PhD in History Program Information

Read about various types of doctoral degree programs in history. Find out what specializations are available, check the educational prerequisites for each program, and explore what topics are likely to be discussed. Career options for graduates are also listed.

Essential Information

Ph.D. programs in history are available in a variety of specializations. Typically, students focus on either a geographic region, such as the Middle East, or a time period, such as medieval history. Courses can explore the literature, politics, language and art of each area or era. While history Ph.D. programs are most commonly pursued with teaching in mind, certain specializations are relevant to other career fields in both the public and private sectors. Graduates might seek work in museums, libraries or nonprofit organizations.

Ph.D. in United States History

United States history doctoral degree programs offer students the opportunity to become experts in the breadth of American culture, history and society. Students are also trained as critical thinkers, researchers and writers as they work towards completing their doctoral dissertation.

Educational Prerequisites

United States history Ph.D. programs require applicants to possess at least a bachelor's degree or the equivalent. Some programs require applicants to possess a master's degree in history. The submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores is typically required.

Program Coursework

Courses in United States history Ph.D. programs cover cultural trends and political history, along with how United States history has be shaped by or affected various groups, such as Native Americans or women.

  • Literature in American history
  • United States politics
  • American women's history
  • African American history
  • Native American history
  • Social politics in the United States
  • United States Civil War
  • Colonial America

Popular Career Options

While teaching is the most popular reason for pursuing a Ph.D. in United States history, graduates of these programs are qualified for a variety of careers that draw upon their advanced understanding of the country and strong communication skills.

  • United States history instructor
  • Writer
  • Political consultant
  • Historian

To give a salary perspective, historians earned a median annual income of $52,480 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Employment of historians is projected to see an 18% increase between 2010 and 2020.

Ph.D. in Middle Eastern History

Middle Eastern history Ph.D. programs study the Arab world, including the present-day countries of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Students focus on Israel and its role in the region. Study of Middle Eastern culture, especially with regards to Islam, is an essential component.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants to Ph.D. programs in Middle Eastern history must possess a bachelor's degree or the equivalent. Most programs require the submission of GRE scores. Other considerations and prerequisites for admission vary by program, but often include publication history, relevant experience and academic history.

Program Coursework

Coursework in Middle Eastern history Ph.D. programs covers modern history, ancient history, politics and language. Most students become proficient in Arabic, Hebrew or another Middle Eastern language in order to complete their program. Common classes include:

  • Politics of the Middle East
  • Historical Middle Eastern literature
  • Islamic history and theology
  • Advanced Arabic language
  • Advanced Hebrew language
  • The Crusades

Popular Career Options

The most commonly pursued career for a graduate of a Middle Eastern history Ph.D. program is in teaching. However, many find work with international organizations or government agencies, due to the global importance of the region.

  • Middle Eastern history instructor
  • Translator
  • Cultural adviser

History professors, as an example, brought in a median annual income of $65,870 as of May 2012. Job growth is expected to be 17% from 2010 to 2020 for postsecondary teachers in general, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Ph.D. in Ancient History

Ancient history Ph.D. programs offer students the opportunity to become fluent in the earliest major civilizations in human history. Many programs are interdisciplinary, drawing upon fields including classics, art and religion.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants to ancient history Ph.D. programs are required to possess at least a bachelor's degree or the equivalent. At least a moderate level of fluency in one or more ancient languages may be required prior to admission, as many programs require students to read ancient texts in their original language. The submission of GRE scores is usually required.

Program Coursework

Courses in ancient history Ph.D. programs focus on the politics and cultures of ancient civilizations in Egypt, Greece and other regions. Additionally, most students study one or more ancient languages while completing their studies. Other classes that students can expect include:

  • Art of the ancient world
  • Athens and Sparta
  • History of the Roman Empire
  • History of ancient Egypt
  • Advanced Latin language
  • Archaeology and papyrology

Popular Career Options

Graduates of ancient history Ph.D. programs have many possible career options, including positions working in education and museums, as well as in the field as an archaeologist.

  • Archaeologist
  • Museum curator
  • Ancient history instructor
  • Archivist

Anthropologists and archaeologists earned a median annual salary of $57,420 as of May 2012. Job growth is expected to be faster than the average for all occupations (21% from 2010 to 2020), per the BLS.

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