Master’s in History Program Guide

Learn how a master's in history can prepare you for many different exciting and well-paying jobs across several industries and fields.

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by Staff Writers

Updated August 16, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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Completing a master's degree program in history can provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to qualify for many jobs across several industries. Students can gain transferable skills in research and writing that prove valuable to hiring managers. Graduates' knowledge of historical time periods may help them land jobs related to education, historic preservation, curation, and museum management.

Master's in history programs can vary widely in terms of cost. Most students on a budget opt for programs offered by public colleges in their states of residence. Students should plan to spend between two and three years meeting all graduation requirements, depending on whether they enroll on a part- or full-time basis.

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Both career and salary projections remain strong for those who hold master's degrees in history. Keep reading to learn about common courses and concentrations, available jobs, and projected salaries.

Should I Get a Master's in History?

Earning a master's in history can open professional and academic pathways. A student may pursue this degree as the final step in their educational journey or go on to pursue a doctoral degree and, eventually, a teaching or research position.

Most programs consist of 30-36 credits and require approximately two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study. Because a master's in history can take graduates in many different professional directions, demand for workers with this degree will always exist.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects positions historians will grow 5% between 2020 and 2030, while jobs for high school history teachers will grow 8% during the same time frame. Graduates who hope to use their degrees to enter the museum industry will be happy to discover that the BLS projects roles for archivists, curators, and museum workers to grow 19% between 2020 and 2030.

Plenty of jobs exist for graduates who do not pursue additional education, licensure, or certification. That said, some positions may require a higher degree or added qualification. Individuals who plan to work in public high schools must seek licensure from their state board of education. Those who want to teach at the postsecondary level typically need to hold a doctorate to land a position.

Students deciding whether to attend grad school should consider these factors before making a decision.

Popular Online Master's in History Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Will I Learn in a History Master's Program?

The curriculum for a master's in history program depends on the concentration a student chooses — history is a large subject that covers thousands of years and many areas. That said, nearly all programs include core courses every student takes regardless of their specialization. Most learners begin their studies with a class on how to research and write about history, with special emphasis on historiography.

Students typically learn how to use both primary and secondary sources in crafting a fact-based thesis and also study the work of other historians to get a sense of academic writing. They may also take several general reading courses covering different approaches and styles.

At the end of the program, students usually complete a thesis of publishable quality that brings together their research and writing skills.

Concentrations

Ancient History

Ancient history covers the time period between 3600 B.C. and 500 A.D. Students interested in archaeology and early civilizations all over the world often choose this specialization.

Medieval History

Traditionally covering 500-1500 A.D., medieval history can be a great fit for learners interested in European, African, and Asian studies. This concentration focuses on the religious, political, social, and cultural shifts throughout the era.

Modern History

Modern history focuses on 1500 A.D. through the present era and offers subfocuses in different parts of the world. Students interested in studies focused more on written accounts and narratives often choose this specialization.

Museum Studies

Learners who want to work in museums may choose this concentration. They often learn about topics like archiving, preservation, curation, and general business practices associated with museum management. They may also focus on interpretation and education.

Historic Preservation

Historic preservation is a rich concentration devoted to studies surrounding preserving and restoring old structures. Students learn about historic building materials and practices, different design eras, and modern preservation methods.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs

What Can I Do With a Master's in History?

Graduates of master's in history programs often possess a versatile set of skills that can transfer to many different industries and fields. Given their advanced knowledge in research and writing, many decide to pursue jobs as journalists, authors, and editors. Those with a passion for visual arts may work as art historians or in museums.

Others enjoy the aspect of history that prizes precision and data. These students may feel drawn to complete a law degree, teach in secondary or postsecondary settings, or work to develop new history curricula. The career paths highlighted below are just some of the popular professional options for history graduates.

Popular Career Paths

Popular Continuing Education Paths

How Much Money Can I Make With a Master's in History?

