Complete Guide to an Online History Degree
A degree in history can provide students with a nuanced understanding of history throughout the world and an improved capacity for processing and analyzing information. A history major cultivates critical thinking skills and the ability to see events from the perspective of numerous stakeholders. Online history degrees can be a good fit for employment in sectors that require strong liberal arts, communication, and research skills. Some possible postgraduate roles include archivist, museum technician, or research assistant. Historical understanding and communication skills can be useful for roles outside of history areas as well, such as positions in political science or business.
Prospective history students should look for a degree program that is being offered by an accredited institution. This is vital for any online postsecondary education program. The US Department of Education has a useful database of accredited degree programs and legitimate accrediting bodies. Read More
Comprehensive List of Colleges & Universities for an Online History Degree
Overview of Available Online History Degrees
An associate degree in history combines classes in world history with other humanities and liberal arts classes. Foundational courses explore subjects such as philosophy, natural science, social science, and fine arts. Associate degrees are good preparation for students who plan on earning a bachelor's degree in history.
An online bachelor’s degree in history covers the process of researching and examining history, as well as studying the histories of different regions around the globe. Common courses discuss the history of Western civilization, the history of Europe, United States history, and Middle Eastern history. Other courses may look at the historical development of particular populations or topics, such as women’s history, the history of religion, or the history of film. Some programs allow or require students to specialize the degree in an area like the history of science, African American history, or art history.
Master's degrees in history enable students to focus heavily on a particular historical region, era, person, or event. Several programs also allow students to assess and compare factors that have impacted the United States and other countries. The programs often draw from other disciplines, such as sociology, political science, economics, English literature, and environmental studies. Graduate certificates are available for educators or other working professionals who want to closely examine the history of a particular region or a historical event, such as American history, military history, the Civil War, or classical history.
History plays a significant role in framing the direction of the future. Students who are serious about studying history often pursue associate degrees in order to learn basic information about the subject without having to commit to four years of full-time study. Associate degree programs usually take two years to complete and contain about 60 credit hours. Schools accept those with high school diplomas or GED certificates.
Associate degrees in history teach students fundamental tools that can be applied to a wide range of jobs and activities. General education courses may include English literature, biology, and mathematics. Students also explore additional classes in the program, such as an introduction to history, Eastern religions, history of Western civilization, world history, regional history, art history, historical geology, world politics, and the history of human rights.
Job opportunities for associate degree holder in history range from teaching assistantships and park historians to document archivists and research assistants. Many graduates continue their education by obtaining a bachelor's or master's degree in a specialized area of historical study.
The bachelor’s degree in history teaches students about major events and themes in human development, from ancient times to today. In the process, students gain a historical context for current events, as well as research and critical thinking skills. These programs require four years and 120 credit hours of work. A high school diploma or GED is required to apply.
The curriculum in the history bachelor’s degree surveys history in varying regions around the world, from prehistoric events to today. Common core classes include overviews of history research methods, ancient history, medieval history, US history, and the history of ethnicity and race in the United States. Students are also required to take survey courses in the history of particular geopolitical regions, such as Asian, Latin American, or African history.
Along with taking the major courses in an array of history areas, students can also specialize the bachelor’s degree in a particular history subtopic, such as women’s history, European history, or the history of science. Most programs require a capstone course or thesis project, in which students complete a significant research paper in their focus area.
History bachelor’s graduates are prepared for a variety of careers that require critical thinking, writing, and reading skills. Graduates can apply for positions as administrators, human resource managers, legal assistants, and marketing analysts, to name a few. Others pursue teacher certification to teach history at the high school level. Still others go on to graduate study in law, library science, political science, or another humanities area.
Exploring the history of various civilizations can be a rewarding experience for the right person. If you're interested in taking your education to the next level and learning advanced topics in this discipline, a master's degree would be an excellent option. These programs essentially take two to three years to complete and consist of approximately 36 credit hours. Applicants with bachelor's degrees in a related area are eligible for enrollment.
Master's degree programs in history help broaden students' perspectives of different cultures and economies. Students focus on obtaining knowledge related to influential time periods, people, and events. They're expected to delve into independent research, as well as complete a capstone project. In some cases, the required project is replaced by a thesis. Examples of core classes include colonialism; cultural and religious history; diplomatic history; imperialism; historiography; Roman history; slavery; women's suffrage; and race, class, and gender history. Other common classroom topics may include research methods of historians, popular culture throughout history, early American history, analyzing historical data and samples, history of ancient Greece, and history of ancient indigenous people.
Graduates are eligible to become museum administrators, teachers, archivists, librarians, and writers; many master's graduates become college instructors. Those who are interested in becoming consultants or scholars in the field should consider earning a doctorate degree as well.
