History Degree: A Student Guide Through the Ages


Here ye, here ye! You have come to us today to learn about the process of earning a history degree. We’ve got you covered in this department and have oodles to tell you, so listen up!

History Degree

flat,550x550,075,fWhy Earn a History Degree? This is probably the most commonly asked question in this field of study and one you will likely never get away from. The world is a big place and in order to truly be successful in it and in your future job, you have to be able to function in it and interact with people of all different backgrounds.

You’d be surprised at how much a history degree can help with your interactions with people and how it will aid you in the work place. When you study history, you are not just studying about old places and events, you are also learning about people and how events shape their behaviors. The same can be said for each of us as individuals now if you really think about it, so having the skills to analyze the how and why of the actions of others is a helpful skill to have.

Earning a degree in history can also set you up to excel in a career even though at first glance you wouldn’t think so. As a history major, you will have the opportunity to fine tune your reading, writing and listening skills, which also happen to be very crucial skills that are needed for advancement in the work place. See how it’s all coming together now?

History Degrees and Interesting Courses

Today, we will want to briefly tell you a bit about the different history degrees that you can earn along with some of the classes that you may find interesting. You can also click on the links provided in each section to get a closer look at what some schools have to say about history degrees too.

Bachelor of Arts in History

The fun starts here with interesting and exciting classes in history that will lay the foundation for the rest of your schooling. So, what courses can be taken during your years earning a bachelor’s degree?

  • The Ancient World: There is a lot to learn about in this course about ancient world history! You will get to sink your teeth into some juicy areas of history like the Neolithic revolution, agricultural rise, the formation of the Aegean civilization in Greece along with events of historical importance in North Africa, Southwest Asia, Mesoamerica and South America.
  • Gender and Global Society: Take an interesting look into the roles that both gender and sexuality play into in our society This course will take a closer look at how these roles impact stereotypes, social identity, race and social class.
  • African Studies: Major themes throughout Africa’s history will be examined in an African Studies course. Some of the topics covered will include: kingdoms, empires, European imperialism, religious and cultural movements, slave trade era and much more.

National University offers a Bachelor of Arts in History degree program and you can click here to visit their website for more information!

Master of Arts in History

Next up on your degree track is a master’s degree, which will bring your total years of schooling up to 6 upon completion. By this stage in the history degree game, you will be a history master and may have even decided on a specific field of study that you’re interested in specializing in. You’re also going to expand upon the historical knowledge that you have gained thus far and the way to do it is by taking some more super interesting history courses. Here are some available courses at the master’s degree level:

  • Intro to Environmental History: It’s a well known fact that people have changed North America dating as far back as precolonial times up to current day. Some of the topics covered are species migration, commodities, environmental movements and the use of resources throughout history.
  • The Rise and Fall of Atlantic Slavery: The enslavement of people of African descent in the sixteenth century. This course discusses the long process of emancipating those enslaved and abolishing the practice
  • The First World War: The interesting history of the World War I is examine in this course and covers the period between 1912 and 1923.

Yale University has a Master of Arts in History degree program and their website has a lot of helpful information about the field and program. Click here to see what they have to say.

Ph.D. In History

The final leg of the journey to earn a history degree is that of earning a Ph.D. By the time you reach this point you will be on par with writers, researchers, analysts and educators. When earning the highest degree level possible for history majors, you will be able to round out your final courses like these:

  • History, Memory and the Changeable Past: The exploration of how families, communities and their nations are all part of the historical and shared past that we all share. This course take a close look at how we have maintained memories and the past in various forms as a means of preservation
  • Imperialism in History: Modern imperialism and the resistance to it is discussed in this course. Topics covered will include colonial rule, intellectual revolutions, modern nationalism and the political, social, religious, cultural, demographic, environmental and economic changes that have changed over the span of modern empires.
  • Nazi Germany: World War II, the nature of Nazi rule and the Holocaust are examined in this course. There is also an emphasis on the impacts that were felt in political, social and economic areas as a result of Hitlers take over.

The America University College of Arts and Sciences offers a Ph.D in History graduate program that offers these very classes, so if you are interested in what they may have to offer, simply click here to take a look.

History Degree Fields of Study

You don’t have to pick a specialty field of history if you don’t want to and if you’d rather stick to broader concepts, that’s totally fine. There may be some students that find themselves drawn to more specific historical topics, which opens up a whole other can of beans. There are actually quite a few fields of study available for students to specialize in and we want to tell you about them now!

