Online Master of History
Master of History In Context

Turning your passion for history into a career can lead to many rewarding jobs in academia, libraries, museums, or historical organizations, or even the pursuit of a Ph.D. Whatever your plans are, a master’s in history can be an excellent step.

What is a master's in history degree?

A master’s in history degree focuses on key events of the past, particularly those relating to human affairs. It’s an immersive program that prepares students for the world of academia by teaching them the core analytical approaches necessary to understand historical events. A master’s in history can help you build a wide variety of skills, in particular critical analysis and the presentation of balanced, well-informed arguments. As the degree is research-based, it’s often a choice for anyone wishing to pursue a doctorate.

More than this, however, the study of history is essential to our understanding of society. Events of the past inform the present, which means that a thorough understanding of historical events can enhance our worldview. History can also provide us with a sense of identity and a clearer understanding of what it means to be a human and a citizen of our country. [1] In this way, a master’s in history can provide personal as well as professional satisfaction.

Who might pursue a master's in history?

A master’s degree in history will primarily appeal to individuals holding a bachelor’s degree in history, who make up the majority of students studying the subject at the master’s and doctorate level. [2]

The degree is designed for professionals who are interested in pursuing teaching positions, academic research roles, a role within a historical institution (such as a museum), a doctorate in history, or who simply wish to enrich their education for the pleasure of the discipline. The master’s degree serves multiple functions in the United States and is variously described as a professional degree, a research degree, a teaching degree, and a cultural degree. This speaks to the diverse nature of students and the fact that many different people come to the same program for a wide range of reasons. [3] Graduates of history programs at any educational level commonly hold positions such as lawyers or judges, or as elementary and middle school teachers. [4]

The number of people completing a master’s in history has remained relatively low in recent years. This reflects a general decline in the study of history at all levels but can elevate the value of a student who has completed a master’s degree. Highly educated history students are not as common as individuals with a comparable level of education in other subjects. [2]

Why earn a master’s in history degree?

A Master of History is an excellent way to learn a wide range of skills that can shape you into a well-rounded professional, ready to embark on a number of exciting careers. Studying history at the master’s level helps you advance beyond entry-level employment and prepares you to fill a variety of roles. A master’s in history is versatile, providing you with essential soft skills including assessment, conflict resolution, logic, and communication, all of which are applicable to and highly sought after in most career tracks. [1]

For example, your studies help equip you to illuminate the world in the past, present, and future, uniquely positioning you to excel in areas like journalism and publishing. You can also turn to charity work and nonprofit sectors that greatly benefit from individuals with a keen sense of history, as do many government roles.

If you have entrepreneurial aspirations, the skill sets learned while studying a master’s in history can help prepare you to advance. Accuracy, analytical thinking, and a keen understanding of people and society are all vital elements of successfully starting your own business, and many thought leaders in the business arena cite history as an essential subject of study for any business leader. [5] Likewise, the depth of knowledge and understanding gained during your studies can enrich your writing.

Politicians and lawyers also benefit greatly from the perspective and skill set afforded by a master’s in history, with the ability to use historical data to argue your points persuasively, a core aspect of both careers.

In addition to career benefits, earning a master’s in history also comes with the deep personal satisfaction of having earned the degree. For many, the desire to study history for the love of the subject far outweighs any other motivation. [3]

What is the primary focus of a master's in history degree?

The focus of a master’s in history is the development of research skills, preparing graduates to digest, analyze, and communicate about historical events and their ramifications. The degree will also teach you how to understand history in context and the manner in which past events inform the present and shape the future.

How can a master's in history add value to my career?

There are many ways a master’s in history can enrich your career. A master’s degree demonstrates a level of understanding and dedication that is difficult to replicate elsewhere, and it can help you qualify for more advanced roles.

A master’s in history is also flexible, providing tangible benefits across many career paths. This means you can pursue more than one career over the course of your life. If, for example, you want to start off in research and move on to law or politics, that transition can be aided by your master’s in history.

What are the key attributes to look for in a master's in history degree?


      Choose a reputable, regionally accredited program that’s trusted by employers and can prepare you for doctoral study.

Curriculum specialization options: Compare programs to find one that will allow you to explore the area of history that interests you.

Admission requirements: Confirm that you qualify for master’s in history programs by comparing admissions requirements.

Program length and flexibility: Ensure your program of choice works with your current schedule so you can make time to successfully complete your degree.

