Earning a Master's in History Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in History Online?

Completing an online history master's degree creates opportunities for students aiming to share their knowledge of history with others in meaningful and inventive ways. The majority of applicants already possess either bachelor's degrees in history or a related subject and want to use this advanced education to move into roles that allow them to work more intimately in historical studies. In addition to education, preservation, and conservation, graduates may work in advertising, writing, finance, or journalism.

While considering their options, some prospective degree seekers may wonder about the advantages of earning a master's in history online, as opposed to on campus. These programs typically appeal to individuals who want to further their educations but lack the time or resources required to visit campus multiple times per week at specific times.

Employment Outlook for Master's in History Graduates

Master's in History Salary

After deciding to pursue an online history master's degree, many distance learners wonder how much money they can expect to earn. While specific jobs can certainly make a difference, students must also consider factors such as location and level of experience.

As demonstrated in the first table, individuals in Washington, D.C. make approximately $40,000 more annually than the national average, but individuals must also consider the cost of living. While some states may pay less, it could also cost less to live there. The second table demonstrates how those with more years of experience claim higher earnings than newly minted graduates.

Top Paying States for Historians

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia 220 $106,610
California 220 $85,690
Maryland 110 $79,310
New Mexico 40 $76,100
Colorado 50 $75,870
United States 3,060 $64,220

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Historians

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $39,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $41,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $48,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $55,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in History Careers

At the master's level, graduates can compete for more roles that allow them to work closely with historical artifacts or tell the stories of individuals from the past. These positions tend to become more available as individuals move up the academic ladder. Those pursuing an online history master's degree often enjoy landing themselves in office or museum settings and working traditional hours, although some nights or weekends may be required if working in curatorial roles at museums.

Historian

Annual Median Salary: $59,120

Projected Growth Rate: 6%

Historians spend their days researching, analyzing, and interpreting historical documents. They may write articles, essays, conference papers, books, or other materials that help shed light on a particular topic from the past. Historians may also work as consultants on historical productions, such as fiction books, television shows, or movies.

Archivist, Curator, or Museum Worker

Annual Median Salary: $47,360

Projected Growth Rate: 13%

These individuals work in historical societies, archival holdings, museums, and historic properties to ensure items within the spaces receive proper care and conservation. They may work to preserve fragile items, teach patrons how to correctly handle them, develop systems for organizing and storing them, or create digital copies for patrons to view online.

High School Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $59,170

Projected Growth Rate: 8%

High school history teachers build on knowledge gained in K-8 classes in both U.S. and world history. They create innovative assignments, write and grade exams, review papers, and lecture students about specific topics. They also maintain communication with parents about any ongoing issues and write recommendation letters for college.

Postsecondary Teacher (Community College)

Annual Median Salary: $76,000

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Individuals who want to teach history at the community college level work to design curricula, assign books, write lectures, create assignments and essay prompts, and ensure students feel supported throughout the class. They grade all these assignments and work with students to identify areas of interest. They may also write letters of recommendation.

Journalist

Annual Median Salary: $39,490

Projected Growth Rate: N/A

Journalists work for newspapers, radio stations, magazines, television shows, and other online/printed outlets to ensure readers can access well-written and responsibly researched news. They may interview subjects, identify potential leads, work with other journalists to validate information, and write/edit stories as needed.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in History Program?

The following sections observe common coursework within an online master's degree in history. This information can help learners obtain a sense of what to expect, but they should remember that details vary depending on their school and program of choice.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in History

Historiography

This foundational course helps newly enrolled degree seekers understand the importance of studying existing historical writings and how those writings influence public understanding of the past. Students learn how to examine these interpretations and arguments while also evaluating their own thinking about particular analyses.

Methodology

This course helps historians understand the variety of methods and modalities used in historical analysis, emphasizing how to evaluate primary sources. Learners also gain skills in writing research proposals and expressing how and why they chose particular methods.

Visual and Material Culture

This course examines how historians can understand the biographies of inanimate objects and write their histories within the larger context. Students cover practitioners of the sub-discipline. Learners also discover how to use this knowledge in roles such as museum curation and academic teaching.

The Role of Museums

Students who take this course come to understand how museums identify, organize, protect, and conserve items in their care -- emphasizing the process for managing various types of artifacts. Degree seekers also learn how museums fit within society and the role they play in teaching patrons about the past.

Research Seminar

Typically taken in the second year, this course helps students hone in on their area(s) of interest to help them construct a research project. Students also begin preparing their theses by proposing topics and receiving approval from their research mentors.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in History Prepares For

  • Archival Certification: The Academy of Certified Archivists allows each individual to become certified by taking a test, administered annually in numerous cities throughout the country. Applicants prepare by engaging in self-study of the exam handbook. This certification helps candidates prepare for careers in preservation.

  • Historic Preservation Certification: The University of Maryland's School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation offers this 16-credit certification for individuals who want to learn about safely preserving historic commercial and residential spaces. Learners consider current issues and practices, methodology, and the history of historic preservation.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations provide many benefits to both seasoned and new historians. Some members join so that they can take part in networking events and annual conferences, while others enjoy receiving access to job postings, webinars, continuing education credits, and opportunities for mentoring. Regardless of your reasoning, the associations and resources highlighted below offer many benefits.

  • American Historical Association: The AHA provides in-house publications, continuing education, an annual meeting, and job postings -- among other benefits.

  • Organization of American Historians: Members of the OAH can research job postings, apply for fellowships, attend an annual conference, review trade publications, take advantage of grant funding, and benefit from career development services.

  • Association of Ancient Historians: This membership-based organization provides an annual meeting, several events throughout the year, job listings, publications, a database of other ancient historians working in the U.S. and abroad, and an innovative mentorship program.

  • Society of American Archivists: The SAA provides career listings, advocacy programs, continuing education, trade publications, a yearly conference, and a podcast about archivists and the work they do.

  • National Council on Public History: Members of NCPH can take advantage of resources developed for students, public historians, consultants, and educators in addition to an annual conference, a list of industry jobs, and several social media pages.

  • Teaching Resources for Historians: The American Historical Society offers classroom materials, teaching approaches, resources for teaching survey classes, and other materials that can help new teachers take charge of their material and classrooms.

  • Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media: This innovative center works diligently to introduce new media and digitization into the field of history, emphasizing open-source software, digital literacy, online exhibits, and digital collections.

  • University of Houston's Digital History: Students can use this comprehensive website to search by history eras, topics, primary sources, and individual voices to find relevant primary and secondary sources.

  • Beyond Academe: This organization helps history degree seekers learn about innovative and emerging careers outside of the academy.

  • HyperHistory: Through this fascinating project, users can review more than 3,000 years of history by exploring timelines, maps, graphics, and lifelines of individuals who lived during specific eras.