What Is History?
History is an extensive academic field that studies just about anything that's happened in the past. Through various theories and methodologies, historians look back, evaluating everything from how our ancestors ate to the complexities of the Civil Rights movement.
But history is more than just studying ancient peoples, countries, and ideas. History is a discipline that challenges students to think critically while honing advanced research and writing skills. And because these skills are so applicable to diverse careers, history grads are uniquely positioned to tackle any number of jobs or future academic endeavors.
Throughout this page, we explore what you can expect as a history major, the classes you'll encounter, and what you can do with this versatile degree. We also spotlight a few of the best online history programs. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating academic field and what it can do for you.
What is a History Major?
A history major is a student who dedicates at least 30 undergraduate credits to various history classes, often choosing between earning a BA or BS degree. Whether online or on-campus, history majors tackle coursework in both broad historical topics and more specific historical events. Throughout their academic experience, history majors often have the chance to choose a specialization in areas like modern American, gender, or medical history.
Keep reading to see what you'll encounter as a history major, the skills you'll hone, and what you can do after you earn your diploma.
What to Expect as a History Major
Types of History Classes
Whether you pursue a history degree online or on-campus, academic requirements typically vary between schools. As you traverse through your history degree, you'll complete a mix of general education and major classes. Continue reading as we spotlight some common classes you'll encounter throughout your history curriculum.
- Historical Methods
- American History 1865-Present
- American Revolution
- The French Revolution
- American Political History
- Introduction to Historiography
- World History
- History of the American South
- History of Islamic Societies
- Seminar in Global History
Skills Learned in a History Major
To many, the discipline of history is an abstract practice that has no real application to our daily lives. That couldn't be further from the truth. Students pursuing a history degree build a toolbox of broadly marketable skills, preparing them for numerous careers and graduate-level programs. Keep reading as we list some essential skills you'll hone as you tackle a history degree.
- Effective writing
- Analytical skills
- Critical thinking
- Gain extensive research experience
- Hone presentation and communication skills
- Tech proficiency
- Practice meeting deadlines
How Long Does it Take to Get a History Degree?
The time it takes to earn your undergraduate history degree can vary and is based on several factors.
- Traditional degre path - Full-time students can graduate in about four years
- Assocate degree holders - Those with an associate degree or having completed various general education requirements can complete their degree more quickly as some of their credits may transfer over, leaving them with less classes to take.
- Part-time programs - While full-time learners graduate more quickly, the opposite is true for part-time degree-seekers. Part-time students inevitably take much longer to earn their diplomas as they may only take one class per semester at a time.
- Online education - Additionally, online learners can often complete coursework year-round, allowing them to meet requirements more quickly. Some online programs also offer accelerated tracks for students looking to complete their curriculum at a rapid pace.
When reviewing potential programs, be sure to seek out schools that offer a format that meets your needs. For working students, online programs often provide the flexibility they need to keep up with program requirements while keeping up with personal and professional obligations.
History Degree Specializations
Because history is such a broad topic that spans thousands of years, you'll inevitably want to narrow your focus and find an area of academic specialization. These concentration areas can vary between schools, so if you're interested in a specific area, be sure prospective schools offer what you're looking for. We spotlight some common academic specializations for history majors below.
What Can I Do With a History Major?
History majors hone a set of widely marketable skills, from research and writing to critical thinking and analytical skills. History graduates go on to teach in K-12 environments, work in museums, and in various business roles. Additionally, history majors are prepared to tackle graduate-level programs in fields like law, journalism, and history. Continue reading as we dive deeper into the career options for history graduates.
History Salary and Career Information
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), historians earn a median income of nearly $64,000 per year. That said, because an undergraduate history degree is often used as a foundation for other disciplines, the earning potential for graduates can vary dramatically—history professors earn about $80,000 annually, while lawyers earn over $127,000 each year.
Just as earning potential can vary wildly between careers, so can the projected job growth numbers. Historians can anticipate a 4% job growth over the next decade, while archivists and museum curators can expect their field to grow by as much as 12% by 2031.
We look closely at some potential careers and their corresponding job data in the section below. Continue reading to see how much history grads can earn and which careers are projected to grow the most.
Career Paths for History Majors
- Median Salary: $63,940
- Career Outlook: +4% (2020-2030)
These professionals conduct research, gather historical data, analyze documents, and research, write, and report their findings.
- Median Salary: $50,120
- Career Outlook: +12% (2020-2030)
These history professionals utilize their skills to authenticate and preserve documents and artifacts.
- Median Salary: $61,820
- Career Outlook: +5% (2020-2030)
High school history teachers plan lessons, evaluate student work, and challenge students to develop research and writing skills while preparing them for higher education.
Online Degree in History Programs
Ideal for adult students and working professionals, online programs have dramatically expanded access to higher education. The best online history degrees mirror the requirements of campus-based programs while offering the flexibility that many students need when balancing the responsibilities of work and home. We take a closer look at online history degrees below.
Outstanding Schools With History Major Programs in U.S.
The best online history programs offer quality academics while creating a virtual learning environment that prioritizes your academic and career goals. In addition to quality instructors and course content, the best schools offer standout student services that support you throughout your academic experience. We've highlighted three oustanding history programs below.
