What Are the Different Types of History Degree Requirements?

Angela Colley
Angela Colley
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A bachelor’s degree in history program covers American, European, and world history, as well as general degree requirements. The history degree requirements for a master's degree include up to 30 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree, many of which may come from a more specific area of historical study. Some master's degrees also require the completion of a thesis. Obtaining a doctoral degree in history may require completing 30 or more hours of history coursework beyond the master's degree and completion of a dissertation.

College students must pass general education courses as well as completing the history degree requirements. For example, most universities require that students take basic science and math courses. Many colleges also require students to pass a physical education course and take a foreign language as well as one or two electives from an approved course list.

Most undergraduate history programs require students to take three to four courses in American history, covering everything from the American Revolution to current events. Usually, students must also take one to three courses in European history. The European history courses typically cover key aspects of European social and cultural development. For example, students will study the United Kingdom's class system and the French Revolution as well as the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

To round out the history degree requirements, universities require students to take several history electives. Students can choose from several different electives, which cover different aspects of history throughout the world. For example, world history courses often cover different African cultures, the history of the Middle East, and the history of Asia. Electives may also include the history of specific countries, like France or China; specific periods, like the Elizabethan period; or particular areas of political and cultural activity, like religion or foreign policy.

The history degree requirements for a master’s may include choosing a specific area of history, such as Russian or European history. Students complete advanced coursework specifically pertaining to their field of study. While the hours required may vary by institution, students will take the bulk of their courses in history. For example, a student may take 20 credit hours in history and 10 credit hours in other electives to graduate with a master’s degree. Some master's programs require completion of a master's thesis, a fairly long discussion or investigation of a specific topic.

A doctoral degree program generally requires that the student complete even more coursework. The biggest challenge to many students, however, is writing the dissertation, which is a lengthy essay written on a topic of their choice within a particular area of specialty. A dissertation is generally longer than a master's thesis and usually does not cover the same topic as the thesis which the student may have written earlier. Both a thesis and a dissertation require sponsorship and approval by the student's faculty committee and a successful defense, or presentation, of the dissertation, both before the committee and publicly.

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