Master of History Career Advancement
Depending on your specific interests and your chosen specialty, there are several different career paths available with a master's in history. Common work settings for individuals with a master's in history include community colleges, public organizations, high schools, and universities. [3] A master's in history can help you increase your earning potential compared to professionals who remain at the bachelor's level. For example, the average salary for an individual with an entry-level B.A. in History working as a high school teacher is $43,436, [7] while the average individual with a master's in history working as a postsecondary teacher can expect to earn $81,060. [4] [6] [7]
What types of careers are available in history?

Here are some examples of the roles and salaries you might expect with a master’s in history, based on growth rates between 2014 and 2024, and average salaries:

  • History professors earn a median salary of $93,960 [6] with a growth rate of 10%. [8]
  • High school teachers earn a median salary of $58,030 [9] with a growth rate of 6%.
  • Historians earn a median salary of $55,110 [10] with a growth rate of 2%. [10]
  • Archivists, curators, and museum workers earn a median salary of $47,230 [11] with a growth rate of 7%. [11]
  • Lawyers earn a median salary of $118,160 [12] with a growth rate of 6%. [12]

If you’re interested in alternative career tracks, a master’s in history provides many excellent opportunities:

Archaeologists earn a median salary of $61,220, [13] and a firm grounding in history is essential for this career path. Archaeologists conduct their own independent research aimed at reconstructing a record of past human civilizations and cultures through the study of artifacts, human remains, structures, architecture, and the excavation of historically significant sites.

In a similar vein, anthropologists earn a median salary of $61,220. [13] As with the archaeological field, a master’s in history can be a key element to a successful career in this field. Anthropologists are responsible for researching, evaluating, and establishing various public policies concerning human societies, their origins, functions, and relationship. They investigate the social, physical, cultural, and linguistic development of human societies, their relation to each other, and their behavior. They also study the cultures, institutions, and organizations that have grown in different societies.

Professors of literature and foreign language are another promising alternative career for someone with a master’s in history. They earn a median salary of $61,380 [13], and while an education in history is not essential for either career, it is highly sought after. The knowledge gained during a master’s program in history can greatly enrich your understanding of both linguistics and literature, and ensure you have a balanced and well-rounded view on the subject to share with your students. The unique perspective afforded to you by your master’s degree can distinguish you in the field.

Park naturalists earn a median salary of $61,110. [13] A master’s in history can be highly prized in this career, and as a park naturalist you can expect to be responsible for planning, developing, and implementing programs designed to inform the public on matters relating to the natural, scientific, and historic features of state, national, and local parks.

A master’s in history can also prepare you for a career in diplomacy and international relations, which have a very positive career outlook. A master’s in history provides an essential grounding in human society, and the manner in which different groups, nations, and cultures have interacted throughout history. These are core concepts required to be successful in international relations.

Where do history professionals work?

History professionals work in a broad range of sectors and locations and an eclectic mix of roles. The education and research sector is the most popular destination for many historians. Many history professionals go on to work as teachers in high schools and colleges. Research offers a broad range of roles in many fields, and roles of archaeologists and anthropologists often take historians all over the world for research and excavation.

The public sector offers roles at administrative institutions as well as historical organizations, museums, nonprofit organizations, and libraries. Both the military and government have a wide range of positions that benefit from history professionals, as well as roles as researchers on historic sites. Private organizations also seek contract historians to work on specific projects and to aid in numerous elements of business, from public relations to advertising to branding and image. Think tanks are another destination for historians in the private sector.

Law is another common pathway for history professionals, with many historians acting as paralegals, lawyers, legislative staff workers, litigation support, and working for foundations. [14] In addition, communications offers a broad spectrum of possibilities, including work as editors and writers, documentary editors, journalists, and producers for multimedia material. [14]

How does a graduate degree impact salary potential?

You salary potential in many fields can be increased by a graduate degree. While the exact increase in salary potential varies from one position to another, the fact you have tangible experience and already possess essential skills and abilities goes a long way to demonstrating your value. You will also have a demonstrable record in research, writing, and analytical thinking, which can help you command a higher salary.

Master of History Curriculum

The curriculum of a master’s in history offers a broad perspective on the theories, methods, and principles underpinning human history. Most programs focus on research methods and the techniques and skills required to prepare for a research project and complete independent, original research. These skills have broader applications as well.

You can expect courses to offer perspectives on specific historical events, themes, cultures, and societies. Other core components include historiography and comparative history, teaching skills and methods to draw comparisons between different historical events, individuals, societies, and cultures.

