Best Online Master's in History Degree Programs

When looking at online programs offering master's degrees in history, there are many things to consider. The information below covers many topics, including common courses, careers, and professional organizations. Schools offering American History degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Best Online Master's Degrees in History

The following is a list of the top 15 colleges in universities in the U.S. that offer online master's degrees in history. We used a range of factors to determine the best schools including program flexibility, cost and accessibility.

1. Norwich University

LocationTuition & Fees (2018-2019)
Northfield, VT$19,360

Norwich offers an online Master of Arts degree in history with concentrations in public history, American history, world history, and legal and constitutional history. With the help of an in-house design team, each concentration is comprised of six 11-week interactive courses with a maximum enrollment of 15 students. It is possible to complete the program in 18 months, and there is a one-week residency requirement.

2. University of Nebraska at Kearney

LocationTuition & Fees (2018-2019)
Kearney, NE$7,187

The Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Nebraska at Kearney is a completely online program. The department is staffed by 14 historians, all of whom hold doctoral degrees, who are active researchers in their areas of specialization. Students can choose either the thesis or non-thesis track. There is also a public history track. The program requires completion of 36 credit hours.

3. Pittsburg State University

LocationTuition & Fees (2018-2019)
Pittsburg, KS$8,164

The faculty at Pittsburg State University specializes in modern world history and American history. There are three options available in the online Master of Arts in history program at Pittsburg State University. The first option is a thesis track that helps prepare students for pursuing doctoral degrees. The second option is applied research for students who may want to become educators or public history workers. The third option is coursework showing evidence of mastery in an area of concentration.

4. Missouri State University-Springfield

LocationTuition & Fees (2018-2019)
Springfield, MO$6,038

The Master of Arts in history degree from Missouri State University-Springfield is an accredited program that can be completed online. The 30-semester-hour program allows students to choose from the following three tracks: American Studies, Global Area Studies, and U.S. and World. There is an accelerated option for undergraduate history majors that allows them to take nine credit hours of graduate-level courses which will be applied to both their bachelor's and master's degrees.

5. Western Kentucky University

LocationTuition & Fees (2018-2019)
Bowling Green, KY$12,140

Western Kentucky University works with the Southern Regional Education Board with the goal of continuous improvement in the quality of education offered by the online school. Because the online non-thesis master's courses in the history program at Western Kentucky University are presented in rotation, the degree is designed to be completed in approximately three years. Students take 36-semester-hours of core and elective courses. However, before receiving their master's degrees, graduate students in history must take at least four courses in one of the following concentrations to be eligible for an M.A. examination: Pre-Modern Europe/World (Ancient World to Early Modern Europe), Modern Europe (Enlightenment to Present), Non-Western World, Pre- Civil War United States (including Civil War), or Post- Civil War United States.

RankInstitution NameLocationTuition & Fees (2018-2019)
6University of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmington, NC$7,367
7Slippery Rock University of PennsylvaniaSlippery Rock, PA$16,387
8Southwestern Assemblies of God UniversityWaxahachie, TX$11,490
9Indiana State UniversityTerre Haute, IN$7,616
10Sam Houston State UniversityHuntsville, TX$7,791
11Troy UniversityTroy, AL$8,506
12Emporia State UniversityEmporia, KS$8,464
13University of MemphisMemphis, TN$10,697
14Sul Ross State UniversityAlpine, TX$2,850
15Arizona State University-SkysongScottsdale, AZ$6,462

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Program Overview for Master's Degrees in History

Master's degrees in history allow students to study specific themes, eras, and geographical areas. Students learn about and explore the significant events that shaped a culture or civilization and how those events impacted later generations. History degrees give students the opportunity to engage in primary and secondary research and present their ideas and interpretations to a broader audience.

Many online master's programs in history are conducted entirely online with no residency requirements. This allows students the flexibility they may need to work while studying for their degrees. However, there are some programs that do require face-to-face meetings. Usually, these are short-term meetings lasting anywhere from a weekend to a week.

For those students who do not want to write a master's thesis, some online programs offer a non-thesis track. While the core courses remain the same, it is typical for the non-thesis students to develop an integrated project of some sort. When researching programs, be sure to pay attention to which tracks are available to online students.

Typical History Concentrations at the Graduate Level

If a graduate school offers program specializations or concentrations in history, among the most common are ancient history, European history, and American history.

