What Can You Do With a Ph.D in History?

Apr 23, 2020

A Ph.D. in History is the terminal degree in the field and can take up to seven years of study beyond any undergraduate studies. Individuals who hold a Ph.D. in History might work as history professors or historians.

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Careers with a Ph.D. in History

Learn about some of the career options for those with a Ph.D. in history and the course requirements, job outlook, and salary information for the field.

Most students earning their Ph.D. in History go on to become professors at the university level. Professors are required to both teach and conduct research on behalf of the university and then present that research at conferences with other professors. Some history Ph.D. graduates become historians, compiling and interpreting historical information contained in various archives and artifacts. Often their career choices will align with the area of specialization they chose to study.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

Professors may advance in both pay and standing within the university by publishing their research work in a university press and independent journals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (also called the BLS), postsecondary teaching positions were expected to increase 11% from 2018-2028, which was much faster-than-average growth. History postsecondary teachers earned a mean yearly wage of $83,990 in May of 2018. Meanwhile, historian jobs were predicted to grow 6% from 2018-2028. This was as fast as average, due in part to decreased federal funding expected. The BLS also reported that historians made an average yearly salary of $66,380 in May of 2018.

Overview of a Ph.D. in History

According to the American Historical Association, a Ph.D. in history takes a median of eight years to complete. Because history is such a broad subject, students looking to earn their Ph.D. will likely have to choose a specialty of history in which to earn this advanced degree. The specific subject of history the student chooses to specialize in may be based on his or her undergraduate or master's degree work. Some potential Ph.D. programs in history include American history, ancient history, medieval European history, modern European history, Jewish history, East Asian history, women's history, and Latin American history.

Course Requirements

Within each history major, students will be required to study the following aspects of the place and time that they choose: culture, politics, foreign policy, potential colonialism, reformations, gender theory, and period writings. Students may also be required to work as teaching assistants during their Ph.D. studies, which involves assisting professors in teaching courses to undergraduate students, as well as completing a doctoral dissertation. The doctoral dissertation is a research report summarizing a specific piece of work the student has chosen within his or her history specialization. The student often works on this with an advisor, who is usually a university professor, over the course of his or her studies.

Individuals with a Ph.D. in history typically pursue careers in postsecondary education but can also work as various kinds of historians in their field of specialty. Graduates can expect positive job growth in the field and an average salary greater than $60,000.

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