Choosing an online history school can be a daunting challenge. Students interested in a history major may wonder about degree options, curriculum and potential professional opportunities. This guide includes a breakdown of history programs and courses, the time commitments for completion and different formats for web-based classes. The study of history is all about research, and this a great place to begin.
Higher Education in History Schools
Students earning an associate degree typically take courses in U.S. and world history, with a variety of classes in state and local government, social science and specific eras of history to round out their majors. Undergraduate coursework in general education requirements like English can build a foundation for research papers in history classes. Bachelor’s degree programs in history drill down into core subjects like country origins, warfare and conflict, as well as the cultural, religious, economic and political forces that shape the world. Graduate students of online history schools delve deeply into their chosen area of study, focusing on topics such as law, ethics, economics, political systems, culture, race, gender, foreign language and environment.
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Top Online Programs
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Top 10 Online History Degree Programs & Majors
|#1||Prescott College Prescott, AZ|
|#2||University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK|
|#3||University of Memphis Memphis, TN|
|#4||Columbia College Columbia, MO|
|#5||Dickinson State University Dickinson, ND|
|#6||Sterling College Sterling, KS|
|#7||National University La Jolla, CA|
|#8||Norwich University Northfield, VT|
|#9||Judson College Marion, AL|
|#10||Hawaii Pacific University Honolulu, HI|
Studying for an Online History Degree
A popular misconception about historians is that they work in isolation, slogging alone through their research pursuits. In reality, history majors learn in an interactive community of scholars. Although the abundance of required reading makes history well-suited to online study, research is often collaborative in nature, with team members bringing their passions and skills to shared projects.
Today’s online history schools are geared toward the inclusion of students. Courses feature built-in opportunities for interactions, some required and others optional. For example, group study and research are facilitated through email, live chat, Skype, streaming lectures and conference calls. Students take tests, submit assignments, share research findings and access library materials through virtual classroom dashboards. Prospective students need to determine whether web-based courses also involve scheduled times for participation or in-person attendance.
Top Online Programs for History
- Accredited at the institutional level
- Private nonprofit or public school
- Minimum of 1 online master’s degree in subject area
- Cost & Financial Aid
- Number and variety of online program offerings
- Student-teacher ratios
- Graduation rates
- Placement and support services offered
- Academic/Career counseling services
- Employment services
- Loan default rates
Graduates of history programs often go on to work in higher education or government entities, and they are an important part of both thought leadership and decision-making. An online program in history can allow students to continue with personal and professional responsibilities while learning to fulfill an important role in society-today and tomorrow. But finding that perfect fit can be a challenge, which is why we're helping you with the research. We looked at programs and classes available, class sizes, total cost and other factors to bring you our list of best colleges for history majors.
4 Year Colleges
Prescott College was founded in the 1960s based on a philosophy of educating diverse students so that they can contribute to, and thrive in, the local community and the world at large. In order to achieve this goal, the school created programs designed to help students achieve their education and career goals while providing service to others. These principles can be found in the school’s interdisciplinary master’s degree program that combines historical, ecological, philosophical, cultural, theological, psychological, and political perspectives. Students can also expand on what they learn in the classroom through resources such as Prescott College’s media center, literary magazine, and independent newspaper.
Since 1917, the University of Alaska Fairbanks has run on five core themes—educate, prepare, research, engage, and connect—designed to give students the preparation they need to pursue the career of their choice. These tenets can be found in the school’s bachelor’s degree program in history, which gives students a global, evidence-based perspective on the discipline. In addition to required coursework, students may choose to take capstone classes that provide a deeper understanding of the department’s material through seminar discussions and lectures. Students are required to complete a senior thesis based on original research to complete their degree.
The University of Memphis offers undergraduate and graduate history degree programs that can be completed entirely online. On the bachelor’s level, students gain an understanding of historical people, events, and movements, as well as the ability to analyze this information and put it into its proper context. On the graduate level, the school offers an online master’s and a traditional doctoral degree that build on students’ previous historical knowledge while developing their research skills. Graduate students who are interested in Egyptology also have the option to concentrate their studies on this area, with the permission of the department.