United States History

The study of the history of the United States focuses on topics like the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II America as well as a detailed look at the exploration of America back when Chris Columbus sailed across the ocean blue and continues to present day. United States history is one of the most popular fields of study at most colleges.

European History

If you find ancient, medieval, renaissance and reformed European to be super interesting, then you may fancy yourself as a European historian. This field of history dives deep into the past histories of Rome, Britain and other major countries with detailed accounts of social, family, comparative and women’s histories.

World History

BLACK_STUDENT_IN_A_BLACK_STUDIES_CLASS_IN_A_WEST_SIDE_CHICAGO_CLASSROOM_READING_A_BOOK_ABOUT_GREAT_RULERS_IN_AFRICA'S..._-_NARA_-_556263There is a lot more to history than the fields that focus on the United States and Europe, so don’t get too discouraged if we haven’t quite nailed down your interests yet. If the history of Latin America, the Middle East and Asia are interesting to you, world history may be your bag and worth pursuing. There is a ton of rich history in countries like Iran, Mexico, Japan, Africa and the Philippines.

Western History

A smaller field of historical study, but one that is just as interesting as the rest, is western history. This is an area rich in topics of women in the west, Native Americans, environmental history as well as how all of these topics are interrelated.

Public History

Did you know that you can actually study about the history of museums, historical societies, agencies, archives and libraries? Well , you sure can! We can imagine that public history would be of interest to those that are thinking of pursuing a job in one of the a library or museum, which would definitely be aided by some extra information about each facilities history.

Women’s History

Women has come a really long way since the old days when we were subjected to being clubbed over the head and pulled into caves. The study of women’s history takes you through early and modern Europe, the history of marriage and family, the history of women in religion and of course the history of women in the old United States.

Ancient and Medieval History

Break out the manacles and torture devices because you can certainly focus on the ancient and medieval historical fields if you’re into that sort of thing. There is loads to learn about ancient Greece, Rome, early Christianity and of course medieval Europe. The study topics are extend far beyond manacles though and extends to art, literature, philosophy and culture.

Religious History

It’s not exactly a secret that some of the most major event in history revolved around religion, so it only makes sense for there to be a specific field of study about it. Religious history is nearly bursting at the seams with topics covered on early Christianity, medieval Catholicism, Islam, women in Christianity and Byzantine Orthodoxy to name a few.

Gender Studies

We know at first glance, gender studies doesn’t exactly scream “history”, but they go hand in hand with one impacting the other greatly time after time. Gender studies gives you the chance to examine the economic, professional, social and religious impact that felt in regards to gender and sexuality in society.

Famous History Buffs

We don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the personal lives of famous folks, but we came across several during our preparation for this guide that actually have history degrees. We found it interesting that these famous faces have been right where you are now, wondering if history is the right degree for them. Let’s find out who some of these famous history buffs are!

Martha Stewart

Who knew that Martha Stewart was a double history major during her college days at Barnard College? No us, that’s for sure! Martha was originally a chemistry major, but switched it up to a double major in European and Architectural history. Her degrees in history have probably played a bigger part in her meteoric success than we could ever really know. We’d really like to know where she learned to fold a fitted sheet though!

Steve Carell

Michael Scott…oops! We meant to say, Steve Carell, is way more than a funny and talented actor on the big and small screens. He also happens to be a history buff and holds a degree in the field from Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

Sasha Baron Cohen

It looks like there is more to Borat than meets the eye! Very nice! Funny man, Sasha Baron Cohen holds a history degree from Cambridge University. He even taught an innovative class at Harvard back in 2007 to show off his history knowledge.

Things Only History Majors Understand

As you have probably figured out by now, it takes a special kind of snowflake to earn a history degree. It’s a cool club to be in with a motley crew of folks that love to mesh the worlds of art and social science all while finding a love of old things, dead people and the relationships that tie them together. If you find that earning a history degree really is your cup of tea, then it won’t take you too long to nod your head in agreement of the things that only history majors understand. Here are some examples:

