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History Subject Guide

History is a diverse subject that remains ever popular at postgraduate level due to the challenging, exciting and unique topics that students can immerse themselves in. It’s also a promising choice for aspiring historians and professionals of other fields. 

However, with so many history courses to choose from, each with their own focus or teaching structure, it can be difficult working out which are the best universities for history. You might be wondering whether you need a postgraduate qualification at all, or whether you can transfer into history from another subject. 

This guide contains all the information you’ll need to answer these questions. So, read on to find out what you need to know about studying a history degree at postgraduate level. 


Why do a history degree? 

History is one of the most prominent liberal arts; the study of people, events, decisions, culture and technology in the past, this fascinating subject provides humanity with a sense of itself, an understanding of its origins, and wisdom with which to face future challenges. 

It’s a highly popular subject at postgraduate level due to its incredible variability. With so many time periods, famous figures, interesting societies and dramatic events to discover, the study of history itself is a clear pleasure. 

Not only that, but the study of history provides graduates with an impressive array of professional skills that allow them to thrive in their professional or academic careers. Whether you’re looking for a career explicitly related to history, or in fields where your analytical and discerning minds will thrive, history is a great choice for postgraduate study. 

What qualifications can you get? 

There are several types of postgraduate qualifications open to history students. 

A taught master’s degree, almost always an MA programme, is the most popular postgraduate course and is a great way for history graduates, or students who want to move into history from similar fields, to build an extensive knowledge in their chosen area of history. The advanced learning, deep analysis and thesis writing that these courses contain are a great preparation for doctoral studies or professional roles. 

A PhD in history is a compelling option for students who have already completed one postgraduate qualification, like a master’s, and want to further develop as a researcher and build serious expertise in a particular area. This could be an aspect of a certain time period, a historical figure, an area of architectural or technological history, or an aspect of anthropological or artistic history.  

Research master’s degrees, like the MRes and MPhil, can be considered as shorter, less in-depth versions of a PhD. They will suit students who don’t yet feel ready to complete a full doctorate, or those who want to build research skills in a shorter period of time to power their move into relevant history jobs. 

What jobs can you do with a history degree? 

Completing a postgraduate degree in history will see you well placed for career success across wide range of roles and sectors, due to the powerful analytical and critical skills that you’ll develop during your studies. 

Some of the highest paying jobs with a history degree will typically be in areas such as public relations, marketing and law. 

Some of the roles you could go on to include: 

  • Professor or lecturer 
  • Living historian 
  • Museum technician 
  • Genealogist 
  • Archaeologist 
  • Archivist 
  • Dramaturge 
  • Public relations manager 
  • Marketing consultant 
  • Writer 
  • Editor 
  • Paralegal 
  • Solicitor 

Considering the broad range of skills you’ll develop during your history master’s, the history degree jobs that you could go on to are far broader than those outlined here—every sector has an ongoing need for skilled, intelligent professionals with analytical minds. 

What are the history degree entry requirements? 

Each postgraduate history degree will have its own entry requirements which prospective students must meet in order to enrol. 

In most cases, applicants for taught MAs in history will need to have an undergraduate honours degree at a minimum 2:2 level (or international equivalent)—some require a 2:1 or above. 

Applicants for research programmes, such as an MRes or MPhil, will typically need a 2:1 or above (or international equivalent). PhD applicants will normally be expected to hold a relevant master’s degree in addition to this. 

What history courses are there? 

There are different postgraduate history courses available to students depending on the era, historical niche or level of study they wish to focus on. You might consider programmes such as: 

  • MA History 
  • MA Public History 
  • MA Victorian Studies 
  • MA Ancient History 
  • PhD/MPhil/MRes History 

What topics does a history degree cover? 

Each postgraduate history degree will offer a unique blend of taught content, subject specialism, and professional skills. However, in many cases, you could expect to study topics and modules like: 

  • Debating pasts, crafting histories 
  • History in theory and practice 
  • Researching history 
  • Public history 
  • Digital histories: people, place, power 

What do you learn in a history degree? 

Studying a history degree at postgraduate level is the perfect way to prepare for success across a number of history degree jobs; you can give yourself the edge over other candidates, stand out to employers, and be an authority in your field through advanced study. 

Some of the skills developed by history postgraduates are highly valuable across career paths. At its core, history demands a highly analytical mind which is adept at logical arguments and critically analysing information. Further still, the volume of quantitative and qualitative data and testimony that you will need to assess, combine and report on during your studies will be a transferable skill that will serve you across various jobs. 

Clear communication, effective managing of time and project management skills are also competencies that you’ll sharpen during your history degree, adding to your employability. 

How will you be taught and assessed? 

Postgraduate history courses are taught and assessed in different ways depending on your university’s faculty, and the type of programme you’re enrolled in. 

History taught master’s degrees will place a strong focus on lectures, seminar discussions and tutor group sessions, helping you develop a deep understanding of your subject and work collaboratively with peers and lecturers. 

Independent study is a primary feature of all types of history degrees, exploring primary and secondary materials, archives and artefacts. Doctoral students will typically develop a unique contribution to discourse in their field through extensive research. 

Assessment is through essays and exams, for taught students, while writing dissertations and thesis will be a part of almost all postgraduate students’ experiences. 

How long is a history degree? 

The length of your postgraduate history degree will depend on the level of study you are applying to, the type of degree, and in some cases the content of the course or host university. In most cases your history master’s will last one year if studied full-time, and two years part-time. Two-year online masters are also an option. 

A history PhD will typically last three to four years when studied full-time, and around twice that if studied part-time. 

Where can you study history? 

There are more than 600 postgraduate history courses for you to explore, at over 100 history universities around the UK. With so many study options to choose from, quickly and easily identifying which is the best option for you is essential. Fortunately, our university search tool helps you do just that, with information on course content, entry requirements and fees all in one place—making it easy to find the best universities for history. 

What similar subjects are there to history? 

There are a number of other subjects that you might consider studying at postgraduate level to achieve your goals, such as: 

  • Politics 
  • Anthropology 
  • Classics 
  • Archaeology 
  • History of Art 

Next: Search for History courses


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