The amount of money a graduate with a master's in history degree can earn depends on an applicant's employer, years of experience, and industry. According to the BLS, historians earned a median annual salary of $63,100 in May 2020. Political scientists made an average salary of $125,350 during the period.

Nonprofit settings typically offer lower salaries. The BLS reports curators, archivists, and museum workers earned a median annual salary of $52,140 in May 2020. High school history teachers made a median yearly wage of $62,870 during the same period, but the top 10% of earners took home more than $102,130.

How Do I Choose a Master's in History Program?

Deciding to complete a master's in history requires a significant investment of time and money, so students should consider their options carefully to find the right match. Applicants should make sure to choose an accredited school. Students who attend institutions without accreditation may have trouble transferring credits to other schools, finding jobs, and applying to doctoral programs.

The field of history covers so much time and so many different perspectives. Therefore, students should also ensure that there are faculty at the school they choose who specialize in their interest area.

Prospective degree-seekers must also decide whether they plan to study on a full-time or part-time basis and if they want to go to college on campus or online. If a student chooses to attend school on campus, figuring out which state they want to study in can help narrow down options. They should also explore institutions' student services and graduate financial aid opportunities.

Find the best online master's in history programs.

How Do I Get Into a Master's in History Program?

Individual colleges and history departments set unique admission requirements. Graduate admissions can feel overwhelming, especially if a prospective student needs to prepare for the GRE exam.

In addition to a completed application containing demographic information such as name, address, citizenship status, and date of birth, many colleges ask for a host of other documents to better understand each candidate.

Prospective students must generally submit letters of recommendation from trusted mentors, supervisors, or professors. Schools usually also ask applicants to write a grad school essay, send in official undergraduate transcripts, submit a statement of purpose, and present a resume outlining professional and academic accomplishments.

FAQ's About Master's in History Programs

Is a master's in history worth it?

A master's in history degree can provide students with the knowledge needed to work in a variety of roles. The skills students learn in these programs can transfer to many different industries and careers, making a history master's a highly versatile degree.

In addition to learning how to conduct effective research using primary and secondary sources, students typically master how to develop theses and arguments, write logically and persuasively, and connect various themes and ideas in cohesive ways. Student can apply for jobs after finishing their degree or continue their studies in a doctoral program.

Is a history degree useless?

Contrary to what some people might say, a history master's program can teach students transferable skills that hiring managers across industries appreciate and look for in candidates. In fact, the American Historical Society commissioned a 2017 study that found only 4.6% of surveyed history graduates aged 25-64 were unemployed. The national unemployment rate for that age group at the time was 7.7%

History graduates can go into a wide variety of roles, including in education, training, and library science, management, law, and sales.

How do you get into a history master's program?

As with other graduate degree programs, admission requirements for history programs are set by individual schools. All postgraduate programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. More competitive programs seek candidates who studied history or a related subject as undergraduates.

Admissions panelists may also take a student's GPA, GRE scores, professional and/or academic experience, reasons for attending, and letters of recommendation into consideration.

How much does it cost to get a master's in history?

The cost of a master's in history can vary substantially based on which school you attend. College Board found that master's programs at public colleges and universities cost an average of $9,000 in tuition during the 2021-2022 academic year. Private institutions charged an average of $29,670 per year for master's programs.

Students who want to complete their master's in history on a budget often decide to attend a public, in-state school. They also take advantage of funding offered directly by the institution. Learners may also seek scholarships, grants, or other funding sources provided by government agencies, nonprofits, and professional associations.

What are the highest paying jobs for graduates with a history degree?

Pay for master's in history graduates depends on where a person works, how much experience they possess, and where they live. According to the BLS, historians made an annual median wage of $63,100 in May 2020. Curators, archivists, and museum workers earned a wage of $52,140 per year during the same period.

The BLS reports political scientists earned an annual median salary of $125,350 in May 2020.

Feature Image: GaudiLab / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

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