A doctorate in History (Ph.D.) is required to teach in a college or university and to have the best opportunities for the highest-ranking positions in large museums, archives, and in other professional positions requiring extensive knowledge of history. The average time spent earning a Ph.D. beyond the B.A. is eight years. It is a long-term committment and there is no guarantee that it will result in a permanent full-time position upon graduation.
Students in Ph.D. programs specialize in one area of history, such as modern Europe, Latin America, or recent United States. The largest portion of classes taken are in history. Reading knowledge of one or more foreign languages is required, depending on your specialty. The final requirement is generally a disseration--a book-length piece of original research on a specific historical problem.
There are only about 100 universities in the United States that offer reputable Ph.D. programs. Admission is very competititive and is generally made by the department, rather than the graduate school or university. Generally, graduate admission committees desire applicants with a minimum 3.0 overall GPA and a 3.5 GPA in upper level history courses (or in a related major), GRE scores in the top 50th percentile, and good writing skills. Also required are excellent recommendations from professors who have had you in several classes and at least one significant writing sample.
The following ranking is based on the 740-page study by the National Research Council, Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States: Continuity and Change (1995). It ranks 111 PhD-granting graduate programs in history by scholarly quality of the faculty and effectiveness in educating research scholars. These assessments were made by nearly 8,000 graduate-program faculty members in 1993. The rankings represent an over-all assessment of each program based on reputation alone. The criteria may not represent what is most important to you in choosing a graduate school. Top-ranked programs are likely to offer a wide variety of specialties (such as Colonial American, Modern Chinese, or Latin American history), but some programs not highly ranked overall may excel in specific areas. You must do further research to determine which programs best suit your needs.
The University of Illinois Library maintains an extensive site with information about graduate school rankings and other information about choosing an appropriate program.
General advice about applying to graduate school can be found at the Tech Publishing site http://www.gradschooltips.com.
Eastern Connecticut State University History graduates have recently been accepted into programs listed in dark blue. If you know of any others, please send me an email note with particulars at the address below.