Best Online Master’s in History Programs

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A master’s degree in history online offers students the possibility of higher salary earnings. Expanding your knowledge in the field can prepare you for career advancement. Historians with an advanced degree earn, on average, $55,100 annually with salaries upward of more than $90,000. Take a look at the best online master’s in history programs along with information about the typical degree path of an online history graduate student.


Pursuing an online master’s in history is an excellent way to advance your career. You’ll receive opportunities to strengthen your skills in writing and research while becoming an expert in the process of historiography. Students gain knowledge of various periods in history and acquire specialized skills in archival management and document preservation. Graduates of online master’s in history programs typically earn more than with a bachelor’s degree alone and find employment in schools, museums, and more.


No prior work experience is required to begin your online master’s in history. Eligibility requirements for most programs include a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0 and GRE scores. Some programs only accept undergraduate work from regionally or nationally accredited institutions. Other common admissions requirements include a statement of purpose, a resume, and three letters of recommendation.


The flexible online format caters to working professionals. While some programs require students to attend full-time, others allow part-time enrollment. A typical full-time load consists of two courses, and although coursework is time-consuming, it is possible to work full-time and pursue a degree full-time. Students complete coursework when it is convenient for them. Some programs require an online presence at specified times, and this usually occurs in evenings to accommodate work schedules.


An online degree has numerous advantages, including direct access to course materials and the ability to complete work during any time of the day. Online courses also provide opportunities for professional networking. Most online course delivery systems are downloadable to your mobile device, and online students have access to campus resources, including technology support and online research materials.

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Rank School Name Relative Cost Location Description
1 University of North Carolina Wilmington N/A Wilmington, NC

UNC Wilmington, part of the 17-campus University of North Carolina System, has many of the top-tier master's programs in the South. The Wilmington campus enrolls over 1,800 graduate students each year and boasts the highest transfer student graduation rate in the UNC system.

UNCW's master's in history degree, one of nine online master's degrees available, is designed specifically for strengthening the professional practices of history educators. The MA for history educators is a two-year program consisting of two online courses taken sequentially each semester. It also includes two one-week, on-campus Summer Institutes, the school's unique annual workshopping conference. The Summer Institute is the only required in-person participation. The program culminates in a hands-on capstone project, focusing on teaching practices, lesson planning, and comprehensive exams – as opposed to a traditional thesis. To maintain a streamlined admissions process, UNCW gives preference to applicants who teach in North Carolina, at either public or private institutions.

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2 Norwich University N/A Northfield, VT

Norwich University, situated in the Green Mountains of Vermont, is the oldest military college in the nation. The school only offers graduate programs in an online format. In a 2014 survey, 93% of Norwich University Online alumni--many of them leaders in business, government, and the military--stated they would recommend the program.

Building on its own institutional history, Norwich offers a self-paced master of arts in history with a choice of two tracks: American history or world history. This is an 18-month, 36-credit program consisting of six courses, which are taught one at a time. The program fosters a supportive, personalized environment by offering small classes of no more than 15 students. Courses are taught by expert faculty who all hold doctorate credentials. Both professors and the school's dedicated distance learning librarian provide extensive research assistance. Most of the online history master's degree can be completed remotely, but the program concludes with a week-long capstone residency and an optional thesis or capstone paper.

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3 Emporia State University N/A Emporia, KS

Specializing in teacher education, Emporia State was the first public higher learning institution in Kansas. ESU offers programs in business, library and information management, and liberal arts and sciences. Thirty-one graduate programs with 33 concentrations are available both at the university's main Emporia campus, as well as online. The MA in history has two concentration options: public history and social sciences.

ESU's online master's degree in history consists of 12 hours of mandatory coursework – intro to grad studies, a readings seminar, and U.S. historiography – followed by the student's chosen concentration and internship options. To apply, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0, at least 12 hours of bachelor's coursework in history, and a writing sample or lesson plan, depending on their prospective concentration. Students with bachelor's degrees are also eligible to partake in teaching assistantships to teach introductory courses in geography, U.S. history, or world history.

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4 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania N/A Slippery Rock, PA

Slippery Rock is a teacher training college located in western Pennsylvania, providing undergraduate and graduate education to over 8,500 students. As well as its commitment to intellectual development, leadership, and civic responsibility, Slippery Rock's key focus lies in sustainability; the school was named by the U.S. Department of Education as the first four-year Green Ribbon School in the state.

