20 Best Online Master’s in History

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The study of history, in its purest form, isn't about living in the past. It's about connecting the dots between where we've been and where we're going. Those who dive so deeply into the study of history that they surface with a master's degree can serve as guideposts for others by working in the fields of education, law, politics, journalism, and many more. The study of history can touch every corner of the Earth, every battle and revolution, and every ideology. Pursuing a master's degree in history online allows students the freedom to shape the coursework around their busy schedule, which often includes an established career.

An online master's in history can be a stepping stone to a Ph.D. in the discipline. It can prepare the graduate for careers with strong ties to the coursework, such as a teacher in high school (median salary of $60,320, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) or college ($83,000), a museum curator or archivist ($48,400), a research historian ($61,140), or a librarian ($59,050). But the degree's applications hardly stop there. History majors can be found in offices, law firms, nonprofit organizations, legislatures, and newsrooms across the country.

The list below lays out the 20 best colleges and universities in the United States to pursue an online master's degree in history. Most programs can be completed in two to three years, depending on how well academics fit into the rest of your life. Some of the programs offer an option of doing a master's thesis, which is pivotal for those who want to move on to a doctorate program. For some universities on the list, a thesis is not an option online. Most of those programs emphasize preparing graduates for careers as history educators or helping existing teachers raise their game. Many of the programs require some amount of undergraduate coursework in history. All the programs share a love for the past, but always with an eye to the future.

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  • Finances (40%)
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  • Student Gratification (25%)

Nearly half of the data used to score each ranking involves finances and are acquired from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, Glassdoor, and PayScale. Financial data encompasses the cost of tuition, fees, and class supplied; the average price of living; access to financial aid and social services; and lastly, the projected annual salary acquired from degree outcomes and income for loan repayment. The second largest category of information involves the quality of education, how competitive degree applicants should be for consideration, and how exclusive a degree program is overall. The final 25 percent of collected data is dependent on student and alumni reviews from sources such as PayScale, Rate My Professor, and Students Review.

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#20 – Fort Hays State University

Master of Arts in History

Hays, KS
Website

Fort Hays State University says one of the recipients of its Master of Arts in History degree got a job as an assistant at the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. Not every profession attainable with a history master's can approach that level of coolness, but Fort Hays assures students that while working toward the degree, "you'll only be bound by your thirst for scholarship." The program consists of 30 to 33 semester credit hours. Coursework includes two seminars for which students write research papers. It also includes 21 credit hours of electives that can align with a student's goals, which can be a professional career or jumping from a master's degree to the History Ph.D. program. The fully online version of this degree doesn't require a thesis. Instead, the student must pass a comprehensive exam. Degree applicants must have a bachelor's degree that includes at least 18 credit hours of history courses. They also need two letters of recommendation, a writing sample that shows research skills, a statement of personal goals, and either a 3.0 GPA for the last 60 hours of undergraduate work or a GPA of 2.5 to 2.99 over the same period, plus 150 on the GRE's verbal section.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $3,582 / $10,206

 

#19 – Wayland Baptist University

Master of Arts in History

Plainview, TX
Website

Wayland Baptist University is a Christian institution run by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Its mission statement includes providing a setting for "professional success and service to God and mankind." The Master of Arts in History at Wayland Baptist calls for 37 semester credit hours of graduate-level coursework. It is offered through the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Online students can choose to cap their degree with or without a thesis. A thesis would replace six credit hours of classes. Students who choose not to do a thesis must pass a comprehensive exam. There are 24 credit hours devoted to history electives that cover a broad scope of subjects. Class titles include The Vietnam War, Social and Intellectual History, Modern Europe, and The American West. A degree applicant with a GPA of 2.70 to 2.99 in the last 60 hours of undergraduate work must submit a writing sample to the university. The sample is waived if a student's GPA for the same period was at least 3.0.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,520

 

#18 – Indiana State University

Master of Science in History

Terre Haute, IN
Website

The online version of Indiana State University's Master of Science in History degree can be earned by a busy, part-time student in three to five years. Students able to blend online study with coursework on-campus can wrap up the degree in two years. The degree is designed for students aiming for a career in education, or for varied professions in writing, research, and the social sciences. You should also note that Indiana State offers an online Master of Arts in History aimed at students who want to pursue a Ph.D. in the discipline. The degree consists of 33 semester credit hours and can be done entirely online. The program is flexible enough to let students create a body of coursework that fits their needs or interests. Students can focus on U.S. history, world history, or a custom combo that crosses traditional boundaries. Indiana State's library has special collections that include the Eugene Debs Collection, which focuses on the U.S. labor movement. Degree applicants must have a 2.7 GPA in all undergraduate coursework, or a 3.0 in the last 60 hours of coursework.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,416 / $14,562

 

