History degree programs concentrate on the study of people, places or events unified by a particular place or time. Many public and private universities offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in history. Both bachelor's and master's programs can be used to begin study in the field, but the former typically provides a foundation in historical events and analysis, while the latter involves more advanced coursework and research. Programs at both levels can be found fully online or in hybrid formats; graduate students in thesis tracks will be required to defend their thesis in person.
Prospective students in an online undergrad program in this field could be required to have already completed a certain number of college credits in general education coursework, which may have been earned as part of an associate's degree program. Applicants to master's programs must have a bachelor's degree, and schools often require that students have completed at least a minor in history.
Undergraduate distance learning programs in history commonly begin with historiography. Students gain experience in reviewing primary and secondary sources and judging materials in context. Courses in general American history, European history and Western civilization form the base of undergraduate education. Students may round out these requirements with electives that focus on a certain geographic region, event or time period. Options could include the following:
- Russian or East European history
- Far East history
- Middle Eastern history
- French Revolution
- American presidency
- Ottoman Empire
These programs may include a capstone course for seniors, which often allows students the chance to use their new-found knowledge and skills comprehensively. Bachelor's degrees usually take about four years to earn, but students who enter with some transferable college credits may be able to finish sooner.
Taking around two years to complete, online master's programs in history generally require a class in research methods and could include core courses in directed readings focused on a particular aspect of history. Coursework is weighted toward a student's area of study and delves deeper into major historical events, populations or themes. Distance learners may be able to pursue a specialization as part of their program. Some online courses or focus areas in a graduate program include:
- Africa and the diaspora
- American childhood
- World Wars I and II
- U.S. Civil War and Reconstruction
- Imperial China or Japan
- Women's history
- Military history
- American sociocultural history
Distance learning programs may give students the option to complete a thesis, which requires an oral defense, or a non-thesis track that usually involves additional courses and a capstone project.
Online Learning Considerations
History students in distance learning programs make use of research library databases and related resources from home. Students communicate with their instructors and classmates remotely by using course discussion boards or chat rooms. The virtual classroom environment contains lectures, assignments and other materials that students access when convenient for them.
Although distance learning programs in history are often fully online, those students who choose to complete a thesis in graduate school will likely have to go to their school's campus to present and defend their research in front of a committee. Additionally, some schools may require online students to live a certain distance from the campus in order to be eligible for enrollment.
Available at the bachelor's and master's levels, degree programs in history prepare students with skills necessary for extensive research and analysis. Enrollees in fully online programs can participate in the same curriculum as their on-campus colleagues, having access to similar databases and resources.