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History Graduate Schools and Universities in the U.S.

Professors teaching history at community colleges, 4-year universities and graduate schools typically hold a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in history. Most of the job opportunities listed on the Organization of American Historians' website are teaching positions or fellowships, although there are a few places for a lead historian in non-profit organizations. Read on for tips on choosing a graduate school program in history.

Graduate degrees in history are available at both the master's and doctoral levels, and some universities offer postgraduate certificates in history as well. Graduate-level history programs are available in many specializations, such as the history of science, gender studies or women's history.

Top Ten History Graduate Schools or Universities

These universities all offer traditional graduate degree and/or certificate programs, with different thematic, geographic, or period specializations.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
Columbia University New York, NY Private not-for-profit, 4-year Master's, Postgraduate Certificate, Doctoral $42,280
Harvard University Cambridge, MA Private not-for-profit, 4-year Master's, Doctoral $41,832
Princeton University Princeton, NJ Private not-for-profit, 4-year Master's, Doctoral $43,450
Stanford University Stanford, CA Private not-for-profit, 4-year Master's, Doctoral $45,729
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA Public, 4-year Master's, Doctoral $11,220 (in-state), $26,322 (out-of-state)
University of California - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA Public, 4-year Master's, Postgraduate Certificate, Doctoral $11,220 (in-state), $26,322 (out-of-state)
University of Chicago Chicago, IL Private not-for-profit, 4-year Master's, Doctoral $51,624
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI Public, 4-year Master's, Doctoral $20,638 (in-state), $41,688 (out-of-state)
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Private not-for-profit, 4-year Master's, Doctoral $31,068
Yale University New Haven, CT Private not-for-profit, 4-year Master's, Postgraduate Certificate, Doctoral $38,700

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

University Selection Criteria

Students seeking a history graduate school program should first check for legitimate accreditation and then consider the concentrations offered by the program. Other factors that are important to consider include:

  • A graduate school in Washington, D.C. with convenient access to the Library of Congress may be a good choice for a student focusing on history of American literature or lawmaking.
  • A school with a robust foreign exchange program may be best for a student taking a concentration in European history.
  • Some schools have special collections, such as art collections or early state documents, which make them particularly desirable for history students with a compatible interest.
  • History master's and doctoral programs typically require a major research thesis or dissertation, so prospective students should look for schools with history professors who have experience in a similar field of interest in order to help with questions and research projects.

Master's Degree in History

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History programs usually include one to two years of intensive coursework in history. Most programs provide broad education in many historical time periods, but there are schools that allow students to choose a regional or periodic concentration for their coursework. At some schools, master's students can choose between professional and academic research tracks, depending on their future career goals. Prior to graduation, students must submit a master's paper or thesis in a particular area of interest. For doctoral candidates, the M.A. may be awarded as an intermediate degree on the way to a Ph.D. in History.

Doctoral Degree in History

Doctoral programs in history give students the opportunity to further develop their history knowledge and conduct high-level research in a particular interest area, leading to a publishable dissertation. Some schools require students to declare a major, such as United States history, Jewish history, history of science or African history. Graduates typically go on to academic research and teaching positions at colleges and universities.

Graduate Certificate in History

Graduate certificates are available for both degree- and non-degree-seeking students, depending on the school. At some schools, students can take graduate-level courses in a particular historical subfield, such as European history, modern history or United States history. The credits they earn may be applicable to a graduate degree in the future, should they choose to enroll. At other schools, Ph.D. candidates who want augment their degrees can earn a graduate certificate in a particular subject by taking additional coursework and submitting an extra paper.

Your choice of institution when pursing a graduate program in history may depend on whether your interests align with a program's specializations and the research resources that are available at or near the school. Public schools offer programs that are comparable to private school programs, but tuition is typically much less expensive, especially for residents.


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