Are you considering a graduate degree in history? The decision to pursue graduate study in History is complex one that is part emotional and part rational like other fields. The emotional side of the equation is powerful. The pride of becoming the first in your family to earn a graduate degree, being called "Doctor," and living a life of the mind are all tempting rewards.  However, the decision of whether to apply to graduate programs in the field of history entails also pragmatic considerations. The question becomes even more perplexing in a a difficult economic climate. The first thing to recognize when it comes to graduate study is that it is competitive. Admissions standards for many graduate programs, especially doctoral programs, in History are tough. In case you do not have a particular score and a high undergraduate GPA (for example, at least a 3.7, peruse applications for the top PhD programs in the field and you may encounter warnings not to apply. You may remain a student longer than you intend once you enter graduate school. History and other humanities students often take longer to complete their dissertations than do science students.

Considering a graduate degree in history

Graduate study is expensive. Annual tuition typically ranges from $20,000-40,000. The amount of funding a student receives is important to his or her economic well being long after graduate school. Some History students work as teaching assistants and receive some tuition remission benefits or a stipend. Most students pay for all of their education. Science students are often funded by grants that their professors write to support their research in contrast. Science students often receive full tuition remission and a stipend during graduate school. Because the job market for college professors, especially in the humanities, is bad, many faculty advise their students not to go into debt to earn a graduate degree in History. Many of the PHD’s work as adjunct instructors (earning about $2,000-$3,000 per course) for years. Those who decide to seek full time employment rather than reapply for academic jobs work in college administration, publishing, the government, and non-profit agencies. Many of the negative considerations in deciding whether to apply to graduate school in History emphasize the difficulty of obtaining employment in academic settings and the financial challenges that come with graduate study. These considerations are less relevant for students who plan on careers outside of academia.  A graduate degree offers many opportunities outside of the ivory tower on the positive side. The skills that you will hone as you pursue your graduate degree are valued in virtually all employment settings. For example, graduate degree holders in History are skilled in reading, writing, and argumentation. Each paper you write in graduate school requires that you compile and integrate information, and construct logical arguments. These information management, argumentation, and presentation skills are useful in a variety of settings such as business, nonprofits, and government. Your academic and professional career is yours to make although this quick overview of pragmatic considerations in determining whether graduate study in History is for you highlights some of the challenges.