History Masters

A quick question regarding obtaining ones master's degree (or furthermore, a PHD) in history. Has anyone here done this? And if so, are you teaching now, or are you working in an unrelated field? Just bouncing a few ideas around, and wouldn't mind some feedback... Thanks.

I think IBI just got his, in Europe.

I recently got my MPhil in Ancient History. I'm currently waiting for my supervisor to get back from his study leave so that I can start my PhD (with the aim of lecturing afterwards). In the meanwhile I'm doing various freelance writing and editing work.

I have an MA in Church History, and another MA and a PhD in Renaissance/Reformation History. I am currently a college professor. Do you have a specific question about job prospects (in a word, they stink), or are you looking for other options with the degree (there are more than you think), or are you taking a poll? Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to discuss any of this: sunshineg@ccsu.edu or glsunshine@wwdb.org.



Out of idle curiosity, were your two Masters research degrees or taught degrees? Just wondering, because almost everyone I know chose to do a taught one. I've never really understood why. Doing a degree that was completely research based was heaven! No lessons, no exams, no having to hand in essays every week. You just have to write a 50,000 word thesis within a year. Basically, you get a degree for simply writing a book about something you love (which was presumably the same for your PhD, though I appreciate that you had to work to a higher and more rigid level).

In all cases the degree was accompanied by pretty intense classwork, but I also did original research as well--two MA theses, then the PhD dissertation. So it's not an either-or. The accrediting agencies in the US typically require a certain number of credits for the degree, so classes are inevitable. In my case, I think I may have had an option that would have eliminated the need for the thesis, but I certainly wasn't interested in it--since my goal was the PhD, doing the theses was something like a dry run for the much more extensive research I would need to do for the doctorate, along with being a lot more interesting.

The classes served another important purpose, however: they helped prepare me for the comprehensive exams that were required for the first MA and the PhD.

Does that answer the question?


Does that answer the question?Yeah, thanks.When I said 'taught degree', I meant what you described. In England, a typical taught MA consists of half (credits wise) regular classes and exams, and half thesis. We still call it a 'taught MA', even though there is a research element. We only use 'research degree' to refer to a degree that is entirely research based.

I don't believe there is any research degree of that type in the US, for better or for worse


Glenn, I for one would like to hear what the other options are that you mentioned, and I'm sure others would like to hear about both the teaching prospects and the other options, so please fire away when you get time.

I'd like to go back for a history degree just to help with martial arts research/writing skills, but it would probably have to be a public administration degree instead in order for work to pay for any part of it (and to be of any use in my line of work).



Will do. I've got some class prep to do right now, but I'll post something tomorrow when I have some more breathing space. I'm booked with classes and meetings for most of the next six hours....


I don't believe there is any research degree of that type in the US, for better or for worseWow, I didn't know that. No offence, but the more I hear about the American education system, the more I prefer our own. :-)There is something I'd like to know career-wise. Before you became a lecturer, did you have an extensive list of published works to your name? Whilst I've had writing experience in other fields, my published academic work currently consist of a review for Bryn Mawr's Classical Review, and nothing much else (though I'm currently trying to get my MPhil thesis published). Just wondering how early you got into the whole publishing side of things, and if there's any sort of minimum level required before you could seriously consider applying to be a lecturer.Thanks.

Sorry about the delay, I was on the bus for 10 hours yesterday, and couldn't think straight by the end.

Here is the thing. My undegraduate degree was an honours in Communication, with a focus on Political Economy. However, I have always had an interest in history. I have taken several undergraduate courses in history, from Aztecs to Youth in contemporary European history, and enjoyed them all. However, my concern is if this "interest" I have is enough to go through with a Masters, especially since the rewards may be slim.

As it currently stands, I am also considering doing a Political Economy Masters, with the topic of the simulacrum of Thailand as my thesis. Which is more my cup of tea.

What currently interests me in history, is the Kingdom of Lanna, and seperately, Thailand's history involving Burma during the 18th century.

Here's the dinger, I haven't the foggiest what to do with either degree! I am currently training and fighting in Thailand, and have been away from home for 18 months. When I get back, I am likely to go into a Masters degree without any idea of what lies beyond that. This is why I was asking how things were going for people with History masters.

Thanks for the responses.

You might consider Anthropology: I would expect the job prospects to be a little brighter than in History, and one might have an easier time with research grants.

If you pursue history, you might have luck finding positions as a lecturer in Asia, especially if you have fluency in a relevant language, even without publications to your credit.

Glenn, I would also be curious to hear more when you have a chance.


