Online PhD in History

Online PhD programs in history allow studies to center their studies on a particular concentration area, like American history or global history. Ph.D. graduates go into the world as experts in the history discipline they studied during their Ph.D. studies. In a Ph.D. program, students learn the techniques necessary to research their topic of interest, discover new interpretations of existing events, and communicate information in verbal and written form. Students also learn to work more independently than they ever would have in their bachelor's or master's degree programs, as Ph.D. students work independently on their dissertations.

Those who earn their online doctoral degree in history have a variety of job prospects. Many jobs require that you hold a Ph.D., like that as a history professor, making a Ph.D. not so much an option as a necessity in some cases.

About Online PhD Programs in History

Though few online doctoral programs in history currently exist, online doctoral programs are generally the same as those in a traditional classroom setting. In Ph.D. history programs, students complete between one and a half to two years of full-time doctoral course work. In these courses, students learn the research and writing skills they need to complete their dissertation, a major component of Ph.D. programs. Students consult their dissertation advisor throughout the course of completing it; dissertations require that students conduct research and make an original contribution to their field of expertise. Courses and dissertation requirements that are necessary to complete a Ph.D. at New York University are the norm for this degree type.

Year One:

  • Approaches to Historical Research and Writing. Students become familiarized with advanced methods for researching and writing in the history field.
  • Literature of the Field: U.S. to 1877. Students study historical literature from the nation's inception through 1877.
  • Literature of the Field: U.S. Since 1877. Historical literature in the U.S. from 1877 through the present is examined and analyzed by students.

Year Two:

  • U.S. History Seminar. Course offerings vary by semester, but students might, for example, take a U.S. history seminar on Irish America. In this course they will examine the historiography of Irish immigrants in the U.S.
  • Atlantic History Workshop. Visiting guests share their research and original concepts for students to learn and analyze.
  • The Mediterranean in Historical Perspective. Students gain a historical perspective on Mediterranean history, including various theories and interpretations scholars and historians have presented throughout history.

In traditional programs, students begin working on their dissertation in their fourth year. With the support of their advisor, students conduct their own intensive research about a niche subject that most interests them. Dissertations are usually 200-400 pages in length and require extensive editing and rewriting. Throughout the research and writing process, students develop a new perspective or concept relating to their dissertation's subject and present and defend it within their research paper.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in History

One of the pros of earning a Ph.D. in history is that it truly sets you apart from others. The majority of professionals have a bachelor's degree, and fewer have a master's degree let alone a doctorate. This makes those with a Ph.D. in History more likely to obtain the job in the government, business, or education fields they most desire. Though few online programs exist, online history programs provide students with great flexibility in terms of their schedules. Many times, they can continue to work while engaging in the activities necessary to complete their dissertation.

However, there are also cons for those who earn their online doctorate in history. One drawback is that students lose their opportunity to network with colleagues and professionals in the field in a face-to-face environment. Additionally, though all doctoral students must be self-driven, online students generally aren't in an academic environment that helps to drive them to complete their dissertation, which is highly involved. This lack of guidance requires that only the most driven of students enter into an online program, while the less driven are strongly suggested to seek a program in a traditional setting.

Application & Admission Requirements

Generally, students must complete a master's degree before being admitted into a Ph.D. program. Sometimes, schools allow students with a bachelor's degree in a related subject to apply for their Ph.D. program, but students must complete master's-level work before working on their doctoral curriculum; however, this is a less popular route. Students must submit three letters of recommendation from professional and academic references to be considered for admission into a Ph.D. program. Additionally, students must submit an application and fee, official bachelor's and master's transcripts, GRE scores, a statement of academic objectives, a resume or CV, and a writing sample.

Career Options & Job Market

Two of the most popular careers sought by Ph.D. history graduates are those as professors and historians. A Ph.D. is generally a requirement for four-year universities, though some allow those working on their Ph.D. to teach. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual average for post secondary history teachers was $72,200. The BLS also reports that hiring in this career field is growing at a rate of 17%, which is about average when compared to other industries.

Historians, on the other hand, earn about $53,520 annually, according to the BLS. Those who work in the federal executive branch can particularly expect to earn more, as the BLS reports that those historians earn an average of $85,860 annually. Employment in this career path is projected to rise at a rate of 18% through 2020. Although a Ph.D. in this career is not a necessity in all cases, it is in many; this is especially true of specialized historian positions. Additionally, holding a Ph.D. in this field often leads to higher earnings.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Students have several options in terms of gaining financial assistance during their Ph.D. studies. Financial aid and scholarships are available from private and public sources. For example, graduate students can seek a scholarship from the J.E. Caldwell Centennial Scholarship fund. Grants are also a common route taken by Ph.D. students; students must apply for grants and if they are awarded one, do not have to pay it back upon graduation.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. One financial loan many history students seek is the Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This low-interest loan program confers at most $20,500 per year to students at a 6.8% fixed interest rate.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. Certain students in doctoral programs in history also have the option of getting a Federal Perkins Loan. This loan was designed for those who demonstrate the most need for financial assistance. On average, qualifying students are awarded $3,500 annually at a fixed 5% interest rate.
  • Campus-Based Aid. A common route taken by Ph.D. students is to seek campus-based aid. Most schools offer assistance for financial aid through their financial aid office, which also manages those programs provided by the federal government.

Essential Advice

  • Consult someone you know who is enrolled or graduated with a Ph.D. in History before making your final decision. Try to get an idea of how involved the doctoral path is in this subject to see if it is the right decision for you.
  • Do a lot of research from a career perspective before enrolling in a program. Determine if this degree will enable you to increase your earnings or further your career. If you are unsure, you need to do more research.
  • Only enroll in an accredited program. Also be sure to check if the your potential program's accreditation agency is listed on the U.S. Department of Education's website.
  • Research your financial aid options when you consider your Ph.D. program. A grant, fellowship, and/or scholarship can provide important financial help to you during the three to seven years it will take you to earn your degree.