Columbia College offers a history bachelor’s degree program that gives students the opportunity to develop critical thinking, analysis, writing, speaking, and problem solving skills as they learn about historical events. Available courses cover topics such as imperial Russia, women and gender in American history, Missouri history, philosophy of revolution, and modern Japan. The school also offers an internship program where students work 45 to 135 hours in a semester in order to apply what they learned in class to real-world situations. Students who complete this degree program may pursue careers in television, lobbying, social work, education, journalism, genealogy, and public relations.
Students in Dickinson State University’s bachelor’s program in history learn the social, economic, political, and cultural ramifications of past events. In addition, the program teaches students how to conduct original research, craft persuasive arguments, and use historical data to discuss events. In addition to the general history degree, the school offers a history education degree program to those who want to pursue teaching careers. In this program, students take history classes while also learning how to apply teaching principles to content that is specific to the history discipline. Courses offered by the department cover topics such as world civilizations, global economics, history of political thought, and North American geography.
Founded in 1887, Sterling College has degree programs that are created to encourage students to live a Christian lifestyle while educating them on their discipline of choice. As a result, the school’s history and government department, in partnership with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, provides a broad approach to history that is based on Biblical principles. Students in the bachelor’s degree program learn how history is shaped by elements such as government, literature, religion, geography, and science. The school also has a history club where students can connect with each other while participating in events that add to their knowledge of history.
National University is dedicated to exposing students to events, places, and historical figures in ways they have never experienced before. In addition, history majors at the school develop argumentation, critical thinking, writing, and research skills through the rigors of the department’s coursework. During the first two years of the program, students take required courses in the ancient and classical world, historical methods and theories, and the American colonial experience. When they become upperclassmen, students can choose elective courses in areas such as African or Asian studies, gender and society, popular culture, global communications, and ecological revolutions. The school also offers the opportunity to study abroad.
At Norwich University, experiential learning is an encouraged part of the student experience. To gain this hands-on experience, students in the history bachelor’s degree program at the school have participated in internships at the Vermont State Historical Society, the Smithsonian Institute, the Sullivan Museum and History Center, and the Army War College. In addition, the school offers study abroad programs all over the world, including through the CityLAB:Berlin program, which allows students to experience Germany’s history, politics, and culture. Inside the classroom, students can learn about the middle ages, military history, modern China and Japan, and the American Revolution.
Judson College is a Christian women’s college that has been operating since 1838. The school is dedicated to providing a quality, Biblically-based education and to that end, the it has a teacher-to-student ratio of nine to one. In addition, the professors at the school are focused on teaching instead of research, so students benefit from the faculty’s commitment and undivided attention. In the history department, Judson College’s commitment to students can be seen in the rigorous bachelor’s degree program that exposes students to history from a global all the way down to a local perspective.
2 Year Colleges
Offered through the Department of Social of Behavioral Science, the history associate’s degree at Bucks County Community College provides students with critical thinking and analytical skills that allow them to apply theoretical principles to everyday life situations. When students complete this program, they leave with an understanding of the American historical heritage and how it impacts both Western and non-Western cultures, as well as the ability to communicate these ideas in writing. Coursework in this program is designed to prepare students to further their education in the field and includes classes in public speaking, English composition, modern and ancient global history, and world geography.
East Mississippi Community College was founded in 1927 with the goal of building leadership while fostering a sense of excellence in education, service, and lifelong learning. Students who enroll in the history associate’s degree program at the school benefit from its long tradition by receiving a well-rounded education designed to prepare them for the rigors of a bachelor’s degree program. Housed in the school’s Social Science and Business Division, the history program offers courses in Western civilization, American history, and world civilizations. In addition, students take general education courses in subjects such as mathematics, English composition, and social science.
Palo Alto College offers a concentration in history that is often chosen by students who are earning political science, journalism, geography, economics, and education degrees. Students can take courses in subjects such as the history of England; Western and world civilizations; and the political, economic, social, and cultural experiences of those in the Mexican-American and African-American communities. To augment classroom work, students have access to Palo Alto College’s Interactive History Project, which is a website made up of oral histories about small towns around Texas. This site gives students the opportunity to learn history that can't be found in textbooks and contribute their own original research.