SRU offers affordable online options for adult learners, including a master of arts in history degree. This 30-credit program emphasizes U.S., European, and world history, preparing students for doctoral programs or diverse careers in law, government, education, business, and the military. All coursework, including theory, practical, and objective training, is taught online and exclusively by faculty who hold history Ph.Ds. The program takes 24 months to complete, and incorporates unique subject areas such as material culture and historical interpretation, opium and 19th century international trade, and Pennsylvania history.

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5 University of Memphis N/A Memphis, TN

The University of Memphis is “Driven by Doing,” with an ethos that “the best way to learn is to simply do.” This motto carries through to its online college, UofM Global, which provides students with the same resources and opportunities as they would access on campus. By contrast, all online courses at UofM Global are entirely asynchronous and semester-based.

Graduate offerings include the fully online master of arts in history. The program encompasses all major geographic areas and time periods, but is strong in U.S. history, Asia, Medieval Europe, and women, gender, and family. As well as a full range of courses, students can participate in internships, graduate school workshops, and directed readings led by tenure and tenure-track faculty. UofM welcomes students in special circumstances to apply to its online history master's degree, including those who wish to transfer (up to 12) credits from prior college-level learning or previous students of University of Memphis returning to school.

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6 Louisiana Tech University N/A Ruston, LA

Located in Ruston, Louisiana Tech is a comprehensive, selective admissions research university promoting a technology-driven and interdisciplinary teaching, learning, and research environment. Louisiana Tech's Global Campus initiative upholds these standards with highly interactive course material in its six graduate programs, one of which is the MA in history.

Louisiana Tech combines the online master's in history with a teacher certification, making the program ideal for students who aspire to teach social studies at the secondary level. The degree program itself has two options: thesis (30 credit hours) and non-thesis (33 hours). Concentration options correspond with designated faculty's areas of specialization, which include everything from popular culture to Latin America. Graduate classes are small, usually consisting of eight to 12 students. Applicants need a GPA of 2.5 or higher and out-of-state applicants may be eligible to pay in-state tuition through the Bulldog Out-of-State Fee Scholarship.

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7 Pittsburg State University N/A Pittsburg, KS

Pittsburg State is a public institution, located in southeast Kansas, with a graduate enrollment of 1,400 students. The university has achieved a graduate placement rate of over 90% in some programs and an impressive return on investment, with tuition among the lowest in the region and starting salaries among the highest in the country.

Placing large emphasis on distance learning opportunities, Pitt State offers over 50 online graduate programs. The master of arts with a major in history comes with two options--thesis or seminar--to fit student goals. For example, a thesis is strongly recommended for students who will move on to pursue a Ph.D. PSU offers flat-rate tuition with two reduced rate initiatives: Gorilla Advantage, for students in selected counties around Kansas, and Gorilla Edge, for residents of Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. All part-time students enrolled in the online master's in history program pay in-state tuition.

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8 Wayland Baptist University N/A Plainview, TX

Wayland Baptist University, along with its main campus in Plainview, Texas, provides faith-based education across 12 campuses in the Southwest, Hawaii, Alaska, and Kenya, as well as online. WBU's online Christian college strives for both flexibility and rigorous academic standards with a variety of online and hybrid programs.

WBU was one of the first universities to offer a master of arts in history completely online. The program includes 37 hours of ethnic, gender, environmental, regional, public history, and archival management courses. Students can study the master's in history online at their own pace, and they also have the option to produce a thesis on a topic of their choice as part of the core curriculum. As a Christian university, WBU offers history classes in unique areas such as church history, the intertestamental period, and baptist history.

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9 National University N/A La Jolla, CA

A nonprofit institution located in La Jolla, National University's goal is to invest in students with exemplary education, technologies, and services. The graduate student population at NU is more diverse than any other college or university in California; the university ranks top in the nation for awarding master's degrees to Hispanics, African-Americans, and women. In addition, the school is a leader in online education, with over 70 degrees and 1,200 courses available completely online.

One of these is the master of arts in history, which focuses on historical research, analysis, and writing. Prospective students, who are required to have a bachelor of arts in history or a closely-related discipline, can choose from either a research track culminating in a traditional thesis or a teaching option resulting in a master's portfolio. The online master's degree in history typically takes two years to complete. This covers 27 quarter units of core requisites, plus an additional 18 quarter units of electives.

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10 Western Kentucky University N/A Bowling Green, KY

Situated atop "The Hill" in Bowling Green, Kentucky, WKU is a public university recognized for its holistic learning experiences and high student achievement. The university offers online learning in two different formats. WKU Online offers over 50 degrees following a term-based calendar; WKU On Demand provides self-paced web, email, CD-ROM, or print classes, which have no enrollment caps and can be completed in as few as seven weeks.

