MA in History

Further your historical knowledge and improve your communication, writing and research skills in a vibrant and supportive environment. Participate in a variety of topical, methodological and research seminars, and create your own piece of historical scholarship to serve as the capstone to your studies. 

A combination of an advanced degree and professional skills are critical for success in today’s competitive job market. The Department of History helps you enhance your education with high-impact experiential learning and extracurricular activities to develop the skills that employers demand. We introduce you to new professional networks in the areas that interest you the most.

Infographic that says 10 skills employers want.

Be career ready.

  • Decide upon a major geographic area of historical study such as American history, modern European history, North and South Atlantic history, East Asian history, Latin American and Caribbean history or African history or choose a comparative focus or a more topically-oriented approach
  • Take part in small classes that dig into big questions, such as the history of conceptions of the human body, comparative slavery or the growth of urban centers
  • Find your niche and concentrate on mastering your own corner of historical inquiry from expert faculty

Employers often cite the skills profile of applicants as the most important factor in their recruitment and job offer decisions. 

Here is how we help you develop 10 critical skills for historians:

1. Research

Gain hands-on experience enhancing a foundational skill of professional historians: original research. All graduate students are required to take one 600-level research seminar. For example:

  • Research Seminar on Imperialism and Colonialism (HIS 605) guides you in the preparation of a substantial essay of original research. You will write a seminar paper that is based on primary sources and engages the relevant debates in the scholarly literature
  • Advanced Research (HIS 612) allows you to receive training in research project definition, planning, information and data collection, analysis and writing under the close tutelage of a member of the Department of History
  • In Health, Medicine, Disability and the Body (HIS 680), you will use both primary documents and secondary research to write a publishable-length term paper (8000-10,000 words) and engage in other skill-building exercises throughout the semester

Sources of research support include:

2. Written Communication

Organize your knowledge and interpretations into convincing arguments, and convey meaning through well-constructed text. From essays and research papers to memorandums and non-academic reports, practice conveying your message with clarity and ease.

Create your own piece of historical scholarship for your MA Project. As a capstone to your studies, you will produce a 30-40-page MA Project, a piece of original research conducted under the guidance of a faculty member. With approval from the advisor, it may be an extensive revision of a paper written for a research seminar.

Recent award-winning thesis projects and papers include:

  • Xuening Kong won the 2018 MA Project Prize for “Experiencing Normal Education: Beijing Normal University for Women and its Students in the Twentieth Century”
  • Allison Stamp won the 2017 MA Project Prize for “Reproductive Imperialism: The Racial Dynamics of Mainland Feminism, the Victimization of Puerto Rican Women, and the Disconnected Struggles for Reproductive Autonomy”
  • William Reed Jones was the co-winner of the 2016 MA Project Prize for “Spirited Negotiations: Alcohol as a Diplomatic Tool for the Iroquois during the Seven Years War”                                       
  • Luis Vargas was co-winner of the 2016 MA Project Prize for “Gender and Manumission in Late Eighteenth-Century Santafé de Bogotá (Colombia)” 

3. Oral Communication

Hear and respond to others constructively through active participation in intellectual discussions and debates with colleagues.

Examples of experiential learning opportunities to develop and practice oral communication skills include:

  • Annual Milton Plesur Conference: Organized by the Graduate History Association, graduate students present and discuss their original work with fellow students and professors at this multi-disciplinary symposium.
    • 2018 Keynote address: “Rediscovering Oceanus: Twenty-First Century Approaches to the Atlantic World,” Dr. Robert Deal, Associate Professor of History, Marshall University and noted author
    • 2017 Keynote address: “History and the Megalopolis,” Dr. Mauricio Tenorio, Samuel N. Harper Professor of History, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College, University of Chicago
  • Phi Alpha Theta regional conference. UB’s History Department organizes a team of MA students and undergraduates to  participate in this meeting annually.  We will host it here in Buffalo in April 2019
  • Brown Bag Lunch Series offers faculty members, doctoral and masters’ students the opportunity to present and discuss their work in an informal setting and receive feedback. For example,
    • Graduate student Shanleigh Corrallo discussed her recent research at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. She is interested in how race, politics and economics intersect and often disrupt socioeconomic development in underprivileged communities. She examines Black Power organizations and grassroots community organizing in Buffalo, NY, Rochester, NY and Cleveland, OH from the 1960s-1980s. She plans to use this historical knowledge of postwar urban issues to create more effective public policy solutions that ameliorate the living conditions of impoverished urban communities.

4. Collaboration and Teamwork

Learn the intricacies of teamwork and collaboration with classmates through shared learning experiences, group projects, research papers, academic competitions, in student organizations and in volunteer opportunities in the community.

Examples of collaborative experiences include:

  • Members of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society for students in the field of history, participated in a walking tour of Buffalo's old first ward led by Explore Buffalo. Together they learned about grain mills, Irish-American boxers, politicians and turn of the century rowing clubs.
  • MA student Michael Harper served as a UB Social Impact Fellow in the summer of 2018 to create school curriculum for Explore Buffalo teaming up with an MA student in Social Work
  • MA students help organize the department’s annual Plesur conference, which brings graduate students from near and far to campus to present their research
  • The Graduate History Association sponsors academic and social activities every semester.