Whether students want to pursue jobs in government, legal, education, business, or media sectors, they can get the preparation they need from Barton County Community College’s history associate’s degree program. The program provides a deep understanding of the past along with the critical thinking needed to analyze these events to determine how they affect the present and the future. In addition, students learn how historical events can have far-reaching consequences for those around the world. Available courses include areas such as world history, Western civilization, cultural anthropology, American history, world literature, and the history of Kansas.
Students who enroll in Western Wyoming Community College’s history associate’s degree program benefit from working with faculty members whose backgrounds are as diverse as history itself. The history department has professors who specialize in areas such as environmental history, memory studies, gender studies, oral history, and Western civilization. As a result, students gain the broad perspective they need to pursue a bachelor’s degree in disciplines like history, museum studies, or secondary education. Classes that can be found in the program include the history of North American Indians, Wyoming history, the Holocaust, women’s history, and environmentalism.
Whether students are interested in learning about state history, ancient civilizations, or cultures on the other side of the world, the associate’s degree program at Sheridan College offers courses to educate them on these topics. In addition to teaching students about historical events, the program helps to develop their critical thinking, writing, and analytical skills—which can be an asset to them if they want to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree or enter their careers right after graduation. In addition to taking courses in the department, students complete general education requirements, as well as electives, to help round off their history education.
Since the school offered its first evening classes in 1965, the College of Southern Idaho has been dedicated to providing a quality education that contributes to strengthening the local workforce. To help with that goal, the school offers an associate’s degree program in history that fosters students’ thinking and writing skills and a desire for lifelong learning—qualities that make them an asset to any field they choose to enter after they graduate. Through a combination of lectures, reading assignments, and supplementary materials, students learn about the past from different world perspectives, as well as a deep appreciation for the historical process.
For nearly 100 years, Tyler Junior College has provided a quality education that students need to serve the community in their chosen careers. Those who earn an associate’s degree in history from the school take courses about United States history, Texas government, world geography, the federal government, world religions, and African-American history. In addition, the school requires students to take courses outside of the history department, such as mathematics, behavioral science, composition, ethics, sociology, and foreign language classes. Whether they want to join the workforce immediately after graduation or enroll in a four-year degree program, students get the foundation they need to accomplish their goals.
Students who want to earn a four-year degree can lay the foundation for that goal by completing a history associate’s degree at Sinclair College. The curriculum not only provides coursework that can give students a head start on a history bachelor’s program, it also gives them a general education that can help them lay the foundation for a degree in another discipline. Graduates from this program gain valuable writing, speaking, reading, and listening skills, in addition to the ability to understand and analyze historical events and world issues. Also, students may use what they learn to begin their careers after completing this degree.
Rose State College has an associate’s degree program in history that gives students a diverse choice of topics they can study. In addition to core requirements in United States, European, and ancient history, students can also learn about history from African-American, female, and LGBT perspectives. In addition, students can get a more localized look at historical events and their impact by taking classes on Oklahoma history. Rose State College also offers a history program in Native American studies, which focuses on the role of Native Americans in the country and state throughout the years and the differences found among tribal cultures.
Program Highlight: Online Bachelor’s Degree in History
Students pursuing an online Bachelor of Arts in history degree receive an interdisciplinary education. Curriculum spans many areas, such as sociology, anthropology, political science and economics, and how these impact the development of society, culture and political structures. Students gain valuable critical thinking, writing and research skills to prepare them for further studies or effective communication in the workplace, in arenas ranging from public administration to education.
Like most bachelor’s degree programs, an online degree in history requires about 120 credit hours. Students can complete the program in four to five years, depending on how many credits are taken each semester. In most distance learning programs, students can take classes entirely online for maximum flexibility.
Name: Brittney B.
Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in History
What has been the best thing about distance learning at your college?
