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Pros & Cons of a History PhD

Within this article, you will find information on some of the positives and negatives to earning a PhD in history. Additional information on the median salary and job growth of potential careers will also be provided, along with general admission requirements.

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Students who wish to pursue a PhD in history might choose a degree focus in areas like Germany and Central Europe, Latin America, U.S. history, U.S. religious history, ancient history, and Middle Eastern history, among others. Below, you'll find information on the positives and negatives of such a degree and some potential career choices, along with general graduation requirements.

Pros and Cons of a PhD in History

Positives

Choosing to earn a degree that takes a considerable amount of time is never an easy thing to do. Below you will find some of the positives of such a degree to help you make a more informed decision.

The Job Market Is Healthy

Recent graduates who earn a PhD in history will put themselves on the fast track to securing high-end positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job growth outlook for historians during 2016-2026 is 6%, with a respectable yearly median salary of $59,120 in 2017. Things get even better from there, with the BLS reporting that postsecondary history teachers earned $72,690, median, in 2017, with faster than average job growth of 10 percent projected for 2016-2026.

Time Commitment Is High, but Tuition Costs Are Low

While it can take six to seven years to complete such a degree, the good news is that most prospective students will have many of their costs covered through university stipends and tuition support. This may be contingent upon them successfully completing the program and may have a time limit, but it gives them access to a degree respected in both research and academics at a comparatively low cost.

Negatives

While there are important positives to earning such a degree, there are some negatives associated with it, as well. You'll find information related to some of these negatives in the following.

Valuable Time Lost

The time spent within any given PhD program can be all for naught if the student fails to complete their respective degree program. This opens the door to not only losing out on valuable work experience and income over that period of time, but also the degree itself.

Academics Can Be a Hard Road

Another major drawback to earning such a degree is the fact that securing a job in academics is very competitive. Even if you get the job, you will have to earn tenure just like everyone else. This might not seem like such a big deal at first, but when you consider that you can teach as an adjunct at some major universities or serve as a regular employee at many community colleges, with just a master's degree, it puts things into perspective.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • American History
  • Ancient Studies
  • Asian History
  • Classical Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies
  • Cultural Resource Management
  • European History
  • Historic Preservation
  • History of Science and Technology
  • Holocaust Studies
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • Museum Studies
  • Public History and Archival Administration

PhD in History Graduation Requirements

On average, students can expect to engage in sixty credit hours worth of coursework within their given degree program over a three to four year period. During this time, they will take courses on independent research and may also be required to teach for a predetermined amount of time. Once all coursework has been completed, students can expect to spend an additional two to three years on their dissertation research. This can take more or less time depending on the degree program that you enter.

PhD in History Careers/Salary

In recent years, employers have seen the benefit of a history degree beyond research and academics, and there are many top executives who hold such degrees. This isn't too much of a surprise, though, considering that those who hold history degrees have a deep understanding of data collection and analysis, as well as how events shape a society, making them ideal in positions of management and marketing. Let's take a look at a few jobs that tend to be filled by those with a PhD in history, along with their median salary and job statistics.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Postsecondary History Teachers $72,690 10%
Historians $59,120 6%
Postsecondary Education Administrators $92,360 10%
Curators $53,770 14%
Top Executives $104,700 8%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Those who wish to earn a PhD in history will have to devote a lot of time in order to do so. While it can be a risky endeavor, it gives them the opportunity to increase their potential earnings and expand their career choices upon graduation.

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