What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in History?
History is a field reserved for students who love reading, exploring other cultures, and hunting for clues about our shared past. A master’s degree in history is an important credential if you plan to make a profession out of your history education. Whether you hope to become a K-12 history teacher, a museum curator, or an actual historian, you will likely be required to earn a master’s degree in history.
History is a highly interdisciplinary field that can be paired with a wide range of other subjects. Earning a history master’s degree alongside a discipline such as philosophy, literature, psychology, or any of the life and earth sciences can provide far greater depth in both subject areas. Masters in history gain a unique perspective and a profound appreciation for the way that events in our past have shaped the present, and how they can help us anticipate the future. An advanced degree in history gives you the opportunity to pursue a career dedicated to inquiry, exploration, and discovery.
Just getting started in the field? Check out our look at the history major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in history.
If you’re ready to earn your graduate degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in History.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as a history major.
Why Get a Master’s Degree in History?
We spoke to Dipesh Chakrabarty, the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago, and a top influencer in the field of history. Dr Chakrabarty observed in our conversation that
Everybody is interested in the history of disciplines. So that's a Chicago tradition of being interested in knowing how did anthropology come to be what it is, how did history come to be what it is, how did Physics come to be what it is, how is 17th century mechanics different from how you might look at the world today. So my interest in questioning the methods meshed in very well, which is what the university does.– Dipesh Chakrabarty
Dr. Chakrabarty highlighted the interdisciplinary appeal of history. So many other exciting areas of study—political science, psychology, anthropology—are at least partially rooted in history. In many ways, the best reason to study history is because this is a portal into countless other areas of study, academic inquiry, and even into our everyday lives. Studying history, for instance, gives you unique insight into the history of governance, and can therefore offer a compelling window into today’s electoral politics. Or, your study of history may include an exploration of ancient civilizations, renaissance thinkers, or the industrial age, and the role that factors such as religion, art, and technology played in shaping these important historical periods. This can, consequently, give you a clearer sense of how religion, art, and technology shape our lives in the present day.
A master’s degree in history indicates authority, knowledge and experience in a field where all are held in very high esteem. And depending on your area of focus, you could parlay these virtues into a variety of relevant fields.
Learn more about Dr. Chakrabarty and other top influencers in the history field today!
How Can I Qualify to Get a Master’s Degree in History?
There is no specific entrance exam for gaining admission into a history master’s program, though some programs may require you to complete a Graduate Record Examination (GRE). If the GRE is needed, your program may either require a general exam, or a GRE specific to the subject of history. Some programs may require you to meet a certain scoring threshold while others may merely require that you complete the exam. These requirements will vary from one history master’s program to the next.
If no GRE is required, the primary requirement for gaining eligibility into a history master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. While programmatic accreditation is not specifically required in this field, most regionally-accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally-accredited college or university.
Some colleges may offer bundled bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, where you could earn your advanced degree in one continuous five-year program. This option could save you time and money if you already know that you’ll be pursuing your advanced degree. However, the accelerated pace of such a program may make this a challenging way to earn both degrees. Find out if your school offers this bundling option and ask about eligibility requirements. But be sure you’re up to the added challenge!
For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals. If you’re still working on building your qualifications, check out our look at the history major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in history.
What Kinds of History Graduate Degrees Are There?
Because history is a highly academic field, you’ll have access to far more professional opportunities when you earn an advanced degree. Greater credentials lead to greater prestige and authority in the field of history, and therefore, greater opportunities for career advancement. Earning a master’s or doctoral degree can significantly improve your job, research, and publishing prospects as a scholar of history.
- Master of Arts in History (MA): The MA in History is a two-year, 30-45 credit degree that balances an emphasis on history with more general humanities courses. This is a popular course of study for prospective historians, museum curators, and educators. Those interested in teaching history will likely want to pursue a dual master’s degree in history and education.
- Master of Science in History (MS): The MS in History is also a two-year, 30-45 credit degree, but you’ll likely focus on the technical dimensions of history such as research, data-collection, and data analysis. These emphases will help prepare you for practical work as a policy analyst or consultant, and can also be a valuable foundation for developing the research skills you’ll use in a doctoral program.
- PhD in History: This terminal degree will require three to five years for completion. The highest academic decoration for history scholars, a PhD will qualify you to teach as a professor at the university level as well as conduct and publish peer-reviewed historical research.
What are Some Popular History Specializations?
Your history specialization should be based on both your area of interest and your career goals. For instance, if you plan to teach high school courses on Greek and Roman societies, you may want to specialize in ancient history. If your goal is to work as a curator in a museum dedicated to World War II, you may want to specialize in military history. Your specialization will provide focus in your studies and help you prepare to apply your history knowledge and study skills in a real-world setting. The following are among the most popular history specializations:
- Ancient History
- Military History
- European History
- American History
- World History
- Women’s and Gender History
What Courses Will I Take as a History Major?
Your specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a history major. You will likely be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Research Methods and World History. However, there is also a wide range of history topics that you may have to choose from.
Common history courses include:
- Imperialism and Colonialism
- Environmental History
- Religion, Migration, and Politics
- History and Critical Race Theory
- Science, Technology, and History
- The Civil War and Reconstruction
- Cold War Politics
- Protest and the Civil Rights Movement
Is a master’s degree in history worth it?
The field of history is inherently academic in nature. The goals of research and education are predominant, which means that educational experience is of particular importance as you advance in your career. The master’s degree is an absolutely necessary stepping stone on your way to a career as a historian ($63,680; median pay, 2019) or as a post-secondary history educator ($75,170; median pay, 2019).
What are the top jobs with a master’s in history degree?
A master’s degree is an important credential in the history field. History is a highly academic discipline. Those who have earned an advanced degree enjoy far better professional prospects. Your history master’s degree can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:
- History Teachers, Postsecondary
- Archivists, Curators, Museum Workers
- Park Rangers
- News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists
Curious how far you could go with a master’s degree in history? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!***
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