  • JSRTOR and Google Scholar are your BFF’s: Having the ability to read whenever and wherever is like a chubby kid getting to eat cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner…everyday
  • Footnotes = mortal enemy: Oh yeah, footnotes are not a history major’s friend at all. Throw in a good old bibliography too and you’re likely to set fire to your computer
  • Stuck on repeat: It’s common practice to read about the same topic only by different authors all at the same time
  • Which came first – the review or the egg: Or in this case the egg is a book. So what if you read the review of a book before deciding if it’s up your alley? It’s not cheating if you still read the books that have good reviews
  • It’s all in the past: You’re not afraid to tell people that there is more to history than just the dates, names and places that they read about it books, but you are the first to spout out those facts. You’d also like to toss a book at the next person that tells you that history is irrelevant
  • Shots: You could start a drinking game that would result in a high blood alcohol level if you did shots each time someone asked you what you’re going to do with a history degree
  • RIP trees: You blew up your carbon footprint and probably spent all your financial aid money on history books, printing history data offline and shirts with ironic historical sayings on it
  • Spoiler alert: No one likes to watch movies or shows with you if they have historical content because you are one giant spoiler and nit pick at all of the details

Reading Rainbow

Ok, so we aren’t exactly Lavar Burton and we can’t exactly pop out of a rainbow, but we can offer up some interesting books that past history degree students recommend that new history degree students read. But you don’t have to take our word for it (Double Jeopardy points if you get that reference)!

Necropolis: London and Its Dead

Catherine Arnold’s book about the various burial rites, sites and deaths of important people throughout the history of London is a great read for anyone, but especially history degree students. There is so much information packed into this and Arnold does it effortlessly without missing a shred of historical information. It’s a real page turner for a non-fiction book.

Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe

You may not be too familiar with the with the events that Adam Zamoyski’s book revolves around yet, but you will be once you read this little gem. You’ll take a trip back to 1920 when Lenin almost wiped out Versailles and got a little too big for his little Russian britches. This is a good book for any history degree student to read and those that are particularly interested in the Polish – Soviet War.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Not only do history degree students have Dee Brown to thank for the epic greatness that is this book, we also have to thank him for opening up a dialogue that had been closed down for far too long. This book is important and will open up the eyes of anyone who reads it due to it’s honesty and clarity. Brown shares with the world the story of how the West really was and how the ripple effects of broken treaties, massacres and battles left only destruction in their wakes.

A People’s History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millennium

This book by Chris Harman centers around how humans are changed throughout history. He examines how we as humans have continually changed and adapted, creating complex societies, revolutionary ideas and more all while experiencing wars, major changes and more.

Empires of the Sea: Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521 – 1580

Roger Crowley sure knows how to write a book about pirates, military crusades and bloody battles in just the right way to keep history degree students turning the pages, highlighters in hand.

Liberation: The Bitter Road to Freedom, Europe 1944 – 1945

In Liberation, William I Hitchcock, takes you into the lives of those who were required to leave their countries, homes, jobs and families behind upon the liberation from Hitler’s regime. This is an interesting and rarely taken perspective of this period of history. History degree students often hear about this era from many other angles, so this is a good read for those that are interested in the other side.

The Ascent of Money: Financial of the World

Money has always made the world go ’round as Niall Ferguson explains in his interesting book about the evolution of the financial system. This will come in handy as history majors study different periods in history since Ferguson pretty much covers it all.

The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History of Washing

It’s no secret that this history of hygiene is pretty gross and will probably even turn off even the most infrequent of bathers. Katherine Ashenburg has a pretty great way of talking about the dirty details of getting clean. We know that cleanliness isn’t the biggest and most important topic that is covered in the course of earning a history degree, but this engrossing read is a definite for the book list.

Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town

Mary Beard writes a ton of history books that students will find their noses in at some point and time. Her book about Pompeii and the mystery that surrounds it is interesting and exciting. It’s definitely the one to read if you’d like to find out what the last days of the city may have been like.

Henry: Virtuous Prince

David Starkey turns the long standing perspective of Henry VIII as a tyrant with a wicked temper (Anne Boleyn would attest to that if she had her head). He found in Henry something that not many have before and writes of a promising young prince. History degree students will probably speed through this and find a bit of likability in one of histories most notorious dudes.

A Video to Wrap It Up

Sometimes the best way to explain something isn’t through long and drawn out explanation by a person. Sometimes all you need is a few words, a great song and some powerful images. For those of you still reading along that may be uncertain if a history degree is for you, this may be the nudge over the line that you need. Watch the video and absorb what it really means. We will be reading Katherine Ashenburg’s book if you need us!

Sources and Recommended Reading

We avoided footnotes today and opted to some of our sources and favorite sites with you instead. Get reading and don’t forget to bookmark this page along with the others you like!

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