What should I look for when it comes to the curriculum?

Look for a curriculum that will give you a firm grounding in historical theories, methods, and practices first and foremost. Once you are assured of this, check that the curriculum covers any specialist areas that you want or need to cover. It’s also a good idea to check there are ways to tailor your areas of study to your specific preferences, and that there are no compulsory elements that are not going to be beneficial to you.

What are the typical master’s in history core courses?

Typical core courses for a master’s in history include research skills, historiography, theory and concepts for historians, and advanced academic skills such as critical analysis, the development of original theories, and teaching methodologies.

Prerequisites vary from one institution to another, but there are generally no prerequisites to completing a master’s in history.


History programs generally provide an eclectic array of electives, which enable you to tailor your degree program to your interests, needs, and goals. Electives can include courses as diverse as the Crusades, the Renaissance, medieval warfare, and the development of religion. Other popular choices include the history of slavery, World War II, the Cold War, U.S. foreign policy, and Native American history.


The specializations you choose during your master’s program will shape the nature of your course of study and dictate the areas you spend the most time learning about. It’s vital to tailor your specializations to your career goals. Sometimes this is straightforward, where specializing in military history can lead to a teaching career in that subject. Other times, it takes consideration to decide which program best fits your objectives. For example, a specialization in U.S. foreign policy could be appropriate for a professional seeking a career in law or politics.

Having a specialization in a relevant subject can improve your chances of landing your desired role once you graduate. In addition, it can help you increase your starting salary and demonstrate your expertise and dedication to a particular field of study.

Bear in mind that certain specializations, such as military history and art history, are so popular that they have separate, dedicated master’s degree programs of their own. If you truly wish to specialize in such a subject, taking a master’s program in that specialization, rather than a general history master’s, may be better suited to you. That being said, there are many benefits to taking a general master’s in history and specializing, as it can offer a broader perspective, a greater contextual understanding, and a more transferable degree and set of skills.


You should also expect to complete a capstone or thesis as part of your master’s degree. This is usually an essential element in a master’s program, requiring you to complete an extensive research project and present the results in written form. Capstone projects are often structured similarly, although the course design varies between institutions. Generally speaking, however, a capstone project is a more experiential project. You will be required to take the knowledge you have learned, methods you have been taught, and skills you have gained and focus on a specific area of study.

With both a thesis and capstone, the intention is to demonstrate your success and capabilities in implementing what you have been taught while allowing you to explore a topic that is of particular interest to you.

Master of History Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

Is an online master’s in history the same as a campus-based program at most universities?

The majority of universities offering an online master’s in history provide the same course to students studying on campus or online. The only exception is elements that require certain equipment or visits to specific locations.

Master of History Admission Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Master of History Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study

Master of Military History: This type of master’s degree focuses entirely on the history of warfare. It’s an excellent choice for those with a particular interest in military history, and anyone looking to pursue a career relating to the military.

Master of Art History: This program focuses on the history of art. It’s an excellent choice for budding artists, students looking to explore careers in artistic fields, and as a means of gaining a specialty with a particularly culture-related slant.

Master of Education: This degree is best suited to those looking to pursue a career in education, either as an educator or as a person responsible for educational policy or research.

What are the relevant industry associations and organizations?

There are several organizations and institutions that can be of great value to your research and career, including:

  • The American Historical Association [16]
  • The World History Association [17]
  • The American Association for State and Local History [18]
  • The Business History Conference [19]
  • The Institute for Historical Study [20]
  • The Organization of American Historians [21]
Master of History Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

How important is attending an accredited program?

Accreditation demonstrates a school has attained a high level of excellence, as defined by standards set out by the accrediting agency. Attending an accredited program is extremely important for your career, as it ensures you get a quality education.

If you earn a degree from a program that is not regionally accredited, you may find employers do not hold your degree in the same standing as those from accredited institutions. It may also prohibit you from advancing your education further and studying for a doctorate at the institution of your choice.