One huge benefit of distance learning is that it makes it possible for me to attend school and still work normal hours. The option to finish my degree online was one of the main reasons that I chose my college. I appreciate that the Blackboard system and the school’s web portal are easy to navigate. The biggest benefit has been the ability to fit school into my already busy work and family schedules.
What role has technology played in your online program and courses?
Technology is just as important as curriculum. I love the convenience of online classes, but the presentation and access has to work in order for the class to be beneficial. The Blackboard platform that we use has been great in this respect. I have taken a lot of classes online, and I plan to continue my education using online classes.
Did your online program help prepare you for life after graduation?
I think that the modern workplace is centered on the employees’ ability to be technologically literate. Taking classes online and learning to maneuver in different software programs for each class requires students to keep learning. The ability to learn new programs and remain flexible is something that is important to employers and makes an employee more marketable. To be successful in business, you have to continually evolve. I think distance learning is one way to keep up with the demands of the workplace as well as modern educational demands.
Online History Degrees: Associate’s
The associate degree in history provides students with an introduction to the study and analysis of events that have shaped human existence. During the first year, students take core undergraduate courses, such as English, mathematics, philosophy, sociology, economics and language or arts. The first courses in the major are mixed into the curriculum, with studies in world civilizations, U.S. history and political science.
The second year at online history schools includes more focused studies, such as major forces and changes in world civilization, U.S. history by the era, and elective courses in topics like the history of African-American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern or Asian cultures. Second-year students also complete their general education studies to prepare for graduation or transfer to a four-year history degree program. Here’s an overview of some of the typical courses that make up a two-year degree:
|American History||Provides a basic introduction to the key events in American history, as well as their effects on legal, cultural, political, social and religious institutions.|
|Historical Foundations||Explores major topics in history and methods of study. Emphasizes history as a living discipline and as interpretations, not representations, of the events that shaped societies.|
|Western Civilization||Provides an overview of the actions and forces that shaped Europe, including belief systems, political movements and socio-economic influences.|
|Research and Composition||Teaches students how to conduct scholarly research and create effective papers that demonstrate the ability to synthesize findings into a cogent presentation.|
Online History Degrees: Bachelor’s
Typically, history majors can complete their bachelor’s degrees in four years. Transfer students from associate degree programs who have completed core requirements may earn their bachelor’s degree in history in two years, depending on the school and the individual’s schedule and academic background. Coursework at this level takes an intensive look at U.S. and world history, dividing long eras into historical segments for analysis. Students enrolled in online history schools at the bachelor’s degree level may have a courseload similar to the following.
|U.S. History: Pre-Columbian America through the Civil War||Studies the origins of contemporary U.S. culture reaching back to pre-Columbian civilizations, the European societies that conquered them, the forging of a new nation and Western expansion up until the Civil War.|
|U.S. History: The Civil War to the Obama Presidency||Provides a detailed inquiry into the forces that shaped the end of slavery, the development of an industrial state and foreign, political and economic policies leading up to the present day.|
|World Civilization up to the Fifteenth Century||Delivers an overview of belief systems, institutions and disputes that formed major world and western civilizations, including the beginnings of colonial empires.|
|World Civilization after Columbus||Studies the post-15th century development of the world through the present era, along with the events, beliefs and institutions that shaped the systems, nations, cultures and economies of the modern world.|
|History of the American West||Explores the political and economic forces and governmental policies that led to the expansion of the American territories, conquest of Native Americans and settlement of the frontier.|
|Development of the American Urban Culture||Studies the socio-economic policies and forces that created U.S. urban society and culture, including immigration, social policy, industrialization and housing systems.|
|American Political History||Covers development and interpretation of the Constitution, federalism, political parties, voting and civil rights, and critical rulings by the Supreme Court.|
|U.S. and The Americas||Provides a study of the Americas with an emphasis on the United States and its historical, military, economic and political engagement with its nearest neighbors, from the Civil War to the present.|
Master’s Level Online History Degrees
Although it typically takes two years to complete a master’s degree in history, some students need a third year based on their academic emphasis and other commitments. Students choose a specialized area within the broad discipline of history, such as Pre-Colonial America or the Italian Renaissance. A comprehensive master’s examination, advanced research project or internship may round out program requirements. Individuals who intend to bridge into doctoral studies typically develop a research project into a scholarly thesis. Other courses may reflect career interests, such as research, publishing and teaching methodologies.
