A Comprehensive Guide to PhD Scholarships in History

History is one of the most fascinating subjects to study. Uncovering facts about our past helps us understand how societies evolved and why certain events happened. For those with a deep passion for history, earning a PhD can open up many doors for specialized research and teaching opportunities. However, doctoral programs can be costly, and funding is essential for most students. 

Understanding the Time and Financial Commitment of a PhD in History

Before exploring specific scholarship programs, it’s important to recognize the scale of the PhD undertaking. Earning a doctorate in history usually takes between 4-6 years of full-time study after completing a bachelor’s degree. During this time, students will complete formal coursework, pass comprehensive exams, conduct extensive original research, and write a 200-300 page dissertation.

The financial commitment should not be underestimated. While in-state public university tuition for resident students is often less than $25,000 per year, private university tuition can surpass $50,000 annually without fees or living expenses. Additional costs like books, conference travel, transcription services, and dissertation printing all add up over the multiple years of study. Living costs like housing, food, transportation and basic necessities also need to be covered. Overall, the total cost of a history PhD from admission to graduation commonly ranges from $80,000 to well over $150,000 depending on the program and location.

Most history PhD students do not self-fund their education. Scholarships, fellowships, grant funding, teaching assistantships (TAs), and research assistantships (RAs) are necessary to make doctoral studies financially feasible. The types and amounts of support vary significantly between programs. Competitive, full funding including tuition remission plus a living stipend is considered the gold standard. Partially-funded programs may still require students to take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans by graduation to supplement other aid. Carefully researching funding opportunities should be a top priority in the application process.

Notable External Scholarship Programs for PhD Studies in History

Some of the most prestigious and well-funded external scholarship programs that can fully or partially fund history PhD studies include:

Fulbright Grants

The Fulbright Program offers funding for graduate study or research abroad in over 140 countries. Awards provide tuition support, travel costs, living stipend and health insurance. Recent history PhD recipients have utilized Fulbrights for dissertation fieldwork in places like Germany, India and South Africa. Highly competitive with requirements for exceptional academics and leadership experience.

Ford Foundation Fellowships

Intended to increase diversity in academia, the Ford Foundation Fellowships support outstanding minority students committed to a career in teaching and research. Doctoral or postdoctoral awards provide $25,000 living stipend plus tuition and fees for up to five years. Strong preference for those who advanced equity and inclusion on their campus or community.

National Science Foundation Fellowships

While focused on STEM fields, the NSF does offer opportunities relevant for historians. For instance, the Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants (DDRIG) provide up to $12,000 to conduct fieldwork or archival research. Dissertation grants are open to all NSF-recognized PhD programs.

American Historical Association Dissertation Fellowships

Directed specifically at PhD candidates in history, the AHA awards $20,000 fellowships for 9-12 months of full-time dissertation writing and research. Fellows can conduct research domestically or abroad. Requires ABD (all but dissertation) status, statement of topic and methodology, recommendation letters, and CV. Highly competitive with ~20 awards given annually.

American Academy in Rome & Berlin Prize

History PhD candidates focusing on the arts, humanities or sciences are eligible for residential fellowships at the American Academy in Rome and American Academy in Berlin. Fellows receive a stipend, housing, studio/office space and travel funds for 11 months to conduct independent research. Prestigious opportunity to study in iconic international centers of scholarship and cultural life.

These are just a sampling of prominent national and international fellowships open to graduate students in any field, including history. Additional regional and topic-specific awards may be available as well. But securing external funding is challenging – history PhD applicants are strongly advised to thoroughly research all possible scholarship options very early in the application timeline. Developing an excellent proposal and securing faculty recommendation letters takes time.

Funding Through University History PhD Programs

Most history doctoral students receive at least partial funding through their academic department and university. The three primary forms of funding from programs include:

Graduate Assistantships

Teaching assistantships (TAs) and research assistantships (RAs) are the most common type of aid. As a TA, grad students lead discussion sections, grade papers, or assist professors with other teaching duties, usually for a 10-20 hour/week commitment. RAs support faculty research projects and tasks.

Assistantships cover tuition remission plus provide an annual living stipend, often $15,000-$25,000 depending on the cost of living where the university is located. Prestigious programs generally guarantee full funding through five or six years to all admitted students via assistantships. Some departments may offer fewer guaranteed years of support.

Departmental or Program Scholarships

Individual history departments and PhD programs may have scholarship funds available to supplement or replace assistantships for select merit-based students. For example, internal departmental fellowships of $5,000-$10,000 or dissertation fellowship support of $15,000-$20,000. Competition is usually high, and prior academic excellence is required.

University-Wide Graduate Awards

Every university offers their own slate of graduate scholarships, usually awarded based on academic merit, research potential, diversity considerations, or service to the institution. Examples include named fellowships honoring alumni donors, graduate excellence awards of $2,000-$5,000, or single-year dissertation completion awards. History students should explore all intra-university funding opportunities.

Understanding the funding model of prospective history PhD programs is critical for determining financial feasibility. Speaking directly with current graduate students and program administrators sheds light on real funding timelines and support levels. Ultimately, the aid packages of top programs aim to eliminate student debt burdens after degree completion.

