History helps us understand societies and allows humanity to learn from patterns and past mistakes.
Many are fascinated and enamored by history, leading to a passion that makes them want to know more.
If you’re a history lover thinking about further deepening your knowledge and establishing a career in the field, a PhD in the subject may be for you. The list of history PhD programs below contains some of the best available in the United States.
Best PhD Programs in History
North Dakota State University
- North Dakota Residents $405/credit
- Minnesota Residents $514.58
- Non-US Students $607.77
- International Students $709.07
The North Dakota State University has offered its master’s degree in history since 1954. It wasn’t until 2002 that it began offering a PhD program in History. NDSU’s PhD program commonly takes three to five years to finish for full-time students, although it is not uncommon for some students to take longer.
Admission is available year-round, and applicants are required to provide GRE scores. International students whose first language is not English must pass the TOEFL. To apply for the PhD program, you must already have a master’s degree in history or hold one from another closely-related field.
There are limited funding and financial aid opportunities available at NDSU, primarily as assistantships with tuition waivers and small stipends. This funding is renewable for four years for PhD students, provided academic requirements are met.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a program that allows distance learning, you will not find it in NDSU. NDSU also requires one year of residency on campus.
Boston College – Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences
- Your full-time PhD studies at Boston College will be fully paid for by tuition remissions with the expectation of good grades and an obligation to complete research/teaching assistantships and teaching fellowships.
- You may also get stipends of up to $35,875 per year.
Boston College offers masters and PhD degrees in different history specialties, with British, medieval, modern European, and United States history as some of their strongest. There are also other graduate studies interests in South Asian, East Asian, and Latin American history, and the history of religion.
Earning your PhD at Boston College means you can expect small class sizes that allow for individual and specialized attention. This institution’s program also allows for flexibility, although you are expected to complete your studies full-time.
Boston College is located in one of the best academic life centers globally, allowing students to network and collaborate with other universities through their studies.
University of Texas Arlington
- $10,828 per year in-state
The University of Texas Arlington offers students an on-campus PhD program that they can participate in part-time or full-time. Full-time course loads are nine credit hours per term, and full-time students are expected to complete their doctoral degrees within six years, while part-time students may take longer.
To apply for the PhD program at the University of Texas Arlington, you must have a BA or MA in history or a minimum of eighteen hours of upper-division history courses during your undergrad. You must also provide your GRE scores.
The PhD in history program at the University of Texas Arlington specializes in transatlantic, transnational, and global history approaches focusing on US, European, Latin American, Transatlantic, and Transnational history. The award-winning faculty at this institution provides personalized attention to small class sizes.
The University of Texas Arlington has North America’s only specialized History of Cartography track that provides students access to the Garrett Map Collection, a world-famous map library.
Alumni of the program often establish careers as educators. They may find work as museum professionals or archival administration specialists outside of academia. They may also work for nonprofits or the government, and enjoy careers involving writing, research, and analysis at the highest level.
The University of Texas at Dallas – PhD in History of Ideas
- $18,276 per semester
The University of Texas at Dallas offers something a little different — a PhD in History of Ideas. This PhD program was designed specifically for those who want to do advanced research or teach at a college level or higher. It concentrates on the study of philosophy as well as intellectual and cultural history with a focus on European and American history.
Students of this program can expect a flexible interdisciplinary approach to their studies that connects among specific areas of interest. Aside from their coursework in the History of Ideas, students must also attend two seminars each for visual & performance arts and literature.
Alumni of this program may become teachers and educators. They can also become curators of museums or historical sites. Other potential careers are research, history administrator, and archivist. Additionally, graduates of this program can work as managers of public or private historical organizations and work for governments or non-profit organizations.
University of California – Santa Cruz
- $13,850 in-state
- $28,952 out-of-state
The University of California Santa Cruz offers an on-campus history PhD program that emphasizes a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approach to the study of history with a transnational and global orientation.
UCSC provides a rigorous program that blends instruction and independent work with the intent of training students in original historical research techniques. Students are encouraged to think innovatively and trained to talk, think, and teach beyond boundaries. This program prepares its students to teach university-level courses while also providing them with the tools they need to succeed in careers outside of academia.