The master of arts in history is part of the 28 online master's degrees, and is taught through WKU Online. Master's in history online courses are offered on a rotating basis across three years of study. The curriculum requires one core course (historiography), four courses in an area of concentration (such as pre-modern Europe), and 21 hours of electives. Before admission to the program, applicants should have completed a GRE and at least 18 hours of undergraduate history classes. Graduate students may transfer up to 12 hours from an accredited college. The WKU Online tuition rate for graduate students is the same regardless of location.

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An online master’s in history provides students with a solid academic foundation that prepares them for a variety of careers. Many history programs offer concentrations in areas such as American history, military history, and public history. While concentrations and their potential career paths vary by school, students can expect to find concentrations comparable to the ones listed below.


Concentration Description Careers this concentration prepares for
American History This concentration allows you to examine topics in American history and their influence on modern society. Students learn how to analyze and evaluate historical events across the span of American history, with courses including early American encounters and the Cold War. Students who pursue this degree path are prepared for careers in research, writing, and teaching.
Military History This concentration focuses on the political, cultural, and economic effects of war, and students examine the major global wars and military theory. Examples of course topics include the Russian revolutions, Chinese imperialism, and the era of the Civil War. Military historians are employed by Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Defense, museums, and schools.
Public History An emphasis in public history provides students with an in-depth understanding of the preservation process and interpretation of historical records. Students learn how to manage archives and museum collections. They also gain skills in documentary editing. Career opportunities include work in museums, archives, preservation programs, and governmental research.


While coursework varies between programs, the following courses are commonly found as part of online master’s in history programs. This sampling of courses provides you with an idea of the curriculum you will encounter. Not all programs require a thesis, although it is strongly recommended for students who wish to pursue their doctorate.

  • Historiography: This course explores the study of history and historical writing. Students examine the social contexts in which history has been recorded and how current perspectives influence interpretations of historical events. Knowledge of historiography equips students with the skills needed to work in museums, schools, and research organizations.
  • Historical Methods: This course provides students with an overview of the methodological approaches used to conduct and interpret historical research. Students gain skills in analysis and evaluation. Careers that require these skills include teaching, writing, and researching.
  • Research Seminar or Thesis: History students develop a research proposal based on their interests. This course synthesizes the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the program, and students write a substantial body of work about their chosen topic. Skills in research and writing allow students to choose a number of career paths, including publishing and editing.
  • American Civil War: In addition to reviewing the recorded history of events during this era, students explore how their own cultural perspectives influence their understanding of the Civil War. Students examine the methodologies used to interpret the events during this period. This is a useful course for teachers, writers, and researchers.


Most online master’s in history programs are 30-36 credits and take less than three years to complete. Full-time students can earn their degree in 15 months. Programs that require a thesis take longer to complete. Students may be required to enroll in a minimum number of courses. Some programs offer a completion track that consists of two courses per 10-week term, others offer single consecutive courses that are completed in eight-week terms.

Students pursuing their master’s degree in history online complete their degree at an individual pace or as part of a cohort. Individually-paced programs usually have rolling admissions with several start dates. Completion of coursework is based on the student’s personal needs. It’s a flexible approach to degree attainment, particularly for working professionals. The cohort learning model emphasizes a community approach to learning; students are part of a group who progress through the program together.


  • Archivist Certification: Offered by the Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA), the archivist certification exam ensures that students have the expertise to preserve and maintain historical documents. It consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, and the ACA has an online forum where students can form study groups. Students must earn their master’s degree prior to taking the exam.
  • Small Museum Certification: The American Association for State and Local History offers a certificate training program for historians who work, or want to work in small museums. To become certified, professionals must complete five online courses. Coursework is completed at the learner’s convenience. Topics include developing exhibits, museum education, and outreach.

The best online master’s in history programs are offered by accredited universities. Accredited universities and programs participate in peer review processes and are held accountable by their accrediting bodies. Two main types of accrediting bodies exist in the U.S.: regional and national. Regionally accredited universities are members of one of six accrediting bodies across the U.S., such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Nationally accredited universities typically offer vocational or distance learning programs and are reviewed every three to five years. These accredited schools generally have lower tuition rates, but credits are not always transferable to regionally accredited schools. Public nonprofit universities are usually regionally accredited, while private for-profit universities are nationally accredited. Many online programs are accredited by the DEAC, which requires accredited distance learning programs to adhere to the commission’s standards and policies. History majors who are interested in pursuing careers in teaching should keep an eye out for programs that are accredited by the CAEP.

