History, like many liberal arts disciplines, is often mistakenly thought of as a too-specialized, low-potential field. But a 2015 report from the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce found that by mid-career, history graduates with bachelor's degrees earn more on average and have a higher earning potential than any other social sciences major. Those who go on to earn master's degrees see a nearly 48 percent earnings increase.
The skills history majors develop frequently qualify them for careers in fields such as teaching, politics, government, research, communications and library and archival science. According to the American Historical Association, history degrees can be particularly useful in the business world, as graduates are usually well-equipped to predict how societal events will impact financial events.
Online colleges make history degrees more accessible and convenient than ever before. Online programs can be just as rigorous and demanding as campus-based degrees, but often give students more control over how and when they study.
Best Online Colleges for History in 2018
In order to help aspiring history students find the best education for their needs, OnlineColleges.com brings to you this list of the 10 best online colleges for history. We evaluated accredited online colleges using criteria such as in-state tuition cost, admissions rates, graduation rates and more, drawn from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS). You can learn more about our methodology at the bottom of this page.
American Public University System
Nicholls State University
University of Illinois at Springfield
University of North Alabama
Sam Houston State University
Eastern Oregon University
Mary Baldwin University
SUNY Empire State College
Degree Overview: History
Online colleges for history provide students an ample opportunity to learn about the past and apply those lessons to the future. Those in online history degree programs can expect to start with a broader view of world history, then narrow their focus as their studies become more advanced. Here's more about the journey in store.
Online History Courses
Though the courses a student will take depend greatly upon their chosen specialization in the history field, there are some courses that students will likely dip into during their pursuit of the history degree. This is especially true for the online bachelor's degree programs in history, where students are more likely to take the same courses as their peers to learn the basics of historical research and content before they specialize in courses that suit their ultimate educational goals. Here are some examples of common history courses a student may take early in their pursuit of the degree:
- United States Civil War and Reconstruction
- Western Civilization to 1500
- The History of Money
- Global History Literacy
- Why War: A Historical Perspective
Students further along in their bachelor's program or pursuing a master's degree will begin specializing their studies into a particular concentration — such as American History, World History, Military History or Public History. Accordingly, these students will begin taking courses with a narrower, more specific focus in order to drill down into the intricacies of historical events or periods. For example, a student in the Military History concentration might take courses such as:
- The Holocaust in its History
- The United States and Vietnam, 1945-1995
- The Arab-Israeli Conflict
Most master's degree and doctoral programs in history are research-driven, so students at these graduate levels can expect to take a wide variety of research courses in addition to those that focus on the chosen concentration. Courses such as Comparative History and Research, Historical Lenses and Scholarship and Graduate Research Seminar are common, alongside the specialization courses attached to a student's concentration.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Perhaps the most important skill a history student learns is research — specifically, how to find the best sources, evaluate studies with a discerning eye and apply critical thinking to a variety of situations. This is a crucial skill for completing research papers in college, and it only becomes more important after graduation. Professionals who work as archivists, archaeologists, broadcast journalists and even teachers at every educational level will use these skills on a regular basis.
In addition to research skills, history coursework is designed to hone perception of the world and prediction of events. As students learn about the circumstances that led up to certain events in history, they can begin to apply that knowledge to the modern world. This is especially true for those who work in social services, political science or politics, from local to national or international scale. Reviewing the series of choices, victories and missteps of a project, event, career or situation in the historical context can inform the steps of a history professional's endeavors and help them to avoid possible pitfalls in their work, choices and interactions.
While these are probably the two most important skills for a history professional, the pursuit of online history degrees often provides several other skills that serve students well over the course of their careers, including the ability to manage time and priorities effectively; think objectively about new situations; work on in-depth projects without direct supervision; and question, summarize and negotiate effectively.
History Career Outlook
History is the study of the past, but those who dive into it will often find a bright outlook for their future. From collecting documents to analyzing artifacts to teaching students about history, there are many career paths a history lover can take.
Historians have the important job of keeping the past alive. They do this by researching, analyzing and interpreting historical documents; determining authenticity and significance of ancient artifacts; tracing changes in the world and its events over time; and introducing the public to their findings.
Historians aren't just found in museums, though they certainly do have a presence there. Historians can also work in government, private business, nonprofits, and even post-secondary schools. Though much of their time is spent researching and writing reports, they might also attend conferences, meet with the public, conduct interviews or spend time in areas pertinent to their research.
Most historian careers require a master's degree, at minimum; often a doctoral degree is required. This is especially true of research positions in government, higher education and well-established museums or historical centers.
Also known as museum directors, curators are responsible for museum collections and exhibits, from acquisition to storage to display of museum items. They might specialize in one particular field, such as botany or paleontology. Depending upon the work setting, some curators might be very hands-on, working directly with collections, while others might focus more on the administrative side. In smaller museums, one curator might handle it all.
Curators also serve as the face of the museum, representing the institution in the media or at public events. They are expected to attend conferences, conduct research and educational programs, and speak to the public about new exhibits.
Though curator careers at small museums might be available to those with a bachelor's degree, most museums require a master's degree in history, art history, museum studies or the like.
Archivists work to preserve historically significant documents and records. Their work includes authenticating and appraising historical materials, preserving and maintaining documents and related objects, creating systems to maintain and preserve electronic records and organizing all records to make them easily searchable. They create backups of documents via film or photograph, set guidelines for public access to the materials and work to collect new pieces for the archive.
Archivists might also work closely with those who arrange and exhibit the materials. They provide assistance to users of the material, as well as visitors to the exhibits in which the documents are displayed. Many choose to focus on a specific type of archival record, such as photographs, maps, sound recordings or journal writings.
Those interested in archivist careers must earn a master's degree in archival studies or a closely related field. An internship can also provide valuable hands-on experience.
Museum technicians, also known as collections specialists or registrars, ensure the safety of objects in museums and exhibits. Their job is all about logistics, including overseeing acquisitions; the loaning, transportation, storage and care of objects; insurance issues; and much more. All this requires intense attention to paperwork.
Conservators work hands-on with various items in a museum, handling preservation, restorations, and treatment that minimizes deterioration. They might work with x-rays, microscopes, special lighting equipment, chemical testing and more. They usually specialize in one material or type of object, such as books or paintings.
Museum technician and conservator careers require different educational paths. Museum technicians must hold a bachelor's degree in museum studies or a related field. Some positions require a master's degree. For conservators, a master's degree in conservation or a closely related field is required for entry-level work. An internship can be quite beneficial for future employment prospects.
High school teachers work with students to prepare them for the rigors of college or entering the workforce. Those who teach history have the potential to focus on a variety of classes, teaching anything from world history to very specific historical periods.
High school history teacher careers are available in both public and private schools. In either setting, teachers are generally expected to work closely with classrooms full of students as well as provide one-on-one instruction to those who need extra help with the material. They grade papers, quizzes and tests; monitor student participation; meet with parents if necessary to discuss progress; and more.
High school teachers must have a bachelor's degree, at minimum; many school districts prefer to hire those who hold a master's degree. Those working in public schools must also hold a license to teach.
To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2015-16
Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on five criteria:
- In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2015-16 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/