The History PhD prepares students for careers in college teaching, digital media, publishing, educational administration, public history, and historical research. Students gain expertise in conventional historical methods and web-based technologies. Major fields include U.S. history, European history, and world history. Minor fields are chosen by the student and may include such areas as public history, constitutional studies, and new media and information technology.

The PhD program allows students to develop programs of study to fit with a variety of career goals and interests - preparation to teach and research at the community college, college, or university level; work in the fields of digital humanities, new media and technology; work in the fields of public and applied history, such as museums, archives, preservation, and editing; and professional development.


Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in Graduate Admissions. For specific information see Application Requirements and Deadlines on the departmental web site.


For policies governing all graduate programs, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Reduction of Credit

For students entering the doctoral program with a master’s degree, the number of required credits may be reduced by a maximum of 30 credits, subject to approval of the program faculty and the dean. Requests for reduction of credit are reviewed only after acceptance to the doctoral program.

Banner Code: LA-PHD-HIST

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Students should be aware of the specific policies associated with this program, located on the Admissions & Policies tab.

Students will be terminated from the program if they receive more than one unsatisfactory grade (C or F). No more than 6 credits earned through study abroad courses may be applied towards the degree.

Core Courses

HIST 610The Study and Writing of History3
HIST 696Clio Wired: An Introduction to History and New Media3
Choose one of the following:3
Data Analysis for History
Creating Software for History
Topics in History and New Media
HIST 810History Doctoral Colloquium 11-6
HIST 811Doctoral Research Seminar3
HIST 797Research Seminar in History3
Total Credits16-21

Students take 1 credit a semester until they advance to candidacy or reach a maximum of 6 credits.

Major Field

Select 15 credits of courses in one of three possible fields:15
U.S. History
European History
Comparative World History
Total Credits15

Minor Fields

Select two minor fields and take 9 credits in each 118
Total Credits18

Minor fields may include areas such as public history, digital history, cultural history, women’s and gender history, the Atlantic World.

Doctoral Research Skills

Students must demonstrate basic competency in computers. Students whose research requires knowledge of a foreign language must also demonstrate a reading knowledge of one foreign language. The department sets specific research skills requirements for students, depending on their field of study.

Comprehensive Exam

Students need to pass a comprehensive exam that consists of a written field exam for each minor field and an oral exam for the major field.

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all coursework required on their approved program of study. Students must also successfully complete and pass an oral comprehensive exam in a major field and written examinations in two minor fields. In addition, students must have a dissertation committee appointed by the Dean’s Office as well as an approved proposal. Evidence of the approved proposal must be on file in the Dean’s Office before a student can be advanced to candidacy.


Once enrolled in HIST 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal, students in this degree program must maintain continuous registration in HIST 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal or HIST 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research each semester (excluding summers) until the dissertation is submitted to and accepted by the University Libraries. Once enrolled in HIST 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research, students must follow the university’s continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Research. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of HIST 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research.

Students who complete less than 6 credits of HIST 810 History Doctoral Colloquium must take additional credits of HIST 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal or HIST 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research to reach the 72 credits required for the program.

Students may apply to this degree a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 credits of HIST 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and a minimum of 15 credits of HIST 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research.

Dissertation Research18
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal (minimum of 3 credits)
Doctoral Dissertation Research (minimum of 15 credits)
Total Credits18

Program Outcomes

  • Students will achieve deep and broad knowledge in a general field of history.
  • Students will master the recent historiography in a more specialized field or subfield.
  • Students will formulate research problems relevant to the historical literature in their fields, and develop research methods that will allow them to produce new knowledge in those fields.
  • Students will demonstrate both theoretical and practical knowledge of the use of new media and digital technologies in the field of history.
  • Students will communicate their research findings in forms appropriate to their intended audience and make arguments relevant to the historical literature in their fields.