#17 – Emporia State University

MA in History

Emporia, KS
Website

The MA in History at Emporia State University offers three tracks: thesis, non-thesis, and Social Sciences Education. The thesis option is preferred by students who want to advance to Ph.D. studies. The non-thesis student would take additional classes, plus a final exam. The Social Sciences option is aimed at future educators and requires a teaching project instead of a thesis or additional coursework. The degree consists of 36 credit hours. A thesis would take up six of those credit hours. Salaried graduate teaching assistant positions are available. Emporia State's graduate-level history classes fall into these categories: reading seminars, in which students discuss 10 to 12 books read during the semester; research seminars, in which students develop and carry out a research project, then write a paper of 25-30 pages; and directed readings, in which students carry out independent study under a professor's supervision. Applicants must have earned a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, including 12 credit hours of coursework in history, with a 3.0 in those courses. Other requirements include a writing sample, a one- to two-page statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,238 / $19,403

 

#16 – Louisiana Tech University

Master of Arts in History

Rushton, LA
Website

Louisiana Tech University's Department of History offers the Master of Arts in History, which can be taken with or without a thesis. The degree works for students who will move straight to a professional career and those to want to keep going and pursue a Ph.D. in history. A thesis is recommended for those going for a doctorate. The student will take 30 credit hours of graduate-level history courses; the thesis takes up six credit hours. A non-thesis track consists of 33 hours of coursework plus two comprehensive research papers that reflect skills acquired in the program. Classes include American Foreign Relations, Latin American History, and Current Problems in History. Graduate assistant positions are available, but competitive. Applicants to the degree program must submit a sufficient GRE and have completed a bachelor's degree with at least 21 semester credit hours of history coursework. A one-page statement of goals and areas of interest also is required.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,592 / $13,333

 

#15 – Eastern Illinois University

MA in History

Charleston, IL
Website

The MA in History degree at Eastern Illinois University is aimed at elementary and secondary school teachers. Busy professionals can finish the degree in three years, taking one course each semester and two courses each summer. The degree is achieved fully online, with the exception of a five-day, on-campus session that opens the program in the summer. Students meet faculty and learn about the approaches to research that will be used. Though the focus is on a career in education, the degree doesn't lead to a teaching license. The program requires 32 credit hours of coursework, which delves into U.S. and world history. The last step is a capstone project in which the student demonstrates his or her mastery of the material. Positions as a graduate assistant are available. Applicants to the degree need to supply three emails from people offering professional support, plus an up-to-date resume, and a statement of 250 to 500 words that expresses personal goals.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,176 / $17,232

 

#14 – University of North Alabama

MA in History

Florence, AL
Website

The University of North Alabama's online MA in History degree is aimed at current or future educators at the secondary level and above. Coursework emphasizes U.S. history. There are 33 credit hours in the degree – 18 are core courses and 15 are electives. Students can choose to cap the degree with or without a thesis. A thesis takes up six of the program's credit hours and is recommended for those going on to a Ph.D. program. Students in the non-thesis track must take courses in directed research and study, then pass a comprehensive exam. Degree applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a major or minor in history from an accredited college or university. A minimum GPA of 2.75 for all previous coursework is required, as are satisfactory GRE, three completed recommendation forms, a brief statement of career and academic goals, and a writing sample of at least four pages, preferably a research paper or professional document.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,868 / $11,736

 

#13 – University of Nebraska at Kearney

Master of Arts in History

Kearney, NE
Website

The online version of the Master of Arts in History at the University of Nebraska at Kearney can be completed with or without a thesis. The program is designed to fit a student's goals and interests, be it the pursuit of a Ph.D. or a career in education, law, business, or government. The program consists of 36 semester credit hours. Master's students taking the non-thesis course of study must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0. At the end of the program, the student will seek approval of an academic portfolio consisting of work done for the degree and essays in the student's major and minor. Guidelines for the thesis track calls for maintaining a 3.5 GPA on several courses. Applicants must have at least 18 undergraduate credit hours of history and a GPA of at least 3.25. Those with GPAs below that must submit GRE scores. Other requirements include a statement of interests and goals, evidence of graduate-level writing and analytical skills, and at least two letters of recommendation.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,892 / $12,930

 

#12 – Sam Houston State University

Master of Arts in History

Huntsville, TX
Website

Sam Houston State University has scholarships of $1,000 available for new online students who take the Master of Arts in History coursework through SHSU Online. Students can start the program, which consists of 30 to 36 semester credit hours, in the fall, spring, or summer. Students can wrap up their master's coursework with a thesis, or opt to assemble a portfolio of research papers and essays for faculty approval. Sam Houston's history program has a unique approach to coursework tracks; rather than base them on time and geography, they are related to the human experience. The tracks are Rights and Identity with courses such as Legacies of the Reformations; War and Violence with courses such as Film and War in America; and Encounters and Exchanges with courses such as The American West. Degree applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.8 on undergraduate coursework. Other requirements include GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, a sample of scholarly writing, and a short essay that expresses academic and professional goals.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,540 / $13,010

