25 Best Colleges for History Majors 2020

Ranking Badge

The 25 schools on this list offer the top Bachelor's Degrees in History, based on median salary one year out of college. The top ranked school is Duke University, with a median salary of $51,400 and the second lowest median debt, at $10,534. Yale University students with this major graduate with the lowest median debt on the list, at $9,650. The schools listed have median starting salaries in the $37,100-$51,400 range.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 Duke University $55,695 $10,534 $51,400
#2 #2 University of Pennsylvania $55,584 $19,380 $50,900
#3 #3 Harvard University $50,420 Not Reported $48,000
#4 #4 Rice University $47,350 Not Reported $47,700
#5 #5 Dartmouth College $55,453 $17,007 $46,400
#6 #6 $53,794 Not Reported $45,300
#7 #7 $53,430 $9,650 $44,600
#8 #8 $55,450 $14,000 $44,100
#9 #9 $55,466 $12,420 $42,900
#10 #10 $6,880 $29,834 $42,600
#11 #11 $59,430 $22,000 $42,100
#12 #12 $52,770 $27,000 $41,200
#13 #13 $55,464 $18,000 $39,300
#14 #14 $53,391 $19,000 $39,000
#15 #15 $51,828 $22,454 $39,000
#16 #16 $49,032 $19,741 $38,900
#18 #18 $50,528 $27,000 $38,800
#19 #19 $16,265 $26,500 $38,700
#20 #20 $41,870 $23,500 $38,300
#21 #21 $45,706 $26,809 $37,800
#22 #22 $55,395 $27,000 $37,700
#23 #23 $12,336 $21,608 $37,500
#24 #24 $34,988 $19,500 $37,300
#25 #25 $54,568 $13,797 $37,100

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Learn more about the top five colleges for a Bachelor's in History degree. You can also read student reviews of each school by clicking on the stars. Although student reviews were not used as a ranking factor in this list, we provide ratings and reviews so students can consider the experience of alumni in their decision-making process.

Median Debt
$10,534
Median Salary
$51,400

Duke University features a Bachelor of Arts in History. The competitive program is offered through Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. The BA requires 34 credits (one course equals one credit), and the history major requires 10 courses.

The degree has two ways to focus on history: Thematic or Geographic. There are 8 theme areas and 6 geographic options. The Thematic options include Law and Governance, Race and Ethnicity, and War, Military and Society. The Geographic options include Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Global and Comparative.

The overall program aims to develop an awareness of history across time and space and as a source of perspective on the present. Students will learn current interpretations, use of documents, and research skills. Courses include Key Themes in American History, Muslim Women Across the Ages, and Empires in Historical Perspective. Provisions for independent study are generous. Study abroad is encouraged, whether in programs such as Duke in Florence, or independently. 

Duke is located in Durham, North Carolina.

Visit Duke University's website.  

Median Debt
$19,380
Median Salary
$50,900

The University of Pennsylvania offers a Bachelor of Arts in History through its College of Liberal and Professional Studies. A Penn BA requires 32 to 38.5 credits, depending on a student’s selection of courses (Penn’s system usually gives one credit per course). Admission to Penn is extremely competitive.

The program has a strong liberal arts orientation. Emphasis is placed on a broad knowledge of history, research, and analysis of primary sources. Students will develop research skills, ability in history writing, and a heightened appreciation of how the present is grounded in the past.

The basic degree is the BA in History. Students are not required to choose a concentration, but if they wish to, eight concentrations are available. Three are in regions, such as American History. Five areas are thematic, such as Diplomatic History. All students are required to complete and write up a substantial research project using primary sources.

History is one of the largest majors at Penn. Student research and study abroad are both strongly encouraged. Among the degree’s courses are The Ascent of Europe, African History Before 1800, Jews and Judaism in Antiquity, and Wastes of War: A Century of Destruction.

Penn is located in Philadelphia. The school was founded in 1740 and is a member of the famous Ivy League.

Visit University of Pennsylvania’s website.  

Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$48,000

Harvard University’s Department of History offers a Bachelor of Arts in History. The highly competitive program requires 128 credits and is taught within Harvard’s liberal arts tradition.

Students are not required to choose a concentration. However, the Department advises students to take courses related to their possible career interests in thematic course clusters. These include Book History, Legal History, Social History (which includes race and gender), Environmental History, Imperial History and Intellectual History. The program's focus is on exposing students to a wide range of history, historical interpretation, and research methods. Students will sharpen their critical analysis, research, and interpretive skills. Students manage, edit, and run Tempus, an online history magazine. 

Courses include Byzantine Imperialism, Premodern Korean Literature, Secrets and Lies in European History, and Native American Women, History and Myth. Many students study abroad. The Honors program requires a substantial thesis. Only a tenth of graduates become professional historians. About 25% go on to law school, and another 25% attend business school.

Dating back to 1636, Harvard is the oldest U.S. university. It’s located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.

Visit Harvard University’s website.

Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$47,700

Rice University offers a Bachelor of Arts in History. The major requires a minimum of 30 credits, and the overall degree 120 credits. The program strongly emphasizes student research, travel and study abroad, which is generously funded by gifts and endowment. Study of a foreign language is also strongly recommended. A track in International History is available; this option requires study abroad.

Students must take courses in at least four broad categories, which include the history of Europe, the USA, Premodern, Transnational, and Asia/Africa/Latin America. Overall, the focus is on understanding the past as a way to understand the present. The emphasis includes a global historical perspective, as well as the importance of research and communication skills. Students will learn critical reading of primary sources and the importance of original research.

Among program courses are Red, White and Black in Early America, Age of Muhammad to Arab Spring, and Historical Survey of Jewish Civilization. Students run, edit and publish The Rice Historical Review. Research possibilities are grouped into research clusters, such as Spatial and Digital Humanities, the Global South, and Medicine, Technology and Social Change.

Rice is located in Dallas, Texas.

Visit Rice University's website.

Median Debt
$17,007
Median Salary
$46,400

Dartmouth College offers a Bachelor of Arts in History. The degree requires 10 courses in the major and 35 credits to graduate (one course equals one credit). The History Department dates to 1894, making it one of the oldest in the country.

The history department strongly emphasizes wide exposure to history and historical interpretations, both chronological and geographic. It also focuses on context and the relationship between past and present. Most graduates in history do not continue to study in the field. A study of history graduates shows that 32% go into law, 18% complete an MBA and 6% become MDs. Dartmouth history students will have a wide exposure to history and to historiographical methods. They will learn critical perspectives, critical thinking, and analysis. The degree is very writing-intensive.

Students are encouraged to identify an area of concentration, according to their interests, either thematic or geographic. A Modified Major option is available, combining history with another discipline. A culminating experience is required, research in primary sources or some original contribution to the literature.

Courses include The Russian Empire, European Culture and Intellectual History, and International History of Human Rights. Dartmouth has arranged a study abroad experience with the history department at University College London.

Dartmouth is located in Hanover, New Hampshire. Founded in 1769, the school belongs to the fabled Ivy League.

Visit Dartmouth College's website.

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