Best Graduate History Programs in the U.S.

Jul 31, 2018

Master's and doctoral students can typically choose from a broad range of concentrations within the history field. Learn more about rankings, degree options and other stand-out points for the best graduate history programs in the country. View article »

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  • 0:02 School Overviews
  • 0:39 University of Michigan…
  • 1:40 University of…
  • 2:56 Cornell University in…
  • 3:56 Top Graduate History Programs

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Video Transcript

School Overviews

Graduate programs in history are readily available from some of the top institutions throughout the U.S. Explore some of these top-ranking schools and the different programs they offer. Three schools with highly ranked graduate history programs include the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, the University of Pennsylvania, and Cornell University. These institutions have doctoral history programs and were ranked highly by U.S. News and World Report. Michigan also has a stand-alone master's degree program in the field. Interdisciplinary studies and joint degree options are also available at these schools.

University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

In 2013, the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor's graduate history program tied for seventh-best in the country according to U.S. News and World Report.

The Department of History offers a general history Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and several interdepartmental degrees that combine history courses with work in Greek and Roman culture and anthropology, as well as women's studies. Although the university does not have a stand-alone master's degree program in history, students with a bachelor's degree in the field can earn a master's degree while pursuing their Ph.D. According to the university, most doctoral candidates complete the program in six to seven years. Admission to the program is considered competitive; the department typically accepts 18 students from a pool of 350 to 400 candidates each year.

Graduate students have access to the University of Michigan's extensive collection of academic resources, including the Bentley Historical Library, seven on-campus museums, and the school's International Institute.

University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

The University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League school that has been consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best schools in the nation, and many of its professional schools are ranked as having the top ten programs in their respective fields. In particular, the school's graduate history program was ranked tied for the ninth best in the country by U.S. News and World Report in 2013. The publication also ranked the women's history graduate program among the top ten in 2013.

The Department of History offers a Master of Arts in History and a Ph.D. in History. The master's degree program requires students to complete six graduate-level history courses, complete a history thesis and pass a comprehensive exam based on coursework and thesis research. Courses include American labor and economic history, African history, immigration, public policy, and cultural histories of America. The Ph.D. in History is a three-year track that is completed with 20 credits. Fellowships and other funding sources are available for candidates. In addition to the traditional Ph.D. program, students can pursue either a Certificate in World History or a joint Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Ph.D. offered via collaboration between the Department of History and the Law School.

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

U.S. News and World Report ranks Cornell University as tied for the eleventh best graduate history program in 2013. The Ivy League school also ranks tied on their list for the 15th best national university in 2017. History faculty research interests include Africa and the Middle East, the Atlantic World, East Asia, Europe, the Indian Ocean, Latin America, North America, and South or South East Asia.

The department of history provides students with a Ph.D. in History that requires a dissertation and teaching experience prior to graduation. Once accepted, students are guaranteed five years of full funding. The department is home to more than fifty faculty members that have specialties in a wide range of time periods. Students are required to take a couple of courses to develop research skills, but are then able to select coursework to match their interests and may include topics like imperial China, sports and politics in American history, environmental history, and more.

Top Graduate History Programs

Let's discuss some additional schools with unique graduate history programs that are considered top in the field.

  • Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ gives history students access to the university's library system, which hosts more than two million books, as well as a wealth of other resources to enhance research capabilities.
  • Stanford University in Stanford, CA has a Department of History that admits only 10-15 Ph.D. candidates annually.
  • The University of California in Berkeley allows doctoral history students to choose from 15 fields of study within the department. Some fields require at least seven years to complete the degree.
  • At the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign, located in Chamgaign, IL, graduate history students may have the option to construct an individualized field of study, in addition to the department's more than 30 designated field offerings.
  • The University of Iowa campus is in Iowa City, and offers the History Corps, which provides training for student historians and fosters connections with the surrounding community through the creation of digital and oral histories.
  • The University of Southern California in Los Angeles has a history department that is home to several research institutes, including the Huntington Institute on California and the West, as well as institutes for Early Modern, Austrian, German and Swiss, and Premodern Japan studies.
  • The University of Texas at Austin is home to a history department that offers primarily Ph.D. programs in 11 fields, including Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, the United States, and the History of Science, Technology & Medicine.
  • The University of Washington is located in Seattle, WA. Graduate programs in history require students to pursue two historical fields at the master's level and four fields at the doctoral level. Students can also pull in options from other disciplines.

History degrees can be pursued from top institutions at the master's and doctorate levels for students interested in graduate school. These programs vary greatly in the areas of study that they offer as well as the unique resources and facilities that students have access to.

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