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Grad Program: History

 
Basic Information

Most people think of history as the mere study of the past, but knowing the dates of the Battle of Antietam or the life of a Roman citizen, circa 150 B.C., represent only a small aspect of the value of an advanced degree in history. While most people who earn a master’s in history work in education, the trends are moving toward a much broader area of career choices. Many employers, such as business owners and other corporate agencies, look for people with strong backgrounds in the liberal arts. The study of history and the classes associated with majors, concentrations, and professional studies are core to the philosophy of the liberal-arts degree.

In studying history, you might break up learning objectives in two ways: strategies in dealing with information and acquisition of knowledge in the content area (like Latin American Studies or American Colonial History). In studying history, you’ll master the thinking verbs: interpret, critique, judge, compare, integrate, and analyze. Problem-solving skills, the ability to see patterns, and understanding meaning are essential skills that employers in any field look favorably upon.

You will also study, well, history. Since the study of history is so broad, a general history master’s is not very common. Most programs require you to choose some kind of concentration, such as the ancient world, contemporary America, or Asian studies. The more advanced your degree, the more specialized in one area you’ll become. The unique aspect to history is that it is so inter-curricular: you may specialize in the history of medicine, the history of technology, public history, and so forth. There are many, many directions you can go.

Degree Information

A master’s degree in history can take anywhere from two to five years. Some programs emphasize research, while others simply require a certain amount of credit. Depending on the nature of the program, some kind of research project, dissertation, or extensive paper is typically required for graduation. A departmental exam may also be required. Many schools will require its graduate students to teach an undergraduate course or two before they graduate.

A Ph.D. is another option and is usually necessary if you plan to teach at the university level. Ph.D. programs typically require a written dissertation and oral defense though exact requirements will vary by school.

Joint degree programs, such as a J.D./M.A. (law degree and master’s degree), are yet another option, though they are not available at all schools.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • Does the program have career-placement statistics? Do they offer career counseling?
  • What kinds of research options are available?
  • What specialties to the faculty have?
  • Does the program offer the concentration I’m interested in?

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