphasize historical research. Coursework features advanced study of major historical issues, and students write a dissertation on a highly specialized topic.

Essential Information

PhD programs in American history allow students to examine several historical periods, such as early American history or the Civil War. Additionally, many programs examine the ways in which American history is in dialogue with the history of the Americas, Europe, and non-western civilizations. Some feature interdisciplinary options in sociology, American and European literature, Judaic studies, and political science. These programs can prepare graduates for careers in academia and research.


Doctor of Philosophy in American History

Doctoral programs in this field train students as historical researchers and writers whose particular focus area is the cultural, economic, political, and military history of the U.S. Students can examine specific issues, such as the slave trade in the Americas, the American Revolution, early U.S. history, and cultural history.

Qualifying examinations and a dissertation is required during the latter years of a program. Most programs require students to demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. Teaching assistantships may be available or even required at some institutions. Applicants must have letters of recommendation and at least a bachelor's degree. Some programs instead require a master's degree in history, while others allow PhD candidates to earn their master's in history along the way.

Elective course topics allow students to explore specific areas of interest, such as Euro-American history or African American history. Course topics can include:

  • Early American history
  • Global perspectives on American history
  • Historiography
  • The Progressive Era
  • World history
  • Sexuality history

Popular Career Options

PhD programs train students for careers in academia and research. Graduates may primarily work at postsecondary institutions, but they can also find work in governmental agencies and at private and public organizations.

Students interested in an intensive career focused on American history should consider applying to an American history PhD program. These programs will allow students to specialize in specific aspects of American history based on their interests and preferences.

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