Online history school course requirements vary greatly by university, academic department focus and interdisciplinary policy. For example, the core requirements for a graduate focus in Post-Meiji Japanese history would be significantly different from a degree emphasizing Late Antiquity. The table below shows the wide range of master’s degree courses in history, as well as the depth of scholarly attention at this level:
|MASTER'S PROGRAM COURSES||overview|
|Imperial Russia||Studies pre-revolutionary Russia, including the use of power, structure of peasant society, influence of the Decembrists, populism, 1860s feminism, nationalism, the Crimean War and the decline of the nobility.|
|Race and Revolution in Latin America||Studies the revolutions and struggles for social change in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s. What were the impacts of Marxism, feminism and race on Central America, Cuba and Andean nations?|
|Digital Approaches to Research and the Teaching of History||How does technology contribute to research and the resolution of disputes over history and interpretation? What are the practical uses for technology in archival research and teaching?|
|Italy and the Middle Ages||Covers readings in English, Latin, French and Italian, using medieval Italian charters and collections. Sheds light on developments and debates about Italy from 500 to 1300.|
|History, Numbers, Numeracy||Teaches quantitative history as economics, sociology and political science. Explores numerical methodology to deliver an understanding of the effective use of statistical practices.|
|Modern Chinese Historiography||What topics do historians choose to argue over? Details major areas for investigation and debate in contemporary Chinese studies. Areas include the Cultural Revolution, modernization, rural growth and industrialization and Western influences.|
|American Business History||How has doing business evolved from colonial times? Provides an overview of how early entrepreneurs changed the nation, along with the evolution of business laws and development of credit policy, trust busting, oligopoly and world trade.|
|The World of Herodotus||Investigates the histories of Herodotus, comparing Classical Greece with the development of cultures in Egypt and the Near East.|
|Educational Practice Seminar||Covers the theory and practice of teaching in grades 6-12. Interdisciplinary course for history graduates who are enrolled in teacher training.|
|Directed Research||Students work in concert with academic mentors/advisors to research a graduate project in their historical specialization.|
Online History Degree – Doctoral Level
Earning a doctoral degree in history is a demanding academic endeavor that can take up to five years or more. This achievement can prepare graduates to seek positions in university teaching, research or leadership roles in archival libraries, heritage facilities, foundations and museums. Depending on the academic program, students sit for one or a number of examinations, and are required to write and defend a dissertation illustrating years of focused research.
Most doctoral students must complete graduate-level courses, satisfy foreign language reading requirements and pass a qualifying examination to become a PhD candidate. Online history schools at the doctorate level typically include graduate seminars in the student’s areas of interest. The qualifying examination(s) may include an oral defense of a dissertation prospectus, as well as topics in the student’s major and minor specializations. At some point, students may devote their efforts to the full-time research, writing and revision of their dissertation.
Career Opportunities after Online History School
Historians can choose from an abundance of creative and occupational outlets after finishing college. Online history degree programs empower students with tangible skills as writers, researchers and analysts. Their critical thinking and problem solving skills are likely to be valued by employers throughout the public and private sectors. While only a small percentage of history graduates become professional historians, others find satisfaction in fields such as business, communications, education, information management, politics, public service, law and criminal justice. Below is a selection of career options pursued by today’s history graduates:
Archivists organize valuable or significant historical materials, usually for museums. They develop or maintain classification systems and databases to facilitate and oversee access to archival materials. Additional responsibilities can include authenticating or appraising historical documents, and also preserving and maintaining materials and collections.
Median Salary: $47,340
Median Hourly: $22.76
Est. Growth: 16.6%
No. Employed: 5,640
Minimum Education: Master's
The most known of the museum workers, curators coordinate the acquisition, storage, and presentation of exhibition materials. Outside of these duties, curators also handle business affairs: conferring with the board of directors, negotiating collection purchases and sales, designing and conducting tours or workshops, and composing documents such as grant proposal, articles, or publicity materials. While curators typically find employment at museums, they may also work at zoos, aquariums, historical sites, nature centers, or botanical gardens.