The University of California’s Department of History, as well as its Santa Cruz campus, is well-known for its many strengths including:
- Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies
- Critical Race Studies
- Decolonial and Postcolonial Studies
- Class & Transnational Labor Studies
Admission to UCSC’s history PhD program is highly competitive. The institution states that they only admit the most qualified, highly motivated applicants and welcome and encourage diversity in their student body.
Note: The University of California Santa Cruz no longer requires applicants to provide GRE scores.
Indiana University – Bloomington
- Indiana residents: full-time direct costs $25,406/total estimated costs $33,272
- Non-Indiana residents: full-time direct costs $45,594/total estimated costs $53,460
Indiana University Bloomington has one of the largest libraries and history departments in the United States, making it one of the top choices for those interested in a future career in the field. This institution provides one of the best history doctoral programs nationwide taught by 50+ talented faculty members.
According to the program itself, Indiana University Bloomington is dedicated to training first-class historians for careers in and out of the classroom. Despite having a larger faculty, classes remain small in size so that students can receive individualized attention and advisor support.
Interested students may apply for a PhD directly without having a master’s degree. Admitted students are allowed seven years to complete their coursework and another seven years for their dissertation. However, students commonly finish their studies at a much faster pace than the allowance.
Provided they qualify, students in need of financial aid can find it by working as an associate instructor, course assistant, research assistant, or editorial assistant. Fellowships and grants are also within reach for those interested enough to apply.
New York University (Arts & Science)
- $50,638 per year
- Most new students at the NYU GSAS receive multi-year funding through the Henry M. MacCracken Program that offers four/five-year award terms, tuition remission for degree-required courses, health insurance, a nine-month living expenses stipend OR research assistantship, and a one-time $1,000 grant that students can use at their discretion.
New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, founded over a century ago in 1886, is one of the oldest schools in the US that offers doctoral degrees. It has one of the best history PhDs available in the country.
Earning your PhD at NYU GSAS means you’ll need to commit to full-time studies of 12 points per semester. A PhD is 72 points, and students must complete 24 units within the first three years of their studies.
Learning is on-campus and there are no distance-learning opportunities at this time.
The history PhD program at the New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science is research-focused. Its main objective is to develop students’ professional skills in historical research and teaching history. This objective prepares students for an eventual career in academia or research. It also prepares future graduates for other jobs such as archival management.
NYU GSAS’s major areas of study include but are not limited to:
- African Diaspora
- African History
- Atlantic History
- East Asian History
- Latin American and Caribbean History
- Medieval European History
- Early Modern European History
- East Asian History
- South Asian History
- United States History
*Interested students do not need to take the GRE if they apply for a standalone master’s or PhD in history. However, applying to joint PhD studies will require GRE results.
*International students whose first language is not English must pass the TOEFL.
Rutgers (School of Arts & Science)
- New Jersey residents: $19,724/year
- Non-New Jersey residents: $32,132/year
Rutgers offers funding opportunities for qualified students in the form of partial or complete tuition remission and a stipend of up to $25,000 disbursed annually. Students eligible for this aid are obligated to complete fellowships and assistantships throughout their studies.
The history PhD program at the Rutgers School of Arts and Science was designed for full-time study, taking 5 years on average. The distinguished faculty of more than 60 historians cover all sorts of areas of study and time periods, though they have strong specializations in traditional regional, thematic, transnational, comparative, cultural-intellectual, social history, and more.
Students in the program publish their research and scholarly work relatively often in major historical journals. They also present their research both nationally and internationally.
This institution’s history PhD programs such as women’s and gender history, modern U.S. history, and African-American history are often some of the most top-ranked nationwide.
University of California Berkeley
- Admitted students receive a fully-funded fellowship that includes tuition and fee remission, insurance, and an additional stipend.
- In the following years, students receive a salary and a stipend during teaching assistantships and instructorships.
- A department research year grant is also awarded alongside a stipend.
- To find out more, see their financial aid page here.
UC Berkeley’s history department is one of the top-ranked in the USA, and it offers one of the best PhD history programs in the nation.