 

#11 – Pittsburg State University

MA in History

Pittsburg, KS
Website

The MA in History degree at Pittsburg State University can be earned completely online. Students have the freedom to begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer. The coursework consists of 30 or 32 semester credit hours. Pittsburg State's faculty in the degree program specializes in U.S. history and the history of the modern world. In addition to the Graduate School application and transcript, applicants must submit a personal essay. Students who complete at least 24 credit hours of undergraduate history courses with a GPA of at least 3.0 will be considered unconditionally for the program. Students can opt for a track in which they create and defend a thesis at the end of the program. A non-thesis, or seminar, track requires students to pass two graduate seminars. At that point, students can submit a curricular project containing an annotated bibliography and class materials, present two substantially expanded seminar papers, or pass a comprehensive exam. Other application requirements include GRE scores and two completed recommendation forms,

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,560 / $17,200

 

#10 – University of Massachusetts-Boston

History MA

Boston, MA
Website

The History MA degree from the University of Massachusetts-Boston is a strong choice for people who need the flexibility of an online program but still want the rigor of an on-campus experience. UM's online history courses are all taught by tenure-track faculty and have the same requirements as on-campus classes. That means up to 300 pages of reading a week and at least 25 pages of writing per semester. The degree is effective for students who want to push beyond undergraduate study and, perhaps, move on to a Ph.D. in history. It also prepares secondary school history teachers who want to raise their game. The History MA consists of 30 semester credit hours – four core courses and five electives. Classes include The Age of FDR, Cold War America, and Islam and Historical Study. Application requirements include three letters of recommendation, two of which must be from professors (preferably history professors); a statement of your personal path and goals that must meet 1,500 words; and an example of two of scholarly writing pieces. GRE scores are recommended but not required.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,876 / $34,932

 

#9 – Southern New Hampshire University

MA in History

Hooksett, NH
Website

At Southern New Hampshire University, online graduate students can start their coursework at any one of four terms on a modified semester system. Students who pursue the MA in History degree can opt for a general-study track or choose one of three concentrations: American history, military history, or public history. The program consists of 33 credit hours, which includes a capstone project. It is designed to be completed in as little as 15 months, though students can learn at their own pace. Online classes are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Classes offered include Early American Encounters, The Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Archival Management, Digitization of History, and Chinese Military. Students also can do an internship for three credit hours. Degree applicants with an undergraduate GPA below 2.75 can be eligible for provisional acceptance. Some students will be required to take Introduction to Graduate Studies. A statement of personal goals also is required.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,810

 

#8 – Missouri State University-Springfield

MA in History

Springfield, MO
Website

The MA in History program at Missouri State University-Springfield is designed to require two years of study, but the actual length of time needed depends on a student's life outside coursework, and whether he or she can take summer classes. Online classes are taught by full-time faculty and are conducted the same as on-campus classes are. Other online features include virtual research assistance and one-on-one tutoring. Students can choose to cap the degree with or without a thesis; the latter is preferred for those who plan to pursue a Ph.D. Degree applicants must provide three letters of recommendation, and have either GRE scores or a teaching certificate in social studies. Applicants also must have earned 24 hours of undergraduate history coursework. Students also can apply for an accelerated master's, in which they take up to nine graduate-level history classes that apply to their undergraduate and graduate programs. Students must have at least 15 undergraduate hours of history classes with a GPA of 3.4 or better.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,022 / $10,098

 

#7 – University of Memphis

Master of Arts in History

Memphis, TN
Website

The University of Memphis' online Master of Arts in History is offered through the university's UofM Global system. Online classes are taught by instructors dedicated to the medium and by tenured or tenure-track faculty. An adviser is available every step of the way. Students who want to approach the master's as a terminal degree, leading straight to a professional career, can choose the track that calls for 33 semester credit hours – 11 classes – and no thesis. Those who want to move on to a Ph.D. program, teach at a university level, or perform high-level historical research should do a thesis. Up to nine credit hours dedicated to the thesis can be applied to the degree. All master's students must pass a comprehensive exam at the end of the program. Coursework includes historiographies, research seminars, and independent readings. Application materials include two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a sample of academic writing. Applicant must have at least 18 completed undergraduate credit hours of history with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,054 / $17,838

 

