Degrees Offered:

  • BA
  • MA
  • PhD
  • Minor*

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Degree Requirements

Sample Four Year Plan

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* = Minors are not technically a degree, but can be pursued to supplement a bachelor's degree

Historians study the past, in all of its complexity, to better understand our contemporary world and the forces that created it.

By understanding historical subjects on their own terms—whether they be colonial America or modern Asia—History students develop empathy as they engage with the ethics of past human decisions and actions. When students understand the past, they recognize their power to shape the present and the future.

The History department at CU provided me with an engaging and rewarding educational experience. Faculty members are passionate and prepare students to think critically, globally and with empathy."

— Maria Abraas


Did you know that Dan Carlin, a podcaster famous for his Hardcore History podcast, was a CU History graduate? CU Boulder history graduates work in far-reaching disciplines across the nation and world. 

As a history major studying the past, you will gain an awareness of the variety of past human achievement, as well as a perspective on how the world operates. With this knowledge, you will have a better understanding of the present. In the course of exposing you to the intellectual, political, economic, cultural, and social forces that have influenced today’s world, the study of history also develops your ability to read critically, to ask intelligent questions, and to express ideas orally and in writing. In its broadest sense, the study of history provides you with an intellectual framework and practical skills that will serve all your future pursuits. 

The bachelor of arts (B.A.) program for history majors is structured so that while you are required to receive a broad education in various fields of historical inquiry, you have the freedom to design a program particularly suited to your own interests, provided you choose your classes wisely.  

While you are required to acquire both geographical and chronological breadth in your major, the requirements are flexible enough that you can concentrate your studies in a specific geographic area (for example Britain, China, Latin America, or the U.S.) or a historical period (for example the Ancient world, the Medieval period, or the twentieth century) or on a single theme (for example intellectual history, the history of revolution, the history of women, imperialism and colonialism, the history of Islam, or Jewish history). Within these areas, you are free to plan your program around a diverse set of rotating course offerings.

The Department of History at CU Boulder is also one of the best in the nation, ranking #38 in the nation by U.S. News & World & Report.

In addition, the department has a number of excellent and award-winning faculty, including a MacArthur ‘genius grant’ winner, two Professors of Distinction, three Guggenheim fellows and numerous Fulbright winners, three winners of the Boulder Faculty Assembly Award for Excellence in Teaching and Pedagogy, fellows for the American Council of Learned Societies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Humanities Center, and book award recipients, including a Pulizer Prize winner.

The Department of History has a number of excellent research and scholarly opportunities, led by an interdisciplinary faculty with affiliations across the college, in such departments as Women & Gender Studies, International Affairs, Ethnic Studies, Jewish Studies, English and Religious Studies, and centers and institutes, such as the Center of the American West and the Institute of Behavioral Science.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in history, there are a number of opportunities beyond just class work:

  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.
  • History majors can apply to write a creative or critical honors thesis, the successful defense of which results in the designation of cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude at graduation. The Honors thesis is an independent project that the student designs by working one-on-one with a faculty director. Information on honors is available on the English department website, the Honors website, or by visiting the Student Services Office in Hellems.
  • The department encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad during their undergraduate years.  On-site study can add new dimensions to your perception of world history. The university offers more than 100 programs around the world, and you may spend from a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program selected. They may earn credit that counts as if you had taken courses here, in some cases fulfilling major and core requirements. Note, however, that 12 upper-division history credits must be taken in classes taught by CU Boulder faculty. Language study is a prerequisite for participation in many of the best programs, so early planning for study abroad is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.

The history graduate offers prospective employers a background that is advantageous in many ways. Versatility, good analytical skills, and the ability to view contemporary society with perspective are among the qualities that CU Boulder history graduates bring to careers in public relations, banking, consulting, journalism, marketing, the government and other public service, and elementary or secondary school teaching. Also, libraries, museums, historical societies and national parks may offer attractive history-related career options.

History graduates often go on to study in professional schools which leads to careers in law, business, and medicine, and a select few decide to pursue graduate work leading to historical scholarship and teaching at the university level.

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

The average expected salary for someone with a bachelor's degree in history is $63,000, according to the 2019-20 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital. At CU Boulder, however, history graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale.

Graph of projected salary for History majors

The estimated median salaries, as reported on Tableau, for history graduates for 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and over 11 years out from school.

CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an average annual salary of $64,946, based on a pool of 2860 alumni.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic projects 2016-2026 job growth will be 5 percent, slightly less than average for all job categories.

The history department has an extensive list of alumni that are either working or have worked in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Dan Carlin ('89) is a podcaster, famous for his Hardcore History podcast.
  • Mike Nelson ('91) is a pediatrician practicing in Mexico
  • Peter Perla ('92) is a partner in the law firm of Holland & Hart.
  • Bertrall Ross ('98) is Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California Berkeley, Boalt Hall Law School.
  • Stacey Smith ('98) is Associate Professor of History at Oregon State University.
  • Brian Delay ('94) is Associate Professor of History at the University of California Berkeley.
  • Jaime Kreiner ('04) is Associate Professor of History at the University of Georgia.
  • Richard Payne is Associate Professor of History and Near East Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.