Based in Corvallis, Oregon, Oregon State University is home to a 100% online Bachelor's in History. This 180-credit undergraduate degree offers a flexible and affordable curriculum that students can complete in about four years. Alongside general education classes, students tackle topics such as the global history of sports, modern Latin America, Slavery in the Americas, and military history.
Established in 1927, Eastern New Mexico University offers a Bachelor's in History that students can complete entirely online. In addition to asynchronous online courses, local students have the opportunity to complete some classes in person. ENMU offers a non-teaching and teaching track, ideal for students wanting to teach in secondary education settings. In addition to standard history courses, ENMU students have access to classes in areas like military history, diplomatic history, and film studies.
Lynchburg, Virginia's Liberty University plays home to a 100% online history bachelor's that full-time students can complete in fewer than four years. This flexible and affordable online program encompasses 120 credits, and online learners can tackle specialization areas like church, European, American, world, and literary history. Prospective students can transfer up to 75% of the required credits for graduation.
How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?
The time it takes to complete an online history degree can vary between programs. From a traditional four-year plan to accelerated online options, these varying options give you the chance to choose an online history program that meets your unique needs. But because online programs can vary, you'll want to understand the various similarities and differences.
Just because various history programs are advertised as "online" doesn't mean that they're created equally. Some programs have an asynchronous delivery, utilizing an online platform where you complete academic requirements at your own pace. Conversely, synchronous programs utilize live virtual classes you attend in real-time. Additionally, some programs employ a mix of both learning styles.
Before you enroll, it's often wise to consider the challenges you might encounter as an online learner. While offering maximum flexibility, online programs require ample self-discipline and time management. Students who tend to thrive in a traditional, collaborative classroom environment may struggle in a self-guided setting. Many schools offer a readiness questionnaire that can help determine if you're a good fit for an online program.
Next Steps to Get Started to Become a History Major
When applying to schools for a history degree, you'll want to recognize that while similar, each school may have their own unique requirements. And just as requirements can vary, your path toward a history degree might look vastly different from fellow applicants. That said, we've highlighted some common steps to becoming a history major.
- Earn a high school diploma or GED
- Research schools that match up with your academic and career goals
- Apply for admission
- Seek out financial aid opportunities
- Enroll at your chosen school
- Begin coursework
- Complete your history degree and utilize your school's various career services
Admissions Requirements for History Degree Programs
Even though admission requirements can vary between schools, there are some common elements that you'll see when reviewing prospective schools. We've highlighted some common admission requirements you'll likely encounter.
- Online Application - The days of paper applications are long gone. Create an account, log in, and be sure to include all required information.
- Fees - In addition to your online application, have a card handy. The cost that accompanies your application can vary, but expect to pay between $40-$70.
- Official Transcripts - Whether you're transferring from another college or enrolling straight from high school, you'll need to request that official transcripts are sent from the appropriate institutions.
- GPA - GPA requirements for college admission can vary, but the common number you'll encounter is a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
- Letters of Recommendation - Recommendation letters allow people like employers, coaches, teachers, and counselors the chance to sing your praises.
- Personal Statement - While transcripts offer an objective look at your academic potential, a personal statement gives you a chance to tell your story. Advocate for yourself and let a prospective school know why you're a quality candidate.
- Resume - Your work in the classroom doesn't have to define you. A resume allows you to highlight work experience, volunteer work, and other extracurricular activities.
- Standardized Test Scores - While quickly falling out of favor as a way to predict academic performance, some schools still require ACT/SAT scores. These scores are also a way for students to counter a less-than-stellar GPA.
Scholarships for History Majors
Earning a college degree requires a significant investment of both time and money. As a result, most students utilize some form of financial aid to help offset the cost of college. Low-interest federal loans, grants, work-study programs, and tuition reimbursement initiatives are all popular financial aid options. In addition to these financial aid sources, many students seek out scholarships to help pay for school. We've highlighted some scholarships that are available for history majors.
- Central Scholarship
- Undergraduate Student Scholarship
- Phi Alpha Theta Paper Prize Awards
- Women in United Methodist History Writing Award
History Major FAQ
Is history a good major?
- History is a solid choice for students who want to hone their research and writing skills. Additionally, history majors are uniquely prepared to tackle various graduate-level degrees. Common jobs for history majors include teachers, lawyers, and various business careers. Some jobs are even growing at 12%, which is twice as fast as the average industry growth.
How long does it take to complete a history degree?
- The time it takes to earn your history degree can vary, but full-time students can earn their bachelor's degree in about four years. Some online programs offer accelerated programs, especially for students who already hold an associate degree.
Can I complete a history degree online?
- Yes! Online history programs are available for both undergraduate and graduate students and are ideal for adult students and working professionals. Online programs are designed to mirror the requirements of in-person history programs with the flexibility to learn while still fulfilling personal and professional obligations.
How much can I make with a history degree?
- Your earnings potential with a history degree is impacted by various factors. Experience, academic training, and even location can influence how much you make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), historians earn a median income of nearly $64,000 per year. That said, because an undergraduate history degree is often used as a foundation for other disciplines, the earnings potential for graduates can vary dramatically—history professors earn about $80,000 annually, while lawyers earn over $127,000 each year. More than anything, the career field you choose will determine your earnings potential.
What do you learn in a history program?
- Academic requirements for history programs can vary, and because history is such a broad field, you'll have access to numerous specialization areas. Common academic specializations can span from American history to the history of Soviet Russia.
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