5. Digital Literacy

Advance your ability to find, evaluate, produce and communicate information on and through various digital platforms. Gain knowledge and experience in data curation, a range of activities and processes done to create, manage, maintain, and validate data, and help to determine what information is worth saving and for how long. Develop your programming skills and understand how they can be applied to advance your career.

  • History graduate students have found opportunities to work for the University Libraries, including helping develop UB’s Digital Repository
  • UB graduate students founded and run DIG: A History Podcast, formerly known as the History Buffs Podcast
  • Participate in Digital Dialogues, a series of on-campus workshops higlighting ongoing digital scholarship across campus by faculty, staff, and students, bridging the disciplines to spark conversations on creating and using digital tools

6. Intellectual Self-Confidence

Work beyond subject matter expertise in order to be nimble and imaginative in projects and plans. The Department of History encourages you to build confidence and network with peers and scholars in your field through participation in on- and off-campus conferences and events.

Interact with academic and public history professionals through department sponsored events such as the Annual MA Colloquium 2018

  • Will Kawalec MA ’18, presented his research on slave resistance in the antebellum South
  • Xuening Kong MA ’18, shared her research on women’s education in China
  • Joshua Keil MA ’18, discussed his work on military music and homesickness during the Civil War
  • Patrick Nash MA ’18 presented his research on psychological warfare during the Korean War

Take advantage of unlimited access to the University at Buffalo’s dedicated History Librarian,  Dr. Michael Kicey. A skilled educator, researcher and librarian, Dr. Kicey earned a BA in German at Franklin & Marshall College, a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, and a MS in Library and Information Science at Syracuse University. He is an excellent on-campus resource and mentor.

7. Quantitative Literacy

Understand and communicate quantitative information in a compelling manner, demonstrating that numbers can tell a story the same way words, images and artifacts do.

  • History graduate students participate in UB’s Digital Humanities initiative, which explores new strategies to bring Big Data to bear on historical and literary questions
  • The department’s Proseminar on History Careers invites alumni of the graduate program to discuss how they developed and use quantitative skills in their own careers
  • Graduate students develop budgets for the Plesur conference and their own research projects, with the guidance of faculty and staff

8. Critical Thinking

Showcase your ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Design, manage and report on topics, highlighting your competence across several areas. For example:

MA student Jonathan Makeley, who serves as the town historian of Angelica, New York, noticed that the town had historical connections with a number of people who are on U.S. Currency. He decided to do research to see to find connections between Angelica and all of the people on U.S. Currency from the penny to the $100 bill. The result is an article in the Alleghany County Historical Society Recorder,  “The Town of Angelica and the People on Our Money.”

9. Professional Conduct

Gain insight into the demands and expectations of employers including the ability to be dependable, punctual, dressing properly and displaying self-confidence through credit bearing and, in some cases, paid internships. Improve your skills through Master's projects and volunteer opportunities that involve working with professionals from community organizations and industry. Students displaying knowledge, professionalism and a solid work ethic are oftentimes offered full-time positions.

  • Explore internships via UB’s Bullseye

Western New York is home to over 100 art galleries and museums, and at least another 100 cultural organizations. If you can’t find an organization with which to intern, volunteer or participate, you’re just not trying! Below are just a few of the local organizations that provide opportunities for UB student interns and graduates:

Major Museums and Galleries


10. Global Perspective

Expand your world view and prepare to work in our interconnected global systems. Experience a diverse learning environment, with students and faculty in the Department of History representing multiple continents and countries.

Conduct original research with global implications; for example:

  • Patrick Nash MA ’18, received the 2017 Graduate Honorable Mention from the New York Conference on Asian Studies for his paper, “Re-imagining the Ku Klux Klan in Chinese Media, 1950-1959”
  • Michael Denman MA ’17, received the 2016 Graduate Prize from the New York Conference on Asian Studies for his paper, “Identities from Shaolin: Identity and Culture in 1970’s Hong Kong Kung Fu Genre Movies”

Network with national and international scholars who frequently present guest lectures on campus and participate in conferences to expose students to a multitude of views; for example:

  • UB co-hosted international scholar Liliana Fernandez Mollinedo, Auxiliary Professor, University of Havana, Cuba. She explored the long history of the conflict between the United States and Cuba, which began before the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and continues to influence US Cuban relations in the 21st century.
  • Participate in study abroad and research abroad experiences to further your understanding of history in different contexts; for example:
  • David McCaskey MA ’18, received grants from the Department of History and Asian Studies to travel to Vietnam to research his thesis “Lights, Camera, History: Constructing Official History in Vietnamese Historical Films”

How much can you earn?

Bar graph titled, Salary: $107,000 high, $59,120 median annual wage, $29,000 low.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for historians was $59,120 in May 2017. The highest 10% earned more than $107,000.

What career is in your future?

* Corporate Librarian
* Information Specialist
* Attorney
* Librarian
* Archivist
* Consultant
* Content Strategist
* Education Director
* Exhibition Coordinator
* History Teacher
* Museum Conservator
* Research Director
* Social Studies Teacher 
* Campus Outreach Program Officer

Where will you go from here?

Below are a few recent alumni who are making a difference in their profession and their communities. They're looking forward to helping you expand your professional network.

  • Tommy Buttaccio, MA ’16, MLIS ’16, Librarian, New York Public Library, New York City, NY
  • Alyssa McQuirns, MA ‘16, Museum Educator, Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, Pennsburg, PA
  • Bridget Pumm, MA ’15, Collections Assistant, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA
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