  • Ancient history: Ancient history studies usually cover early Greek and Roman civilizations. Some schools may cover Egyptian history and study of the Ottoman Empire, as well.
  • European history: European history often covers the philosophical, political, and social developments that swept across Europe after the end of the Dark Ages.
  • United States history: The study of American history can focus on a specific era, such as pre- or post-civil war, the Constitution, social and cultural development, or other topics that may be covered individually or together.

The concentrations available for study depend upon the school, the expertise of its faculty members, and the overall focus of the department. Keep in mind, though, that some schools do not offer specific concentrations and aim to allow students to study a broad range of historical topics.

Core Graduate-Level History Courses

Outside of specific courses offered in each concentration, students in master's programs will need to take some core courses. These courses are typically required of all graduate-level history students. They are usually designed to be a launch point for future historical research.

  • Methods of historical research - These courses allow students to synthesize, analyze, and evaluate various types of historical research. Usually, students develop a research project by selecting the best method of conducting research on a relevant historical topic and identifying how their research method will address any identifiable problems or issues that may arise during the course of the research.
  • Historiography - Students will look at the types of research that have been done over the centuries and identify prevalent themes throughout the ages. They will also study how history as a discipline has developed.
  • Comparative History - This is often referred to as comparative history. There is a wide variety of topics that can be covered in a comparative history course. For example, some schools offer such courses in women's or gender studies, race relations, nationalism, or colonialism, to name a few. Others may approach comparative history as a study of research methods.

Typical Program Length for a Master's Degree in History

The length of a graduate program depends primarily on the student's status as a full-time or part-time student. For full-time students, the typical length of time to complete a master's degree in history online is two years. Most online programs have 30 to 33-semester credits to complete, which equates to 10 or 11 courses. If a school accepts transfer credits or has an accelerated program, the length of time to complete the program can be decreased. For part-time students, the length of time to complete the program depends on how many courses they take each semester. Most schools will have a maximum length of time to complete a program, so be aware of this if part-time status is most convenient.

Accelerated programs allow full-time students to shorten the length of time needed to complete the program. Some programs are designed to be delivered in a shorter time frame. Others are combined degree programs. Combined programs usually make it possible for a student to earn both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in five years rather than the traditional six years. This can be achieved because students are allowed to take a few graduate-level courses while they are still undergraduates.

Things to Consider When Choosing an Online Graduate Program in History

There are so many things to think about when researching graduate programs in history. Some considerations are personal, while others involve the programs themselves.

How Much Time Can Be Devoted to the Program?

Asking this question will help in deciding whether to be a full-time or part-time student. While online programs are generally designed for busy working people, everyone does not have the same amount of time to devote to classes.

What Technology is Required to Take Courses Online?

Typically, online students are required to have access to the Internet and word processing software. Some courses may require spreadsheets or research software, as well. Also, there may be computer hardware requirements that must be met.

How are the Courses Conducted?

Many courses in online programs are conducted asynchronously, meaning that the student can access the course data at any time and does not need to interact with other students or the instructor in real-time. Synchronous courses are offered in real-time, albeit online. Often, students are directed to a specific application that allows everyone to meet, see each other's comments, and make comments of their own.

How Much Does the Program Cost?

Some schools will provide a per-credit-hour cost, while others will give the program cost. It's important to think about whether potential transfer credit could affect the overall cost.

Are There Residency Requirements?

Many programs are conducted entirely online. However, some online programs require face-to-face meetings periodically. Check the degree requirements to find out whether in-person meetings are required.

Who Runs the Program and Who are the Professors?

History departments tend to have notable individuals on their faculties and staff. Look at the specializations, awards, research, and publications of the individuals in the department.

Does the School Offer a Master of Science or a Master of Arts degree?

These degrees are similar but usually have slightly different course requirements and career opportunities. Often, those with Master of Arts degrees in history become educators from elementary through the college level, while a Master of Science degree in history is usually needed to pursue other professional careers, such as law, business, or politics.

What is Accreditation and Is It Important?

Accreditation is a way of showing that a school or program meets certain standards. The U.S. Department of Education does not require that schools be accredited, but accreditation is evidence that a school has been evaluated by an outside agency to ensure it meets high standards of performance. Also, the status of a school's accreditation could impact whether it is eligible to receive federal financial aid.

There are various types of accreditation at the graduate level, but the two most common are programmatic and institutional.