Accrediting bodies are recognized by the Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). DOE is a federal organization that promotes student success and standardized education preparation. DOE recognizes accrediting bodies that apply for recognition and sets the standards to which they and their programs adhere to. CHEA promotes academic quality through its rigorous accreditor recognition process. Accrediting bodies recognized by these organizations demonstrate accountability and participate in self studies and peer reviews to maintain academic quality. The CHEAand the DOE provide exhaustive databases of accredited schools to help students find an accredited university that fits their needs.


An online master’s in history equips students with many skills, including the ability to conduct thorough research. The degree also prepares learners for careers as historians, archivists, and curators. These occupations require strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Historians rely on writing expertise to present findings in articles and books. Students who choose to teach at the secondary or post-secondary level must be resourceful and patient. Writers and editors are detail-oriented and often engage in research. All of these occupations require creativity and insight, skills that are nurtured through an advanced program.

1. Historian: In addition to gathering historical data, historians write reports, examine historical artifacts to determine authenticity, and preserve materials for organizations, such as museums and visitor centers. Historians with advanced degrees focus on special topics in history and have career opportunities in higher education teaching and research.

2. Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker: Archivists appraise historic documents, create systems to manage electronic records, and organize archival records. An advanced degree allows archivists to specialize in an era of history and develop expertise in a specific form of record keeping. Curators and museum workers design exhibits, conduct tours, clean ancient objects, and lead special research projects.

3. History Teacher: A history teacher plans lessons and adapts them to accommodate varying student needs. They also prepare students for standardized tests and evaluate their progress. High school history teachers generally instruct different groups of 9th-12th grade students. An online master’s in history allows history teachers to work at universities and community colleges.

4. Writer: Historical fiction writers focus on an era in history and conduct research on historical events to provide factual information and foster authenticity. Historical nonfiction writers cover topics ranging from biographies of influential people to wars and social revolutions. Historians with advanced degrees write books and scholarly articles that are published in academic journals.

5. Editor: Editors examine texts to verify facts, correct grammar and punctuation, and work with publishers to develop story ideas. There are several types of editors, such as copy editors, assistant editors, and managing editors. Copy editors suggest revisions and oversee page layouts. An advanced degree in history prepares students for careers in academic editing.

Median Salary and Growth Rate by Career

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Job Growth (2014-24)
Historian $55,110 2%
Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker $47,230 7%
History Teacher $58,030 6%
Writer $61,240 2%
Editor $57,210 5%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Students pursuing an online master’s in history can boost their marketability and potential earnings by completing an advanced degree. A recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) found that individuals who pursued an advanced degree in history experienced salary increases of up to 51%. A graduate degree in history can provide students with economic advantages and provide them with a greater range of employability. Specialized skills in archival studies prepare students for certification training that can only be completed with a master’s degree.


Historians find work in a variety of industries, and their salaries are influenced by factors including education level, years of experience, and employer type. The following table features salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and includes the annual earnings of historians across a sample of industries. The industries are listed in descending order with the highest paying employer type listed first.

Average Annual Salary for Historians by Employer Type

Historian Employer Type Average Annual Salary
Federal Executive Branch $93,340
Management and Consulting Services $65,310
Colleges and Universities $61,880
State Government $51,140
Museums and Historical Sites $48,780

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Current students and recent graduates benefit from joining professional organizations. The organizations listed below provide students with networking opportunities, including professional mentoring, internship and career opportunities, and research grants. Annual conferences provide further opportunities for professional connections, and students gain access to the latest research topics in the field, such as forms of history, using history to build communities, and campus histories.

  • American Historical Association (AHA): Devoted to the advancement of historical study, AHA is the largest historian organization. Graduate students benefit from the association’s career diversity initiative, which strives to broaden career opportunities for recent graduates.
  • Organization of American Historians (OAH): OAH offers several benefits to its members, including insurance programs that cover professional liability, automobile, medical, and more. Members of OAH have access to the organization’s scholarly journal, a quarterly magazine, and teaching tools.
  • National Council on Public History (NCPH): As a student member of NCPH, you will have access to the council’s publications, workshops, and career support. NCPH has several advocacy interests, and students have the opportunity to partner with organizations to promote history education.

Earning your master’s degree in history online does not have to cost a fortune. Students have access to numerous federal grants and loans. To receive government help to pay for your education, you must complete the FAFSA. Students can participate in a work-study program or graduate assistantship. Many graduate assistantships waive tuition fees and provide students with a monthly stipend. Other opportunities are available in the form of private a href=”” target=”_blank”>scholarships and grants specifically for history majors.


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