What Are the Different Types of History Degree Programs?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2019
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Studying history at the college level can provide good preparation for jobs that are directly related to history as well as other career paths, such as education or law. Those interested in studying history may find it useful to understand the different types of history degree programs. The most common history degree programs are the Bachelor of Arts (BA), the Master of Arts (MA), and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). These programs are distinguished by their length, their intensity, and the types of careers they prepare graduates for.

One of the most common history degree programs is the BA in history, an undergraduate program that usually requires four years of full-time study. Most BA in history programs require students to successfully complete classes covering a wide range of historical subjects, as well as a limited number of elective classes. It should be noted that a BA in history alone may not qualify graduates for a career directly related to history. Students who want a job in this area will likely need to continue onward to graduate school, or to choose a BA program that combines history classes with training in elementary or secondary education. It is common for students who wish to enroll in law school to first complete a BA in history.


The MA in history is a graduate-level degree normally completed in two to three years. Students in MA in history degree programs are usually required to choose an area of specialization, such as early American history or European Renaissance history. They typically complete a number of classes in that area as well as more general areas, such as archival research methods. Often, students are required to submit a thesis or major research project toward the end of their program. An MA in history may qualify graduates to teach at the secondary or community college level, to work for government agencies or historical societies, and a number of other history-related careers.

A PhD in history is generally the most demanding and time-consuming of all history degree programs, typically taking five or more years to complete. The first stage of this degree program usually requires the completion of a number of seminars on historical topics as well as one or more examinations. Then, PhD candidates write a lengthy dissertation detailing their original research on a topic of interest, and finally defend their work before a panel of experts. While this program is usually rigorous, it can prepare graduates for a number of jobs in the field of history. For instance, graduates can become researchers, university-level educators, or museum curators.


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Post 2

History is the study of the past, so in theory shouldn't this be a great major for any chosen career path? Maybe with a few exceptions, history is a solid foundation no matter which line of work you eventually pursue. If you want to be a lawyer, the history of a country's government is a good foundation to build on once you arrive in law school.

If you want to go into finance, then a course of history dedicated to the study of local, national and world economies throughout the past can't help but be beneficial when you dive into business school.

Post 1

I can't tell you how many times I was told to choose something I was interested in when I was trying to decide on a college major. How does that saying go? "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life."

Well, I enjoyed history and found History courses easier to focus on that some of the others, but all I could think of a degree in history leading me to was a teaching profession. I didn't want to be a teacher. Being a student was difficult enough, and I didn't want to spend a career in a classroom.

In the end, I didn't choose history, and I didn't stick with the major I chose, but, in a very round-about way, I eventually found the career I was meant for, and most days are very enjoyable.

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