#6 – University of North Carolina-Wilmington

MA for History Educators

Wilmington, NC
Website

The online MA for History Educators at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington is aimed at teachers who want to raise their game and bring a deeper knowledge of the discipline to the classroom. The degree provides a possible path to a higher salary or promotion. The program consists of 30 semester credit hours and is designed to be completed in two years. Studies will cover U.S., European, world, and "system" (i.e. colonialism) histories. There is no thesis option. Students take two courses per semester, which are eight weeks long. All coursework is available online with two exceptions: a pair of one-week summer institutes held in June. The first institute gives students practice in shaping lesson plans around regional history; activities include visits to local sites. At the second institute, students write a historiographical essay and take a comprehensive test. Application materials include a 500-word essay in which the applicant provides specifics about what aspects of history, and teaching history, are the most fascinating and rewarding.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $4,719 / $18,548

 

#5 – Liberty University

Master of Arts in History

Lynchburg, VA
Website

The online Master of Arts in History is offered through Liberty University's College of Arts and Science. Liberty University is a nonprofit institution rooted in the Christian faith. All coursework at Liberty is presented with a Christian worldview. The master's degree program consists of 36 semester credit hours and can be completed in two years, but must be completed within five. Up to half of those credit hours can be transferred from another institution. Courses last eight weeks. There are two core courses: Historical Methods and Interpretation, and American Christian Heritage. Of the remaining 30 hours, 21 must be graduate-level history electives. The remaining nine credit hours can come from history or other disciplines, such as English, theology, or public policy. Students who choose to complete a thesis will use three credit hours of the degree's required total. Application requirements include a statement of purpose, proof in proficiency in English, and an accredited bachelor's degree completed with a GPA of at least 3.0.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,904

 

#4 – University of Louisiana at Monroe

Master of Arts in History

Monroe, LA
Website

The online Master of Arts in History degree at the University of Louisiana at Monroe gives graduates a firm foundation that can be applied to politics, law, and citizenship. At least half of the master's program must consist of history courses restricted to graduate students. The program requires 30 semester credit hours. No thesis is available with online study. Instead, students cap their master's degree course with a comprehensive written and oral exam. There is one required course: Research Methods. The remaining 27 credit hours are drawn from a deep list of history electives. Classes include The Makers of America, East Central Europe Since 1400, Ancient Rome, and The Makers of Europe. Paid graduate assistant positions are available, though the jobs are very competitive. Applicants to the program must have an accredited bachelor's degree with no less than 18 hours of classes in social sciences or humanities, of which half must be history-based. Applicants also must supply a writing sample such as a research paper or book review; it should be no longer than 10 double-spaced pages.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,490 / $18,590

 

#3 – Norwich University

Master of Arts in History

Northfield, VT
Website

Norwich University has its own unique niche in history as the first private military college in the United States and the birthplace of the ROTC. The university's Master of Arts in History degree can be completed online in 18 months. Students can jump into the program at four spots in the academic year, adding to the convenience of off-campus learning. Class sizes are small, averaging 15 students per course. The structure of Norwich's master's degree is unusual – 36 credit hours are made up of six courses that last 11 weeks each. There are three tracks: American history, world history, and public history. Each track has a capstone course that culminates in a major research paper that demonstrates the student's mastery of the subject. A required one-week residency on the university's Vermont campus wraps up the degree; Norwich covers the cost of meals and lodging. Application requirements include an accredited bachelor's degree, along with a resume, a letter of recommendation, and an essay that shows graduate-level writing skills.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,710

 

#2 – Western Kentucky University

Master of Arts in History

Bowling Green, KY
Website

The Master of Arts in History at Western Kentucky University is designed to prepare students to teach at a community college or four-year college, to build the next step to a doctorate degree, or to expand the knowledge and professional options of secondary school teachers. The online degree does not have a thesis option. Courses rotate and in out of the catalog, and online students usually complete the program in three years. There are 36 semester credit hours of coursework, which includes 21 hours of electives and 12 hours of courses chosen from five concentration areas: Pre-Modern Europe/World (Ancient World to Early Modern Europe); Modern Europe (Enlightenment to Present); Non-Western World; Pre-Civil War United States (including Civil War); and Post- Civil War United States. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, with a 3.0 GPA for all undergraduate coursework and at least 18 credit hours of history classes. Other requirements include a statement of purpose, a sample research paper, and GRE scores.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,140 / $17,980

 

#1 – Slippery Rock University

Master of Arts in History

Slippery Rock, PA
Website

The online Master of Arts in History degree from Slippery Rock University gives students a chance to dig into the past from anywhere in the world. All faculty members hold doctoral degrees in history. The program consists of 30 semester credit hours. Full-time students can finish the degree in two years; most busy online students need three years. The coursework consists of three credit hours in historiography and 27 hours in electives and concentration areas. Course subjects draw from three areas: the United States; Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa; and Europe. There are about 35 elective/concentration courses from which to choose. Classes include Women in History; Modern Germany; Renaissance and Reformation; and Political Violence in Latin America. After 21 credit hours are completed, students take comprehensive exams that are graded as pass/fail. Degree applicants must submit an essay that analyzes a current event from the perspective of how the past influenced the present.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,384 / $18,576