Best Online History Doctorate Degree Programs (PhDs) 2023

Best Online History Doctorate Degree Programs (PhDs) 2023

Key Takeaways

  • The online history PhD program is a good option for working professionals with busy schedules.

  • Online history PhD programs are a great option for aspiring historians, history professors, and historical research leaders.

  • The best online history doctoral programs have institutional and programmatic accreditation.

Featured Programs

Only a select number of universities offer a PhD in history online. Though online history PhD programs are somewhat scarce, the online history programs that do offer a doctoral degree do have a high acceptance rate. This means that most students with a strong academic track record will enjoy access to these advanced online history PhD programs.

What are online PhD programs in history?

In history, a PhD is considered a terminal degree. This means a PhD is the highest degree that history students can earn. Online doctoral history programs can lead to opportunities for professional historical research, consultation for government agencies, professorship in a university history department, and more.

Online PhD in history candidates are typically already working at a high level in their field. Many are already working as history teachers or applying their research skills in supporting roles.

Often, this means that students seeking their PhD degree must balance existing work and personal responsibilities with a challenging course of education. For many graduate students, the online history PhD program makes this balance possible.

For a look at how the online history program stacks up against traditional on campus programs, check out our look at the Best Research Universities for History Degrees.

Otherwise, read on and learn more about how you can earn your PhD in history online.


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About Accredited Online History PhD Programs

The best online PhD in history programs will have proper accreditation. Be sure that your are pursuing your PhD in history through a fully accredited university and program:

  • Institutional Accreditation: Accreditation is vital for online doctoral programs. It signifies that the online PhD programs offered by the online school are in compliance with the standards of a Department of Education-approved accrediting body.
  • A school must also be accredited in order to offer federal financial aid to its online doctorate candidates. When looking for an online doctoral program, seek out options with accreditation from a colleges and schools commission in your region. This stamp of approval is critical for ensuring the quality and credibility of your online program.

  • Programmatic Accreditation: In addition to institutional accreditation, be sure that you prioritize online doctorate degree programs with programmatic accreditation.
  • While there is no specifically required programmatic accreditation for the general field of historical research, those who intend to work in post-secondary educational institutions may be required to complete a doctoral program with accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Make sure that you online history program offers the proper programmatic accreditation requirements for your career goals.

  • Carnegie Classification: The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, or as it is more commonly known, the Carnegie Classification, is a framework for categorizing all accredited, degree-granting institutions in the United States.
  • Originally formulated in 1970 by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and administered through the University of Indiana’s Center for Postsecondary Research since 2014, the Carnegie Classification is “the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education.”

    Under this classification, top research universities for doctoral degrees and PhD candidates are identified as either R2: Doctoral Universities for “high research activity” or R1: Doctoral Universities for “very high research activity.” Look for these classifications when considering options for your online PhD programs.

Key Point: Be sure that you only consider online PhD programs with proper accreditation.

Admission Requirements

Each online doctoral in history program has its own admission requirements. However, most online doctoral programs will carry the same basic threshold for admission:

  • A completed online application
  • Official undergraduate college transcripts
  • A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0
  • GRE scores, MAT scores, or GMAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal interviews
  • Personal statement or writing sample
  • Plan of study

Key Point: In most cases, you will be eligible to enter your online PhD in history after earning a bachelor’s degree. However, some specialized online PhD programs may require you to have earned a master’s degree as well.

Curriculum and Courses

As with other advanced degree and graduate programs, research is the central component of your online PhD in history program. This is true for fully online doctorate degrees as well as hybrid degrees combining online education with traditional on-campus courses.


Regardless of whether you complete a traditional, hybrid or online history PhD program, the typical time to completion is five to seven years.

The typical components of your online PhD program may include:

Foundational Courses

Some foundational online doctorate courses may be focused on your specific area of study.

You may be able to choose a concentration in an area such as:

  • American history
  • World history
  • European history
  • African history
  • Latin American history
  • Political science
  • Ancient history

In addition to your core concentration courses, additional courses will focus on honing research skills and practicing experimental design. You may be able to complete many of these requirements through online classes.

Examinations for PhD Candidacy

Many online doctoral candidates are required to complete certain examinations to enter into online PhD candidacy. This will typically occur after you’ve completed one to two years of foundational courses.

Dissertation

In most cases, the central component of your online PhD program will be the completion of your dissertation. After gaining status as an online PhD in history candidate, you will typically work closely with a professorial advisor or mentor to develop an original research question.

This research question will form the basis of your dissertation—an ongoing project designed to address this research question through applied research. While you will work closely with your advisor or mentor, much of your dissertation will be rooted in independent research. This is especially true for students pursuing their PhD in history online.

Oral Defense

Upon completion of the written portion of your dissertation—which will typically present the findings from your original research project—you will be expected to defend your findings. This “oral defense” will typically be conducted by a commission of professors and experts in your field. PhD candidates in some online degree programs may be able to conduct this defense via teleconferencing.

Teaching Requirements

Some online PhD in history programs will also include a teaching component, which will require you to work as an adjunct professor or teacher’s assistant in an undergraduate or graduate school. It may be possible for students in the online doctoral degree program to also serve teaching requirements by instructing students through an online program.

