The PhD program is for applicants desiring to be trained as independent, original scholars. Most PhD graduates seek faculty positions at colleges or universities.

PhD students are an integral part of the learning and teaching experience across the History Department. They conduct research, teach courses and work closely with various faculty members and students throughout the department. Most students complete the program in 4-5 years and come to the program with a master’s degree in history.

Culminating events for the History PhD include a qualifying examination, a dissertation, and defense.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


To be considered for admission, an applicant must meet Graduate School admission requirements plus these departmental requirements:

  1. A master’s degree in history or a related field
  2. Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s intellectual achievement and potential.
  3. A sample of the applicant’s written work that demonstrates their ability to conduct historical research and/or the ability to analyze the work of others critically.

Please visit the History department’s website for information on the History Department Application

Credits and Courses

To earn the Ph.D., a student must have accumulated at least 54 graduate credits, at least 30 of them taken at the post-master’s level. (Precise numbers of credits and actual course requirements while in Ph.D. status will be determined after a review of the applicant’s previous coursework.) Doctoral students may not accumulate more than 6 credits in U/G courses, nor more than 6 credits in independent study without the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. Of the 54 credits, at least 9 must be in fields other than history. No more than 18 credits in courses outside of History may be counted toward the doctoral degree.

HIST 712Historiography and Theory of History3
or HIST 713 Historical Research Methods
Select two of the following:6
Historiography and Theory of History (if not taken above)
Historical Research Methods (if not taken above)
Research Methods in Local History
Professional and Pedagogical Issues in History
History and the New Media
HIST 990Dissertation Research (minimum 6 credits)6
Select 15 credits of electives (may include additional dissertation credits)15
Total Credits30

Approved Cross-Listed Courses

WGS 501G, with the topic "Women, Gender, & Global Revolutions," may count as either a History course, or as a WGS course to satisfy the requirement of at least 9 credits outside of History, but not as both.


The Director of Graduate Studies provides initial advising for the student in selecting courses and assists in selecting a Major Professor for long-term advising; the Director may assign a provisional graduate advisor before students select a Major Professor.

Students are required to consult periodically with, and have their schedules approved by, the Director of Graduate Studies, the provisional advisor, or the Major Professor. The Major Professor helps the student to define a dissertation topic and assists the student in choosing appropriate courses and in selecting members of the student’s Preliminary Examination and Doctoral Committees. The Major Professor normally chairs the student’s Preliminary Examination and Doctoral Committees.

Foreign Language or Data Analysis Proficiency

Students must demonstrate proficiency in one or more relevant foreign languages by passing a written examination in the translation of source materials or historical analysis. If a student’s Major Professor considers proficiency in more than one language necessary to the student’s specific plan of study, exams in more than one language may be required.

With the approval of the Major Professor, a student may substitute proficiency in another skill relevant to historical study; in these cases, proficiency will be demonstrated through relevant coursework.


Students are not required to elect a minor field, but they may wish to supplement their chosen specialty in this way. Depending on the particular course array, students may need to take more than 54 credits to complete both the major and minor requirements. Those who wish to take a minor have three options:

Option A: Minor In One Field

Working with a minor professor, students take 8-12 credits in a single department, leading to a minor examination.

Option B: Interdisciplinary Minor

Students take 8-12 credits in two or more departments, selected for their relevance to the student’s area of specialty. The minor will be defined in consultation with the student’s Major Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Option C: Minor in Public History

This 21-credit minor is appropriate for students planning a career in archives, museums, historic preservation, or other related specialties. It is not available to students who already have a specialization or degree in public history at the master’s level. Students in this minor are required to take 12 credits as follows:

HIST 700Public History Seminar 13
HIST 701Graduate Internship in Public History6
HIST 715Research Methods in Local History3
Select 9 credits (see below)9
Total Credits21

Students must take HIST 700 in the first semester of their first year.


The remaining 9 credits in public history must be selected from courses that pertain to the area of public history in which the student wishes to specialize.

For students interested in careers as archivists, electives should be selected from the following courses:

INFOST 650An Introduction to Modern Archives Administration3
INFOST 850Seminar in Modern Archives Administration3
INFOST 753Preserving Information Media3
INFOST 750Arrangement and Description in Archives3
INFOST 759Fieldwork in Archives and Manuscripts3

Students interested in careers in museums are advised to take at least three of the following courses:

ANTHRO 720History and Theory of Museums2
ANTHRO 721Administration and Organization of Museums3
ANTHRO 722Visitor Experience Design in Museums3
ANTHRO 723Museum Collections Management and Curation3

Students interested in careers in historic preservation are advised to take at least three of the following:

ARCH 560Introduction to Historic Preservation3
ARCH 760History of Building Technology3
ARCH 660Topics in Architectural History & Theory:3

Additional Requirements

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

The doctoral preliminary examination includes written and oral components designed to demonstrate the breadth of a student’s knowledge and the ability to conduct advanced historical research. It must be taken within five years of enrollment in the Ph.D. program.

Students who fail the doctoral preliminary examination may not proceed to the dissertation. The exam may be retaken only once. The Director of Graduate Studies provides specific guidelines for selecting the Doctoral Preliminary Examination Committee and preparing the doctoral preliminary examination proposal.


The dissertation is a major piece of original research representing a substantial contribution to historical scholarship. In consultation with the Major Professor, the student chooses a dissertation committee, which must approve the prospectus. The student’s Major Professor provides guidance in preparing the prospectus and in developing and writing the dissertation.

Dissertation Defense

The candidate must pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation.

Time Limit and Residence

All degree requirements must be completed within ten years from the date of initial enrollment in the doctoral program. To meet the continuous-year portion of the residence credit requirement, students must complete 8 to 12 graduate credits in each of two consecutive semesters, or 6 or more graduate credits in each of three consecutive semesters, including summer sessions. In exceptional cases, modifications of the residence requirement may be requested, subject to the approval of the History Department and the Graduate School.