Master of History Certification/Licensure
The field of history does not require any form of licensure, provided you are working within the general history sector. If you want to work within a particular legal field, or at a specific academic institution, this may vary depending on the exact nature of the work you will be doing. For example, you would need to gain a professional teaching license to teach. Likewise, if you want to go into the legal profession in any capacity beyond a certain level, a license is required. [15]
History of the Degree

Humans have been fascinated by the study of history since the time of the ancient Greeks. In fact, Herodotus (living between c. 484 and c. 425 BC) is widely regarded as the ‘father of history’. [22] Herodotus was the first writer to ever take a systematic and thorough look at the past and attempt to explain events in the context of a cause-and-effect series. In the wake of Herodotus’ landmark work, historical analysis became a central part of both political and intellectual life throughout the west and many areas in the east. The subject was studied throughout the Medieval period and the Renaissance, usually in the context of the history of religion. At the turn of the 19th century, the discipline developed a more secular and philosophically based approach under the guidance of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a German historian and philosopher. [23]

In the 20th century, the study of the discipline has turned away from its previous focus on epic nationalist narratives and come to focus more on the complexities of human society and the objective analysis of intellectual forces. The 21st century has seen the discipline consider new themes — such as gender studies, race, religion, technology, and how the rise of the digital age has affected our understanding and the development of history. Recent decades have also seen a shift in mediums, with studies increasingly including technological elements, and study materials as well as courses being available online. As a result, distance learning and online education are becoming increasingly prevalent. [28]

Master of History Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Master of History is typically associated with academic careers, such as teaching or research. However, in addition to the role of historian, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists related career roles like anthropologist, archaeologist, economist, geographer, teacher, sociologist, and writer. [25]

Key attributes to look for in a MAH degree include:

  • Accreditation: Is the program accredited?
  • Flexibility: Is the program on campus or online?
  • Student support: What support systems are in place for your success?
  • Travel/residency requirements: Will you need to pay for additional travel arrangements to meet degree requirements?
  • Associations: Is the school associated/affiliated with highly recognized programs/organizations?
  • Faculty expertise: Do faculty have practical knowledge and relevant industry experience?
  • Fees: Are there any additional fees aside from tuition?

There are numerous national and state historical societies in the United States that history professionals and students may consider joining. Some prominent examples include:

  • The American Historical Association
  • The Organization of American Historians
  • The National Council for History Education
  • The World History Association

Most institutions do not specifically require a bachelor’s degree in history or a related field. However, a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution, or an equivalent degree from a foreign institution, is typically required.

No, most institutions do not require any prerequisite courses for admission into their Master of History program.

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

Many students who choose to pursue a Master of History degree previously earned their bachelor’s degrees in history or a related field. This is not a requirement of most programs, but a foundation of knowledge or experience in the history field could be an asset to you. The most qualified non-history majors are usually those who have taken history courses in their area of declared interest.

Most Master of History programs require around 36 credit hours to complete, equalling about 18 to 24 months.

Most history programs involve a set of core courses that everyone must complete, after which students can choose to specialize their education to their interests via elective courses or concentrations.

Different programs offer different concentrations for those who wish to specialize their Master of History degree. Some concentrations you may find include:

  • American history
  • Ancient/classical history
  • European history
  • Foreign policy
  • Military history
  • Medicine
  • Specific historical eras
  • Technological subjects

Many history master’s programs do require a capstone paper that is built into one of the final courses. There is sometimes also the option to complete a thesis, which can give you the opportunity to examine a particular area of interest or expertise.

Most history master’s degree programs can be completed within 18 to 24 months.

Many institutions offer their full Master of History programs online.

Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that the MAH was earned online.

Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus based programs.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

Graduates who hold a Master of History can work in a number of careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists several careers related to historian, such as anthropologist, archaeologist, economist, geographer, political scientist, sociologist, and more. These careers vary in salary with some as low as $47,000 per year and some eclipsing the $100,000 mark. [25]

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there is a projected 2% growth in historian careers between 2014 and 2024. [24] This is slower than the average for all industries nationwide, meaning that if you hope to pursue a career as a historian, it’s imperative to bolster your academic resume and your credentials to stand out in the field.

The historian profession isn’t typically associated with high pay, but a master’s in history can nevertheless help you achieve some fairly lucrative careers. [24] However, many graduates benefit from a love of their chosen field, and they may go on to become teachers or professors. These roles often involve both teaching and research, allowing professionals to take on projects that align with their interests. In some instances, historians embark on projects like writing books, producing documentaries, or consulting.

No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. [26]

Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.

Accreditation helps determine if an institution meets or exceeds the minimum standards of quality set out by recognized regional or national accreditation agencies. A list of regional and national institutional accrediting agencies can be found at the U.S. Department of Education.

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [27]

Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if they are a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.


[23] Graham, G. (1997), ‘Chapter 1’, The Shape of the Past, University of Oxford.