Best Colleges For History

Teotihuacan Pyramid outside Mexico City illustrating best colleges for history study.

History is the study of past human events – who, what, why, when, and how. It examines the structure of societies at a particular time and the motivations and political context of how and why events developed the way they did.  The best colleges in this field are expected to imbue their students with the ability to view and analyze the past unfiltered by systemic biases of the present.

At most universities the history department is a part of the College of Arts and Sciences (sometimes referred to as humanities). Typically undergraduate college history majors will choose a concentration in specific area of history, such as regional or era histories. Examples of the concentrations include such regional fields as American history, African history, European history, and Asian history. Era histories might include Pre-Columbian history, Islamic conquest, Native American history, or Middle Ages. Different universities may excel in one specialty but lag in another.

30 Best Colleges for History Majors

We have analyzed over 200 colleges in ranking the best colleges for history majors.  This ranking analyzes the reputational and real-world value excellence of the history departments as a whole.

1Stanford UniversityPalo AltoCAVisit
2Yale UniversityNew HavenCTVisit
3University of Texas - AustinAustinTXVisit
4Harvard UniversityCambridgeMAVisit
5Columbia UniversityNew YorkNYVisit
6Princeton UniversityPrinceton NJVisit
7University of MichiganAnn ArborMIVisit
8University of California - Los AngelesLos AngelesCAVisit
9University of ChicagoChicagoILVisit
10University of California - BerkeleyBerkeleyCAVisit
11University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaPAVisit
12University of North CarolinaChapel HillNCVisit
13University Of WisconsinMadisonWIVisit
14University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleVAVisit
15Cornell UniversityIthacaNYVisit
16Brown UniversityProvidenceRIVisit
17University of FloridaGainesvilleFLVisit
18Duke UniversityDurhamNCVisit
19Northwestern UniversityEvanstonILVisit
20Johns Hopkins University BaltimoreMDVisit
21University of WashingtonSeattleWAVisit
22Penn StateUniversity ParkPAVisit
23New York University New YorkNYVisit
24College of William and MaryWilliamsburgVAVisit
25University of MinnesotaMinneapolisMNVisit
26University of IllinoisChampaignILVisit
27Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleTNVisit
28The Ohio State UniversityColumbusOHVisit
29Rutgers UniversityPiscatawayNJVisit
30Georgetown UniversityWashington DCVisit

More information on our RealRankTM analytics used in creating this ranking can be found on the About page.

Have you attended any of these programs? What is your experience at these universities?

Economic Value of A History Degree

History-specific careers are somewhat limited as with many other liberal arts fields, and many students who decide to major in history go on to graduate schools, whether continuing a focus on history or going into another field, such as law or business. For pure history careers, these are some options:

  • Academics and teaching.
  • Historians (advanced degree typically required).
  • Writing.

History is a Relatively Low Paying Career

History, like many humanities in general, provides a somewhat limited career path. Typically students who choose to major in history as an undergraduate will seek an advanced degree of some sort to pursue a career, since there are not all that many opportunities available for pure undergraduate history majors. For example, a lot of attorneys may major in history as an undergraduate.

We try to be candid here in the analyses we provide. To put it bluntly, history (as opposed to another profession such as law or business, which also can be pursued with a history degree) is a relatively low paying career path. Of course, there are some people who achieve economic success and personal fulfillment with a history degree, and it certainly can be a viable career path for some people. Because of the comparatively low earnings potential for history career paths in general, my recommendation is that you avoid incurring a lot of college debt, if this field is your passion, as you do not want to get out of college overburdened with debt.

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