Applicants to a certificate in history program must usually hold a bachelor's degree to be considered. Prospective students will need to submit official transcripts from all postsecondary programs they have attended. An 18-credit certificate can be completed in less than one year.
The courses required for a history certificate program depend on the particular concentration a student selects. An American history certificate may include courses in US constitutional history, the American Revolution in context, the Civil War, the United States in the 20th century, and history and popular culture. A student focused on ancient and classical history could expect to take courses focusing on Medieval Europe, late antiquity and Byzantium, the Greek civilization, the Roman Republic and Empire, and the Renaissance and Reformation. Requirements for a certificate in European history would include classes in the Great War, World War II in context, modern European history, 18th and 19th century Europe, and the history of the Enlightenment.
Credits from an accredited certificate in history may be transferred toward completion of a bachelor's or master's degree. This program would also benefit teachers or anyone who would like to increase their knowledge of history for personal or professional reasons.
It's important to enroll in an online degree program that is properly accredited in order to ensure a favorable learning experience. Accreditation is a term used to describe schools and degree programs that have been carefully evaluated in terms of their curricula, faculty, student resources and outcomes, and research capabilities. Attending an accredited school will enable you to access any federal financial aid you might qualify for and help you meet eligibility requirements for transferring credits from one accredited institution to another. This is especially important for students who plan to attend graduate school.
While there isn't a specific programmatic accrediting agency for history degree programs, many online schools that have received accreditation do offer history degrees. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the US Department of Education formally recognize several regional accrediting agencies and provide databases of accredited schools on their websites for prospective students. Please visit the Guide to Online Schools accreditation hub for more information about how accreditation works and why it's important.
History is a liberal arts major, so it helps students develop critical thinking skills and a broad understanding of culture. The major is not intended to prepare graduates for a particular field, like an information technology or nursing degree would. Because of this, some people make the mistake of thinking that a history degree has no practical applications to the real world. In reality, a history degree opens up many possible careers in fields such as education, consulting, law, business, financial services, government service, and non-profit administration. Here are just a few examples of potential career options for history majors:
History Teacher (Secondary Education)
A history teacher at a high school will usually teach a very general year-long course, such as American history, European history or world history. History teachers are charged with the important job of passing on the history of our world and our country to the next generation of students, a monumental task that requires patience, innovation, and passion.
History Professor (Postsecondary Education)
Because it requires extensive education, only people who are truly dedicated to the academic study of history should consider pursuing a career as a postsecondary history teacher. In order to work as a professor of history at a university—jobs that are extremely competitive—one must first earn a doctoral degree in history, with a concentration in whichever area of history he or she is most interested in. To work as a history teacher at a community college, students must complete at least a master's degree in history, again with a specialization in a particular facet of history. Professors usually have excellent job security, and they usually have resources that allow them to conduct their own original research, in addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate classes.
Journalists are actually writing the history of tomorrow. Though journalism is now described by some as a dying art form, it is in fact still very important to the world we live in. Journalists research articles, interview people, and write articles that explain what has happened and why. Their work is now mostly published online, although many print newspapers and magazines do exist. Some journalists specialize in broadcast journalism and work in TV, radio, and other forms of media. A history major with a strong communications background may be a unique candidate for journalist positions.
With their extensive background in research, history majors are ideally poised to begin careers as librarians. Most libraries require applying librarians to have Master of Library Science degrees, which take one to two years to complete. Librarians organize their books and electronic resources to make them easily accessible to patrons. They train other staff members to use their systems, and they monitor the content that is coming in and out of a library to keep track of resources. Since libraries are increasingly reliant on technology, people who are interested in being librarians should study web design and basic computer functions.
Museum jobs are extremely competitive. There are relatively few museums in the United States and even fewer that are dedicated to general history (students of art history will obviously find their niche with art museums). Museums are nearly always poorly funded, and they can only maintain small staffs. In fact, many museum jobs are exclusively for volunteers. Anyone who hopes to work at a history museum must be trained in handling historical relics and must be able to speak knowledgeably about the period of history that he or she will represent at a certain museum. Participating in volunteer work or internships while in college can help graduates get a foot in the door at museums once they complete their degree program.
Those who have backgrounds in history can provide a unique perspective on travel. A person who majored in history with an emphasis on Asia, for example, would make an excellent travel writer for books and articles on China. Companies like Lonely Planet hire people to travel around a given country or region and review sights, restaurants, travel, and accommodations for other travelers. These jobs can be exciting and interesting, though the industry is a difficult one to break in to. Studying a language (or languages) at a higher level while in college can make it easier to begin such a career.
- Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/curators-museum-technicians-and-conservators.htm.
- High School Teachers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm.
- Historians. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/historians.htm.
- Librarians. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm.
- Postsecondary Teachers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published January 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm.
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