Funny you should mention Anthro, my gf is in the midst of one now. Not quite sure if it's my bag though...

OK, you asked for it:

First, re. lectureships: there are some in the US, but mostly we look at three levels of positions at the college and university level: tenure track (i.e. permanent barring unforeseen problems); non-tenure track (i.e. usually a limited term, full-time appointment), and adjuncts (i.e. slave labor--they do lectures and get paid dirt). For the first two, a PhD is pretty much mandatory; publications are useful, but not necessarily essential. It is possible to adjunct with an MA, but it is really tough to earn a living at it.

Job prospects: in history, pretty dismal. Teaching is the obvious route, but in the US you generally need courses in education to be certified; your mileage may vary state by state, however. Further, history and the social sciences are pretty well covered in most areas, making getting ajob pretty competitive. It's worse at the college level. When I got my position, there were 110 applicants; there were only about 20 jobs that it made any sense for me to apply for (I was only looking at tenure-track positions), and the same applicant pool was probably competing for all of them. Do the math: less than one in five got tenure-track positions. BUT this varies by field. If you're an Asian historian with a PhD or very close to one, you can probably get multiple offers, though the window may close on that over the next few years. There may be a few other fields that are like that as well, but since we haven't done a search in them lately, I don't know of any off hand.

So what do I tell history majors, especially those who don't want to teach? And what do we do with an MA who isn't a teacher? First, there are other kinds of jobs historians do besides teaching. Corporations, government and the military all hire historians to do institutional histories, for example. There are a few usually poorly paid positions in historical societies at the state and local level, though I'd recommend a degree in public history if you want to go that route. But one thing that most people forget is that only a relatively small minority of college grads actually ever get a job in their major field. I don't remember the number offhand, but I think it's under 30%. So what do they do? The CEOs of most Fortune-500 companies are liberal arts grads, and many corporations are happy to hire people with degrees in history and similar fields because the degree demonstrates the ability to stick to a project; it shows ability to follow directions; it shows ability to learn. Further, liberal arts degrees give people more flexibility in problem-solving and critical thinking skills than technical and scientific degrees do. Nothing personal to you techies out there, but that's been the conclusion reached by these corporations--since you aren't doing things constantly using a single defined methodology, it helps develop a more flexible approach to problems. The companies I've talked to tend to steer clear of social science majors--particularly psychology and sociology--for these generalized kinds of positions. I don't know why exactly, and don't shoot me for saying that. I'm just the messenger.



The point is that any corporation is going to have to retrain you for their way of doing things anyway, so even if you have a degree that looks like what they're looking for, they already have factored in the retraining costs for you when they interview you for the job. So for a history degree, the trick is to emphasize not the content of what you've studied necessarily, but the skill set that you've picked up: analysis, critical thinking, broad-based perspectives (depending on your program) on issues, sensitivity to cultural differences because of knowledge of historical differences, writing, etc. On the MA level, I'd emphasize particularly the analytical and writing abilities that you've learned. All of this, of course, depends on the type of position you're applying for.

That should do for starters. If any of you are interested in more info or perspectives, let me know. If the forum isn't the right place, you can always e-mail me at the addresses I gave earlier.

Here endeth the lesson. ;-)


Thanks, Glenn.

(Edit, because I managed to misspell your name... As I seem to have done above, as well...)

will enter this (top 10 ranked) program the day after win lottery:

The Master of Arts in Diplomacy and Military Studies (MA/DMS) combines courses in history, art history, literature, philosophy, anthropology, and political science to acquaint students with different approaches and methods in the study of diplomacy and the military. Unlike other, similar programs which have a focus on the United States and Europe, the MA/DMS integrates a variety of courses in Asia and the Pacific as well as courses of a comparative nature.

The core classes are drawn from the disciplines of history, interdisciplinary humanities, philosophy, and political science and provide students with the historical, ethical, and practical background necessary to fully understand the multifaceted character of the military.

The elective courses in military and diplomatic history allow students to explore the historical circumstances of the military, both as a fighting force and as an instrument of policy. The courses in military history are divided between thematic courses that deal with particular issues in military history and those courses that deal with an individual region or chronological period. The history courses are supported by an array of electives drawn from a variety of fields.

Finally, in the capstone courses, students will apply the pertinent research methodologies and tools which they developed during the program to a research project of their own design. Each student will work with several faculty members and their colleagues when researching and writing a paper on an issue relating to the study of diplomacy or military affairs.


understand most graduates go on to foreign service-like work. or PhD.


Are you in Hawaii?


was. just left at years end. now in tampa, fl.