Well-known institutions like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, etc. consistently rank at the top of every program they offer, and this is no different for History graduate programs. However, the fact of the matter is you do not have to attend one of these schools in order to get a great education out of a Masters or Ph.D. program. At “It’s Not GREek!” we want our readers to be aware of not only the important generalities of the field they are considering, but the multitude of options they have when it comes to picking a graduate school. These are some schools, along with the usual suspects, you may not be aware of, but that experts in your field of study certainly are.
Before we spotlight the most highly ranked History programs in the country, there is some basic information any aspiring historian should be aware of before pursuing a career in the “lore of yore:”
Unfortunately, there is a trend of noncompetitive salaries and limited employment opportunities associated with the field of professional history. A Forbes article, “The Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs,” recently reported that Masters Degrees in Chemistry, Biology, and History top the list of worst graduate degrees to find a job. You should also consider this: according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for historians is $53,570, but according to dailyfinance.com the median salary for someone with an advanced degree is $73,738.
These articles’ assessment might be a little biased; most individuals with an advanced degree in History understand that a Masters will make them too qualified for most jobs, and not qualified enough for the job they want. Additionally, there is compelling evidence that suggests a Ph. D in History might be more valuable than previously considered. The American Historical Association reported in 2005 and 2006 that Ph. D. conferrals in History were no longer surpassing History job postings; that is, for two years in a row, there were more new History jobs being created than there were qualified candidates to fill them. More recently, however, there have been mixed results regarding professional historians’ place in a slowed economy.
As the decision to pursue a graduate degree is often more closely associated with a passion for the subject than economic factors, let us, like any prudent historian, turn to the facts of the matter and begin our Graduate Program Spotlight: History.
#1) Yale University
Okay … The only surprise in the Top 5 list is that Harvard is ranked fifth. Each of the above-mentioned universities has an amazing and prestigious program; unfortunately, in addition to being the most excellent programs in the country, the above-mentioned universities are also some of the most exclusive programs in the country.
Luckily, there are a number of very well regarded History programs outside of these highly reputable institutions. Some ranked universities that might surprise you are:
Indiana University’s Department of History enjoys an international reputation; they are known for placing an emphasis on training in research and teaching. Additionally, Indiana takes pride in training its student to succeed in both academia and the private sector. Some of Indian University’s concentrations in History include American, Russian/Eastern European, and Ancient History/Language Acquisitions, as well as several other Masters and Ph. D. programs.
In the words of the Director of Graduate Studies, Adrian Burgos, “With diverse course offerings, excellent teaching and learning resources, a highly regarded faculty with wide-ranging interests and a supportive intellectual community, few schools offer a richer experience than can be had at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.” Financial support opportunities for graduate students include fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, minority student fellowships, and tuition waivers.
Carnegie Mellon fully funds all full-time graduate students for at least four years; funding includes tuition, health insurance, fees, and a living stipend. Carnegie Mellon shapes its curriculum around what it calls its Faculty Thematic Strengths, which include: African American/African/Diaspora, Culture and Power, Gender and the Family, Labor and Politics, and finally Technology, Environment, Science and Health. Another impressive and pertinent piece of information for potential “Scotties” (Carengie Mellon’s official Mascot is Scotty the Scottish terrier) is the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries holds almost 900,000 volumes, and almost 800,000 microforms, in addition to a subscription to 4,200 journals.
With a very small program, around 100 M.A. and Ph. D. History students on campus, the University of Arizona offers graduate training in five major historical fields–United States, Latin America, Early Europe, Modern Europe, and the Middle East–and two minor fields–World/Comparative and Gender and Women’s history. Two very good reasons to consider the University of Arizona are the students and staff: since 1996, UA’s students have received over 160 grants, awards, and fellowships for individual research, including a number of Fulbright and Fulbright-Hays fellowships and UA currently has 30 ranked faculty members.
#56) Tulane University
Tulane’s Department of History puts it most aptly, “The city of New Orleans, where Tulane is located, offers varied research opportunities. With its unique French, African, and Spanish heritage and its successive waves of immigrants, New Orleans has been and remains a city with a remarkably rich and multilayered past. Records of this past–scattered throughout the city–are a constant reminder of the complexity of the human condition even to those whose research interests lie elsewhere.” Some additional information about Tulane includes: admittance into their graduate program requires a 20-30 page writing sample, admittance is extremely selective (Tulane admits between 4-8 students annually), all graduate students are required to be full-time, and students may only be admitted in the fall.
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