History Graduate Programs in California

History programs are available at the master's and doctoral levels from several institutions throughout California. Learn about the available concentrations, culminating experience requirements and admission standards for these programs.

California provides students with diverse graduate degree programs in history that allow students to explore a variety of topics within the field. Many of these programs also provide unique opportunities for students interested in teaching. Here we examine a handful of California schools and their history programs in detail.

Schools in California with Graduate Degree Programs in History

Fresno State University

Fresno State University in Fresno has a Master of Arts (MA) in History that offers a traditional track and a teaching option track and requires 30 units. The traditional MA allows students to choose from a thesis or comprehensive exam for a culminating experience. The teaching option does not provide students with teaching credentials, but is designed for current or future K through 12 teachers. Both options provide core coursework in American, European and world history, as well as writing and research.

University of California-Santa Barbara

The University of California-Santa Barbara provides an MA/Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in History program that allows students to earn an MA while pursuing their PhD. Students can choose from 15 different areas of study within history, including ancient history, history of science, Africa, Latin America, comparative race and ethnicity and medieval studies. But the school also gives them an option to pursue studies in a range of interdisciplinary fields such as those pertaining to the environment and society. Students in the program must complete a dissertation and can pursue fellowship and/or teaching assistant opportunities. Those who serve as teaching assistants typically teach lower-level undergraduate courses and participate in training workshops and peer mentoring.

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles offers a PhD program in history that requires at least 60 units of coursework. Students are also required to complete a dissertation and must take coursework in a major field, a minor field and an area of specialization, which may include topics like British history, urbanism, visual culture or the American West. At the end of the second year, students must take qualifying exams and usually work as teaching assistants. Students in the program can also take advantage of special opportunities in the Los Angeles area at places such as the Wende Museum, Huntington Library or the Getty Center.

California State University-Northridge

California State University-Northridge has an MA in History that totals 30 units. Students must complete a culminating project or master's thesis for the culminating experience requirement. The program provides opportunities to study a variety of concentration areas, such as California history, modern European history or ancient and world history. The university also provides a Social Science Subject Matter Program (SSSMP) for current or past students to earn their teaching credential in the field.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University in San Francisco provides an MA in History program that can be completed in 2 years. The program is available in full- and part-time formats and requires at least 30 units. For their culminating experience, students can choose from a comprehensive exam or thesis option. The program also requires students to choose from several professional development courses where students can gain marketable skills in a foreign language, teaching, digital history and/or hands-on learning experience through an internship.

Common Entrance Requirements

Most students applying to history graduate programs in California will need to hold at least a bachelor's degree and some programs may prefer if the degree is in history or a related field. It is fairly common for these programs to require a minimum GPA around a 3.0 and current GRE test scores for admission. Students will also usually need to provide transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose and a writing sample with their application. The writing sample may be a research paper, history paper, master's thesis or other piece of work that demonstrates a student's writing and research skills and may need to meet specific standards, such as including footnotes or being of a particular length.

History degree programs in California at the graduate level are usually available as MA or PhD programs and allow students to specialize in a particular area of interest. Students usually need to complete a culminating experience like a project, thesis or dissertation.


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