Median Salary: $49,590
Median Hourly: $23.84
Est. Growth: 12.5%
No. Employed: 10,370
Minimum Education: Master's
With an expertise in history, historians spend their time researching historical documents and artifacts, then analyzing, interpreting, and presenting their findings to the public. They usually conduct this work for governments, businesses, nonprofits, historical associations, and similar groups. Historians divide their time between working in their primary offices and traveling to review historical sources or sites in person.
Median Salary: $52,480
Median Hourly: $25.23
Est. Growth: 6%
No. Employed: 33,400
Minimum Education: Master's
College history teachers instruct students in the field of history with a more advanced lesson plan than at the high school level. These educators develop instructional plans and curriculum that not only teaches students the foundation of history, but also meets college and department standards. As teachers, they work closely with students, ensuring that they understand course material through assessments such as papers, tests, and other college-level assignments. They also work closely with colleagues and faculty to modify curriculum as necessary. Some teachers conduct independent research outside of the classroom. Because this is a postsecondary education position, a mastery in history should be backed by a master's or Ph.D. degree.
Median Salary: $65,870
Median Hourly: NR
Est. Growth: 13.6%
No. Employed: 23,590
Minimum Education: Doctoral/Professional
Museum technicians and conservators ensure that museum materials are kept in optimal condition. Safety and preservation are their main goals. They make certain these precious and valuable items are cleaned and stored using the proper methods. Museum technicians and conservators also oversee the installation, preparation, and shipping of these materials.
Median Salary: $38,220
Median Hourly: $18.38
Est. Growth: 7.1%
No. Employed: 10,430
Minimum Education: Bachelor's
Political scientists study the fundamentals of political systems. They analyze the effectiveness of governments and policies, study and predict political trends, and identify relevant political issues. Politicians and government workers rely on the research of political scientists to help them evaluate their decisions and create more effective political strategies.
Median Salary: $102,000
Median Hourly: $49.04
Est. Growth: 21.3%
No. Employed: 5,750
Minimum Education: Master's
As an integral part of any publication process, editors make the necessary changes to content before publication. These revisions consist of fixing grammar mistakes and typos, rewording the text to fit a preferred style or theme, and verifying facts. Editors must have an expertise in the language with which they work, plus a working knowledge of the publication's guidelines.
Median Salary: $53,880
Median Hourly: $25.9
Est. Growth: -2.4
No. Employed: 99,040
Minimum Education: Bachelor's
Writers and authors is a broad category to describe any job position that involves writing, with different titles depending on the written material. For example, authors write original books, journalists write articles for periodicals (print and online), and copywriters create content for advertisements, websites, and inter-business materials. Other common writing positions include screenwriters for film scripts, TV writers for teleplays, lyricists for song lyrics, and bloggers for blogs.
Median Salary: $55,940
Median Hourly: $26.89
Est. Growth: 3%
No. Employed: 41,990
Minimum Education: Bachelor's
As with other college-level teachers, area/ethnic/cultural studies teachers instruct students in a more advanced lesson-plan than at the high school level. Topics include issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, as they manifest themselves across different cultures. In addition to preparing and presenting classroom materials, college-level teachers may need to conduct relevant research and publish their findings in respectable mediums.
Median Salary: $67,360
Median Hourly: $NR
Est. Growth: 15.8%
No. Employed: 9,710
Minimum Education: Doctoral/Professional
One of the key positions in the law-making arm of government, legislators works with proposed legislation. Their responsibilities include analyzing the implications of proposals or bill amendments, debating these implications during floor sessions, and negotiating with political colleagues to come to an agreement. Legislators require an expertise in a specialized subject, so advanced education and keeping abreast of relevant news and events are integral parts of this job.
Median Salary: $19,780
Median Hourly: NR
Est. Growth: 6.4%
No. Employed: 56,760
Minimum Education: Bachelor's