Students learn from award-winning faculty members who have won some of the most prestigious awards in the field, including the MacArthur “Genius Award” and more. The faculty and their research cover practically everything — most of the globe and almost all of humanity’s recorded history.
The PhD program at UC Berkeley is well-known for cultural history, but it also specializes in the history of science, political history, religious history, economic history, urban history, and more.
It prepares students in four fields of study:
- Three selected fields in history (first, second, and third)
- One outside field in another discipline
UC Berkeley is committed to diversity in its student body and accepts students from all over the world.
University of Michigan (College of Literature, Science & Arts)
- Admitted students receive a six-year funding package that includes full tuition remission, medical and dental insurance, and a yearly stipend.
- The plan involves six terms of fellowship support and six years of appointment as a grad student instructor or GSI.
- Students also receive summer support for the first four years.
- After the six years are over, there are additional funding opportunities possible.
The history PhD program at the University of Michigan has an interdisciplinary, global, and multidimensional approach to student education and training. It is regularly among the top-ranked history departments in the United States, which is a testament to the quality of education the diverse students receive here.
The program combines innovative teaching by the institution’s talented faculty with state-of-the-art research and techniques. The aim is to provide students training and preparation in their research fields, allowing them to succeed in their careers in or out of academia.
After graduation, alumni of this program enjoy relatively great placement numbers. The institution reports that only three out of nineteen graduates say they are unemployed or have no opportunities upon graduation in the past two years.
Because of the generous funding package and bright future for alumni, this program is extremely competitive. It receives around 350-400 applications for only eighteen open slots per year. It’s also worth mentioning that the average master’s GPA for applicants is 3.87.
Students must complete one year (18 credits) of the program in residence on-campus and complete the entire program within six to seven years.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many years does it take to get a PhD in History?
One of the main deterrents of earning any PhD is the time investment involved. The same applies to students who are earning their doctorate in history. According to Historians.org, the average time to finish a PhD in history programs is roughly eight years.
As a history PhD candidate, your program expects you to enroll in a minimum of three academic years for your graduate studies, known as your “residence.” Another common expectation is that PhD students should spend at least one year of residency at the university or institution awarding them the doctorate.
Despite requiring only three years of residence, it’s extremely rare for candidates to finish this quickly. Candidates must also fulfill the other important requirements, such as their dissertations, which often take around four years to complete.
Do I need a master’s in history to get a PhD in History?
If you’re thinking about applying for a PhD history program, you might be relieved to know that you don’t always need a master’s in history to qualify. For some educational institutions, the minimum educational attainment interested applicants need is a bachelor’s degree. However, there may be other requirements to apply, such as entrance exams, proof of interest in history, and recommendation letters.
The best thing you can do is find out whether the program you’re interested in requires a master’s degree before you apply.
How much does a history PhD cost?
The amount you pay per year may vary depending on where you choose to do your PhD.
On average, doctorates can cost as much as $30,000/year in tuition costs alone. Multiply that by eight years, and you may be paying $240,000 in total — not including any other costs incurred along the way.
If that amount sends you reeling, it might give you some relief to know that many of the best history PhD programs offer full funding and stipends to all admitted students.
There are also PhD programs in history that cost only half to a third of this amount overall.
How competitive are history PhD programs?
Those who have earned their history PhDs may tell you that the job market can be a challenge due to the limited number of positions available. The tight job market also means a more competitive admissions process, where it can be difficult to get into the PhD history programs of your choice. For example, some programs get almost four hundred applicants with fewer than twenty spots to fill.
Wrapping Up: Is a PhD in History for You?
The answer to this question depends on your preferences.
A PhD in History is often highly specialized, resulting in few career options upon graduation. However, those extremely passionate about the subject find extreme satisfaction in deepening their knowledge.
If you want a career in academia, or if you want to be working with history in some capacity in your job, a PhD may just be for you. Who knows, you may even qualify for a program that offers full funding!
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Chriselle has been a passionate professional content writer for over 10 years. She writes educational content for The Grad Cafe, Productivity Spot, The College Monk, and other digital publications. When she isn't busy writing, she spends her time streaming video games and learning new skills.
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