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Degree Types: PhD

The PhD Program in History trains students in core research and teaching skills intended to prepare them for a wide variety of careers, including in academia, in education more broadly, in public history, and in the public and private sectors. It is designed to help students achieve a comprehensive grasp of historical fields and processes; develop critical skills in respect to sources, texts, genres, theory, and methods of inquiry; and carry out original research that makes a significant contribution to historical study.

The program is distinguished by its relatively compact size, admitting about 15 students or fewer each year. This highly selective program allows close faculty-student interaction and permits exacting criticism of sources, research procedures, and writing skills.

Each student's course of study revolves around a chosen general field, minor field, and specialization field. The program encourages students to acquire a frame of reference for their research based on grounding in geographical and cross-disciplinary fields outside their specializations.

Students in this program are encouraged to participate in TGS’s Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative program. For more information on how you can have a second intellectual “home” outside of your department or program please visit the Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative page.

Additional resources:

Program Statistics

Visit PhD Program Statistics for statistics such as program admissions, enrollment, student demographics and more.

Program Contact

Contact Julie Hoather
Graduate Program Assistant

Degree Requirements

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.


The History Department does not offer a separate master's program. Students in the PhD program earn a master's degree after a year of satisfactory work toward the PhD degree. Northwestern's School of Professional Studies offers several part-time master's programs, including the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) and a Master of Arts in Literature (MALit).


Total Units Required: 18

The principal formal requirements for the PhD in history are as follows:

  • Completion of 18 courses during the first two years of study, including two quarters of work each year in an intensive research seminar.
  • Passing of examinations in three areas (a general field, a specialization within that field, and a minor field) during the second and third year of study.
  • Demonstration of proficiency in the primary research language.
  • Submission of a dissertation prospectus or proposal by the end of the third year of study.
  • Demonstration of proficiency in additional languages as necessary.
  • Presentation of an approved dissertation.
  • Completion of HISTORY 560-0 Teaching History by the end of the fifth year.

Last Updated: September 12, 2023