Key Point: The online history PhD is a research-focused degree. Your dissertation will be a central part of your online PhD program.

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Careers for Students Who Complete Online Doctoral History Programs

The online PhD in history is a terminal degree program. This means that PhD students who complete this online program will qualify for top positions and opportunities in their field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that you may be able to qualify for work as a historian with a master’s degree in history. However, the highest paying careers in history are generally held by those working in research positions either for educational institutions or government agencies.

The BLS notes that the highest paid 10% of professionals in the history field earned more than $118,000 in 2021.

Earning an online PhD in history can lead to some of these top-paying roles in the field, including:

  • Theoretical Research
  • Scientific Research
  • Publishing
  • Sociology
  • Post-Secondary Education
  • Public Policy Consultation
  • Clinical Practice
  • Organizational Leadership

Key Point: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates with a PhD in history will qualify for top-paying roles in educational institutions and government agencies.


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What’s the difference between online doctoral programs and online PhD programs?

Technically, a PhD program is a type of doctorate degree program. This means that all online PhD candidates are doctoral students. By contrast, not all doctoral students are PhD candidates.

The primary distinction is that doctoral students are primarily focused on putting existing theories into practice. Depending on your chosen field, your online doctoral degree may require participation in an educational leadership program, engagement in clinical practice, work as a resident in a nursing program, and much more.

By contrast, online PhD students are focused on creating new knowledge in their area of study. This usually means that online PhD candidates are focused on introducing new theories, creating research projects around these theories, and presenting new findings that demonstrate a mastery of existing knowledge and the insight to introduce new ideas into the field.

Today, more working professionals than ever before are pursuing both online doctoral degrees and online PhD programs.

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The Best Online History Doctorates (PhDs)

The online PhD in history programs identified here are ranked based on influence, with weighting for graduation rate and full-time online enrollment.

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    33K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1200/27

    What do we love about George Mason University?

    George Mason University began in 1949 as a regional branch of the University of Virginia. Achieving its independent status in 1972, the public university based in Fairfax has since become the largest public research institution in the state of Virginia.

    Today, George Mason serves more than 39,000 students. Of those, more than 11,000 are pursuing a graduate level degree.

    George Mason is classified among R1: Doctoral Universities, those which are distinguished for their very high level of research activity.

    George Mason offers an online PhD in History degree program.

    • George Mason University is great for students who:

      Aspire to careers in government and public policy. George Mason is situated just 20 miles from the nation’s capital.

    • George Mason University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Don’t enjoy a good long walk. Students note that, at 677 acres, the Fairfax campuses is quite large, with long distances between academic buildings.

  2. #2

    University of Houston

    Houston , TX
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    39K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/25

    What do we love about the University of Houston?

    The University of Houston was founded in 1927 and, today, serves a massive student population of over 47,000 undergrads and grad students. This makes the Southeast Houston campus the third largest in the state of Texas.

    Students can choose from a wide range of degree programs, with more than 275 degrees offered across 16 academic colleges.

    Houston is noted for a number of specialized advanced degree programs, including an online doctoral degree in social studies and social education for aspiring history education leaders.

    • The University of Houston is great for students who:

      Enjoy college athletics. The school is home to 17 intercollegiate NCAA Division I teams.

    • The University of Houston might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer the personal attention of a small school.

      
  3. #3

    Liberty University

    Lynchburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    99%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    79K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/25

    What do we love about Liberty University?

    Liberty University is one of the largest Christian universities in the world as well as one of the largest private non-profit universities in the U.S. Much of this size is based on its online enrollment.

    Liberty University enrolls roughly 15,000 residential students across its 17 colleges, and an additional 80,000 through its extensive online course and degree offerings.

    Liberty University is noted for the sheer volume of advanced degrees and online degrees earned by its student body. With more than 47,000 students pursuing advanced degrees, Liberty offers an extremely wide range of online doctoral programs, including its online PhD in history program.

    • Liberty University is great for students who:

      Wish to attend the world’s largest seminary—Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity.

    • Liberty University might not be the best fit for:

      Students who do not identify with Evangelical Christianity.

  4. #4

    Regent University

    Virginia Beach , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    41%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/25

    What do we love about Regent University?

    Regent University is a private Christian University that provides an array of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Founded in 1977 by Southern Baptist Minister Pat Robertson, Regent University offers a wide range of both online and on-campus degree programs.

    Regent University serves more than 10,000 students today, with many pursuing online degrees at the master’s and doctoral degree levels.

    Regent University is also noteworthy for its extremely diverse range of online PhD programs, including a history PhD rooted in Regent’s tradition of faith.

    • Regent University is great for students who:

      Are pursuing advanced degrees online. More than 60% of Regent’s students are in post-graduate programs.

    • Regent University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a secular educational experience.

Other Options for Aspiring History PhDs

Students considering an online doctoral in history should also check out the best on-campus options to compare features like cost, curriculum, acceptance rate, and more.

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1420/32

  2. #2

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/32

  3. #3

    New York University

    New York , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    13%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    49K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1455/32

  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    11%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    46K

  5. #5

    University of Florida

    Gainesville , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    30%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    48K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1375/31