  • Programmatic accreditation - As its name implies, this type of accreditation is used to show that a program meets certain criteria insofar as quality, performance, and outcomes. Typically, programmatic accreditation is applied for after the school has achieved institutional accreditation. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), and Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Preparation (CAEP) are three common programmatic accreditations associated with history teacher education.
  • Institutional accreditation - Institutional accreditation refers to a school's ability to provide evidence of its commitment to and success in meeting student needs and offering high-quality educational opportunities from every department in the school. There is a multi-step process involved in applying for and achieving institutional accreditation that typically involves an initial application, a site visit, and subsequent evaluation by the accrediting agency.

There are three types of institutional accreditations: regional, national, and specialized. According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), there are six regional accreditors located throughout the U.S. The majority of the post-secondary schools that are regionally accredited are public and private colleges and universities that grant degrees, although there are some for-profit or non-degree granting schools that have received regional accreditation.

National accreditors operate throughout the U.S. The majority of the schools that are nationally accredited are for-profit schools. Not all nationally accredited schools offer degrees. Often these schools focus on a specific area, such as medical assisting or information technology.

Specialized accreditors also operate across the U.S. Their focus is on single-purpose schools; however, they also accredit some programs.

Career Options for Someone with an Online Master's Degree in History

There are many career options for individuals with a master's degree in history. Below is a high-level overview of a few of those careers including salary, job duties and available certifications (if any).

Archivist, Curator, and Museum Worker

Archivists, as well as curators and museum workers, handle historical documents to appraise their condition, catalog them as part of a collection, and make sure they are preserved. The median annual salary for an archivist, curator, or museum worker is $48,400.

There is a professional certification for archivists offered through the Academy of Certified Archivists. To become a Certified Archivist, an individual must have the academic background required to sit for a certification examination offered by the organization. This is determined during the application process. The application fee is $52, and the exam is offered in various locations each year.

Educator

Individuals with a master's degree in history can teach at the secondary (high school) or post-secondary (college) level. The median salary for a post-secondary educator is $78,470, while for a secondary educator it is $60,320.

Historian

Historians study events of the past by analyzing and interpreting their impact on later generations. The median salary for a historian is $61,140.

Library Science

While most librarians have a degree in library science, some careers also require a degree in a specialized subject, such as history. Jobs in this field earn a median salary of $59,050.

Political Scientist

Political scientists look at political systems, how they began and developed, and their impact on past and present political environments. The median salary for a political scientist is $117,570.

The Academy of Certified Political Analysts offers four different professional certifications for political scientists:

  • Certified Political Scientist
  • Certified Political Manager
  • Certified in Public Policy
  • Chartered Certified Political Analyst

Evidence of continuing education, academic achievement, and professional experience, as well as a commitment to maintaining high ethical standards, are required. The academy offers graduate waivers for individuals who have master's degrees in politics, PhDs, or JDs (Doctor of Jurisprudence) and service in government-related fields amounting to at least five years.

Job TitleMedian Salary (2018)*Job Outlook (2018-2028)*
Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker$48,4009%
Educator (Post Secondary)
Educator (Secondary)
$78,470
$60,320
11%
4%
Historian$61,1406%
Library Science$59,0506%
Political Scientist$117,5705%

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations for History Majors

For those with a master's degree in history, several professional organizations represent the field of history and advance its study. A few of them are listed below.

American Historical Association

With over 12,000 members, this is the largest association of history professionals. The AHA, which is a non-profit group, supports historians and educators by working to protect academic freedom while ensuring high professional standards and augmenting the work of its members. The AHA has several membership categories ranging from $95 to $332 per year.

American Association for State and Local History

The AASLH was formed in 1940 to work with a wide variety of individuals interested in preserving and sharing state and local history. They believe in history's relevance to individuals, communities, and the future. The AASLH offers its resources to both individuals and institutions. Basic individual memberships range from $30 to $72, depending upon the individual's professional status (student, retired, etc.).

National Coalition for History

The NCH is a non-profit entity that acts as an umbrella for over 50 organizations that represent the history community. As such, its focus is on issues like increasing the funding for governmental programs and agencies, such as the National Archives and Records Administration and the National Endowment for the Humanities and adding members to the Congressional History Caucus. Memberships are institutional, and dues range from $600 to $8,000 per year.

Organization of American Historians

The OAH was established in 1907. It has over 7,000 members in the U.S. and abroad. The OAH is focused on American history education from both the student and the teacher perspective. It is also a member of the NCH, which is described above. There are a variety of membership options that range from $45 to $245 per year.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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