Applying Strategically to Maximize Funding Chances

Given the selectivity and intense competition for high-quality PhD funding in history, following a few application strategies can help optimize opportunities:

  • Apply to a wide range of programs – The top 15 history PhD programs in the U.S. accept between 5-15% of applicants on average. Consider strong “target” and “safety” program options too.
  • Form a solid timeline – Start researching programs and fellowships no later than the spring of your junior undergraduate year. Submit applications in the fall for the following fall enrollment.
  • Develop strong recommendations – Ask professors you’ve worked closely with who can emphasize your suitability for doctoral studies.
  • Tailor your statements of purpose – Highlight how your research interests align with specific faculty members’ areas of expertise. Demonstrate “fit” to each department.
  • Emphasize any skills gaps – For example, explaining how an assistantship would strengthen foreign language abilities or digital/archival research techniques.
  • Stress diversity contributions – If you identify as a member of an underrepresented group in history, connect your experiences to themes of broadening participation in the discipline.
  • Request early notification – Programs offering timeline flexibility for aid package notification or deferment give greater funding negotiation leverage if accepted to multiple schools.

With the right strategy and application package, outstanding students have managed to maximize support packages from competitive history PhD programs, sometimes receiving multiple funding offers. Those willing to “work the system” thoroughly reap the greatest financial rewards.

Navigating the Initial Years of PhD Study

Securing funding for history doctoral studies is just the start – maintaining satisfactory progress while handling teaching and research responsibilities takes diligence. New PhD students commonly navigate some of these challenges:

  • Learning program expectations – Each department operates differently, so understanding publishing benchmarks, timelines for coursework/exams, and professionalization resources is key. Advisors and mentors provide guidance.
  • Time management – Juggling assigned teaching workloads, rigorous coursework, comprehensive exams, ancillary responsibilities, and early research exploration requires strict scheduling. Blocking time for self-care activities also matters.
  • Imposter syndrome – Doubt in one’s abilities despite intellectual gifts and accomplishments is common. Staying connected to support networks of peers and mentors boosts confidence.
  • Financial planning – Living on a graduate stipend demands creative budgeting. Costs for professional development or unplanned expenses require savings. Future academic job market prospects also affect planning.
  • Dissertation preparation – In the final years, writing a strong prospectus for timely faculty approval facilitates research progress. Conferences build an academic network for feedback crucial to dissertation success.

With diligence and self-awareness, challenges can be overcome during the first stages of PhD studies in history. Reaching candidacy and immersing fully in dissertation research signifies progressing closer to the finish line. Maintaining good standing with the program remains essential for continued funding beyond year five or six as well.

Career Outcomes and Job Market Realities

Upon degree completion, history PhDs can pursue careers in various sectors:

  • Academia – Tenure-track professorships at universities are competitive, with approximately 15-20 openings for every 100 candidates on the market each year across all ranks. Postdoctoral research, adjunct lecturer work, or non-tenure teaching roles provide interim experience but are not stable long-term situations. Publishing prowess, strong letters of recommendation, and demonstrated teaching ability are prerequisites. Developing an online teaching presence can strengthen applications.
  • Public History – Careers in museums, historical societies, archives, preservation non-profits, documentary films, and cultural resource management utilize research and presentation skills. However, these jobs may start part-time without benefits. Salaries are also lower than academic positions on average.
  • Government & Non-Profit – Opportunities exist in analysis roles for federal agencies like the State Department, policy groups, think tanks, NGOs focused on history education and advocacy. Experience with foreign languages or regional expertise expands options. Competition remains high.
  • Private Sector – Transferable skills like critical thinking, research competence, and communication abilities from a history PhD match well with management training programs, strategic consulting, publishing, media analysis, and other professional paths outside of pure academics. More corporate roles accept candidates from diverse degree backgrounds.

Given oversupply, contingency and adjunct labor dependence characterize many portions of the academic job market. Patience, flexibility, and strategic networking are prerequisites for finding secure work aligned with one’s interests post-degree. International job searches may broaden prospects. Alternately, pairing a history PhD with related graduate programs like library science, public administration, education or law enables branching into more applied domains.

Overall, planning career goals earlier and stacking additional experiences during doctoral studies optimize outcomes. History remains an intellectually fulfilling and versatile advanced degree when graduates adapt to shifting market demands. Continuous development throughout the program years prepares candidates well regardless of the paths ultimately chosen.

FAQs About PhD Scholarships in History

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What GPA do I need for history PhD admission and funding?

GPA requirements typically range from 3.5-3.8 on a 4.0 scale depending on the program’s selectivity. Top programs are exceptionally competitive with 3.8+ averages common for funded students.

How important are GRE scores?

While GREs help some programs rank applicants quantitatively, strong letters of recommendation, research potential, and writing samples carry more weight in history admissions. Top scores still signal aptitude though.

What other funding sources could I explore?

Check with undergraduate institutions for alumni scholarship matches. Inquire about external grants from historical societies, foundations supporting your research focus area, or private donors who’ve expressed interest in your topic.

When is the application deadline for PhD funding?

Most U.S. history PhD application deadlines fall between December-February, though a few have later dates in January/February. External fellowship proposals often require Fall submissions, so plan well in advance.

I have a Master’s, does that help or hurt my funding chances?

Having graduate degrees can help demonstrate research skills but also means you’ve had fewer funded years in school already compared to bachelor’s holders. Programs fund all stages of PhD training competitively without bias either way.

Can I get into a top program without funding?

Extremely difficult as most highly-ranked departments can support all their admitted students due to abundant endowments and budgets. Demonstrate your funding intentions and identify potential mentors to prove fit for the university’s aid.

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