What to Know About Earning an Online History Ph.D.

Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
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Updated September 20, 2023
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Want to study Civil War military tactics or research Silk Road trade networks at an advanced level? During an online Ph.D. in history program, you’ll investigate the past while strengthening your research, writing, and analytical skills.

The best online Ph.D. in history programs prepare graduates for careers in academia, teaching, writing, research, and public outreach. And with an online program, you can earn a doctorate in a flexible, accessible format.

Reasons to Get an Online History Ph.D.

  • An online history Ph.D. prepares you for careers in teaching, research, and historical preservation and outreach.
  • A flexible online format may appeal to busy adults and working professionals.
  • High school teachers with a doctorate often earn higher salaries and qualify to teach college-level courses.
  • You get to conduct research and strengthen both your analytical and writing skills while working on your dissertation.
  • You can attend a quality program without needing to relocate or quit your job.

Did You Know…

History professors earned a median annual salary of $78,130 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Featured Online History Programs

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Application Requirements for an Online Ph.D. in History

  • checkCompleted online application
  • checkUndergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • check2-3 letters of recommendation
  • checkStatement of purpose
  • checkAcademic writing sample
  • checkResume or CV
  • checkGRE scores, if required
  • checkInterview, if required

What Will You Learn in an Online History Ph.D.?

During an online history Ph.D. program, you’ll complete coursework requirements, specialize in a field of history, and defend a research-based dissertation.

Many programs require 2-3 years of history classes followed by comprehensive examinations. Depending on your specialization, you may also need to demonstrate proficiency in one or more foreign languages.

Common history specializations include:

  • U.S. history
  • Military history
  • World history
  • Public history
  • Medieval history

After passing your exams, you’ll conduct original research to write and defend a dissertation. You’ll work closely with a faculty advisor and dissertation committee to complete your dissertation.

A doctorate in history builds strong research, analytical, and writing skills. Online programs may also incorporate teaching experience to prepare graduates for roles in the classroom.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online History Ph.D. Programs

If you want to get an online Ph.D. in history, it’s important you choose an accredited university.

Accredited schools meet high academic standards, hire qualified faculty, and report strong student learning outcomes. You’ll also qualify for federal financial aid programs if you attend an accredited institution.

Accreditation is an important sign of academic quality. Before applying to online history Ph.D. programs, make sure to check the school’s accreditation status.

Did You Know…

History Ph.D. students can study anything from ancient Egyptian history to modern international relations.

What Can You Do With an Online Ph.D. in History?

With an online Ph.D. in history, you can work as a history professor at a community college, four-year college, or research university.

Outside of higher education, history Ph.D. grads can work as high school teachers, archivists, museum curators, writers, and editors. Many of these fields report above-average salaries and positive job growth over the next decade.

Popular Jobs for History Ph.D. Grads
JobMedian Annual Salary (May 2021)Job Growth Rate (2021-2031)
History Professors$78,1307%
Technical Writers$78,0606%
Writers and Authors$69,5104%
Historians$63,9404%
Editors$63,350-5%
High School Teachers$61,8205%
Curators$60,11014%
Archivists$60,0509%
Interpreters and Translators$49,11020%

Source: BLS

Resources for History Ph.D. Students and Historians

American Historical Associationarrow-circle-right


The biggest membership group of historians in the world, AHA celebrates the range, variety, and ever-changing nature of history, accepting members from all history specializations.

National Council for History Educationarrow-circle-right


This organization connects historians, teachers, education specialists, community leaders, and institutions to improve the quality of history instruction in schools.

Organization of American Historiansarrow-circle-right


A professional society dedicated to U.S. history, OAH encourages the discussion of historical questions and original scholarship.

World History Associationarrow-circle-right


This organization promotes members who teach, research, and publish history topics using a global, cross-cultural perspective.

Frequently Asked Questions About History Ph.D. Programs

question-mark-circleCan you get a history Ph.D. without a master’s?

Yes, you can earn a Ph.D. in history without a master’s degree. Many history Ph.D. programs admit candidates with just a bachelor’s degree; however, some programs recommend or require a master’s in history to enter the doctoral program.

question-mark-circleHow long does a Ph.D. in history take?

Earning a Ph.D. in history typically takes at least five years. That’s because doctoral programs require 2-3 years of coursework, comprehensive exams, and a research-based dissertation that may run over 300 pages. Many programs include foreign language requirements, too.

question-mark-circleDoes a Ph.D. in history make you a doctor?

Yes, earning an on-campus or online Ph.D. in history makes you a doctor. The doctor of philosophy degree, which is the highest degree in academia, qualifies graduates for college-level teaching and research roles.

Therefore, graduates with a Ph.D. in history can use the title “doctor.”

question-mark-circleWhat percentage of history Ph.D.-holders get tenure-track jobs?

Fewer than half of history Ph.D. grads land tenure-track jobs in the years after earning their degree. For historians who earned a Ph.D. between 2014 and 2017, around 35% held a tenure-track job in 2022, according to the American Historical Association.

With fewer tenure-track job openings than Ph.D. graduates, students earning a Ph.D. in history should consider career paths outside academia.

question-mark-circleIs it worth doing a Ph.D. in history?

A Ph.D. in history is worth the time, cost, and effort for many people. Earning a Ph.D. in history can strengthen your research, critical thinking, and writing skills. Doctoral students also conduct advanced research in their specialty areas.

That said, a Ph.D. in history requires a substantial time commitment. Consider your reasons for pursuing a Ph.D., the total cost of the program, and your career options before applying to on-campus or online history Ph.D. programs.


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