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History Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, History degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), 3 of which are required on campus. You choose a capstone or thesis track.

Getting Started:

  1. Explore the required course curriculum.
  2. Determine your initial admissions eligibility.
  3. Learn about the 3 degree courses required for admission.
  4. Search and register for courses.

Required Courses

12 Graduate Courses

The degree is customizable. Within the program curriculum, you choose the history and elective courses that meet your learning goals.

  • SSCI 100B Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Government, History and International Relations
  • 5 history courses
  • 1 history seminar
  • 2 history electives
    • EXPO 42b is an elective option

Thesis Track: Additional Courses

The thesis is a 9-month independent research project where you work one-on-one in a tutorial setting with a thesis director.

  • Thesis proposal tutorial
  • Master’s Thesis (8 credits)

Recent thesis topics:

  • How New York City Became the Laboratory for Baseball’s Great Experiment
  • The Forgotten Contributions of Napa Valley Chinese Immigrants, 1870-1900
  • Education and Social Mobility in England during the Reign of Henry VIII
  • “For My Women I See Nothing”: Native American Women and the Dawes Act of 1887
  • A Social and Cultural History of the Great Pueblo Flood of 1921: Its Aftermath and Its
    Legacy

Capstone Track: Additional Courses

  • 1 additional history elective
  • Precapstone and Capstone (choice of topics below)
    • Social reform movements in America
    • Historical biography

The capstone experience. In the precapstone you gain foundational preparation through critically analyzing the scholarly literature. Then, in the capstone, you execute a semester-long research project with guidance and support from your instructor and fellow candidates.

Capstone sequencing. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in the same topic, in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring), and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement. Capstone topics are subject to change annually.

Harvard Instructor Requirement

For either the thesis or capstone track, eight of the above courses (32 credits) need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard-instructor designation. The thesis course is taught by a Harvard instructor.

The Harvard On-Campus Experience (3 Courses)

Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least 3 courses (12 credits), which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

We strongly recommend that you pursue electives for the on-campus requirement to offer you the greatest selection of courses from which to choose.

On-campus course requirements can typically be completed through:

  • 15-week fall or spring semester courses that meet only on campus. Courses with the format “on campus or online” do not fulfill this requirement.
  • Courses that combines weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • 3-week January session courses that meet only on campus.
  • 3- or 7-week summer courses that meet only on campus.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School’s 3- or 7-week sessions. For more information, see the important visa information on the International Student Study Options page.

Admissions

Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Be sure to visit Degree Program Admissions for full details.

Initial Eligibility

  • Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a 4-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated for equivalency.
  • You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in history or a related field. Check your eligibility.

The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.

Earning Your Way In: Courses for Admission

To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following 3 graduate-level degree courses (available online):

  • SSCI 100B Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Government, History and International Relations
    • Before registering, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences.
    • You have 2 attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.
  • 1 history course
  • 1 history course or elective (e.g., EXPO 42b)

The courses above, including EXPO 42b, count toward the degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses.

While the 3 courses (12 credits) don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with the proseminar (or the prerequisite EXPO 42b). All 3 courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your third degree course, submit the official application to the program. 

Don’t delay! You must prioritize the three degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • avoid the delayed application fee or the loss of credit for expired course work.
  • ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • gain exclusive benefits (see bottom of page).

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 9 more courses after admission to earn the degree. 

For details about full eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Degree Program Admissions.

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round. You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).

To find degree courses in the DCE Course Search and Registration platform:

  • Under Search Classes, scroll to Harvard Extension Degree, Certificate, and Premedical Course Search.
  • Select Graduate Degrees
  • Choose History to explore program courses.

To Complete Your Degree

Required 3.0 GPA, 2 Withdrawal Grade Limit, and Repeat Course Policy

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the 3 degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.

Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive 2 withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.

Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under 5 Years

Courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree. As stated above, the proseminar cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.

Further, you have 5 years to complete your degree requirements. The 5-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any 3 degree applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the 5-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work.

Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the 5-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: History. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.