Graduate Degree

History - Doctor of Philosophy

History - Doctor of Philosophy
Plan Code:
Program Level:
Award Type:
Doctor of Philosophy
College of Social Science

Excerpt from the official Academic Programs Catalog:

Listed below are the approved requirements for the program from the official Academic Programs Catalog.
Students must consult their advisors to learn which specific requirements apply to their degree programs.

College of Social Science

Department of History

Graduate Study
History - Doctor of Philosophy

The program leading to the doctoral degree with a major in history is designed to provide wide knowledge in several fields of history, specialized competence in a limited area, and research techniques that will prepare the student for a career in teaching, research, government service, private industry, and other areas of professional historical activity.
The following primary fields of study are available to doctoral students in the department:

  • African–American history
  • African history
  • American history
  • Comparative Black history
  • East Asian history
  • European history
  • Latin American and Caribbean history
  • Science and medicine
  • Women and gender history

The department recognizes the high importance of developing among its doctoral candidates a proficiency in college teaching. To the limit of its resources, it undertakes to provide experience in teaching in the form of graduate assistantships, along with organized discussions of the ends and means of the teaching career.

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university and of the College of Social Science, students must meet the requirements specified below. 


Students are admitted to the program for fall semester only.  The department must receive all application materials by December 1.  Decisions on admission are announced by late February. In making admissions decisions, the department considers the competencies of the faculty and the needs of students and the profession.

To be considered for admission to the Doctor of Philosophy degree program in history, an applicant must:

  1. Have an official transcript forwarded from the applicant’s undergraduate institution(s) that verifies conferral of a baccalaureate degree. If the applicant completed graduate course work or a graduate degree, official transcript(s) reflecting that work must also be submitted.
  2. Submit a writing sample to the department that the applicant considers to be a fair representation of the applicant’s ability to conduct scholarly research and produce academic writing.
  3. Submit a statement (500-1000 words) that clearly indicates the primary field of intended study, the faculty members with whom the applicant would like to work, and the reasons for choosing the field and faculty.
  4. Submit a personal statement (500-1000 words) that addresses the applicant’s background as well as his or her goals in pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in History.
  5. Have at least three individuals, preferably scholars with whom the applicant has had course work or other professional contact, submit letters of recommendation to the department.

An international applicant is required to have fulfilled the university's English language proficiency requirement as described in the Graduate Education section of this catalog in one of the following three ways:

  1. Have a total score of 580 (paper version) or 237 (computer version) or 100 (Internet version) or above on the Test of English as a Foreign Language with no subscore below 55 (paper version) or 21 (computer version).
  2. Have an average score of 85 or higher on the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery with no subscore below 83.
  3. Have an average score of 85 or higher on the Michigan State University English Language Center Test with no subscore below 83.

In rare instances, exceptional applicants whose English proficiency does not meet the minimum requirements at the time of application, will be admitted provisionally, with the understanding that the applicant must demonstrate sufficient English language proficiency before admission and funding can be extended. Typically, the cutoff date to do so for fall semester is in early June.

Applicants for doctoral study should understand that the department can offer no assurance that all of the areas of professional specialization will be available to students at any particular time. It is essential that persons with specific, clearly defined academic interests communicate with the Graduate Director before making firm plans to enroll in the doctoral program.

Guidance Committee

Students entering the doctoral program will be guided by the graduate director in the selection of courses for the first year. By the end of the second semester, students should choose their major professor and their guidance committee. The committee shall consist of at least four members: two represent the student’s major field, one of whom shall chair the student’s guidance committee and direct the dissertation. In addition, two faculty members, one from each of the student’s chosen two minor fields, will serve on the committee.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in History

The student must:

1.       Complete HST 803 Seminar in Methodology of Historical Research (3 credits) in the first semester of their first year.
2.       Complete HST 804 Advanced Research and Professional Development Seminar in the fourth semester of study. Students who enter with a Master of Arts degree may waive this requirement with the approval of the major advisor and Graduate Director.
3.       Complete HST 812 History in the Digital Age, unless waived by major advisor and Graduate Director.
4.       Complete an additional 24 credits of 800 to 900 or graduate-level equivalent courses chosen in consultation with the student's guidance committee.
5.       Student must demonstrate knowledge of two foreign languages before they may take the comprehensive examinations. This requirement for students formally admitted to the Ph.D. program can be fulfilled by one of these three options:
a.                Competency in two foreign languages.
b.   With approval of the student’s guidance committee, the student may substitute certification in humanities computing for the second foreign language.
c. With the approval of the student’s guidance committee, the second foreign language may be waived.
6. Pass the written and oral comprehensive examinations:
a.  Written examinations must be completed within a six-month period by the end of a student’s third year.
b.   An oral examination must be completed no later than two weeks after the student successfully passes the written examination.
c. A defense of the dissertation prospectus needs to take place either at the time of the oral examination or in a separate defense within six weeks of the oral examination.
7.  Complete 24 credits of HST 999 Doctoral Dissertation Research.
8.  Pass a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation.