In a perfect world, students could take college classes to learn more about their intellectual passions and become better-rounded members of society.  In the real world, however, where competition for the best positions is fierce and the costs of higher education are high, no student should plan out their education without an idea of how it will help them to launch a career once they graduate.  History degrees open up a number of career opportunities (including graduate education), but not all history degrees are created equal.  Which online schools have the best track record of success?

Pennsylvania State University World Campus

Many universities advertise their programs as one of the very first, but Penn State can go a step further by saying they pioneered distance education.  Their first correspondence courses launched in 1892; over a century later they blazed a trail into the Internet education era by being one of the first accredited schools to offer all-online degrees.  Today, Penn State’s success as a higher-earner degree rests on two factors: first, the high graduation rate (at 87%, their online school has the best graduation percentage in the nation), and second, their job-placement programs.  One secret of their high graduation success is relatively small online classes: while some schools cram as many students into an e-course as possible, PSU has a ratio of 24 students to each faculty member.  Voted the 3rd best online bachelor’s program in US News and World Reports, the PSU World Campus history program not only teaches students a rigorous curriculum but helps them apply their classroom skills to the real-world job market.

University of Florida

Boasting one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation, one might wonder why you’d want to attend the University of Florida online if you could go to classes in person.  Non-traditional students have a lot to like about their degree from UF, however, even if they aren’t walking beneath palm trees to class.  UF is the largest school in the nation if you combine both in-person and online students and their Distance Learning program offers over 100 online bachelor’s degrees.  Their history department boasts a collection of top-tier academics and researchers, while students studying history will also be able to branch out with minors, double-majors, or graduate courses in anthropology, geography, and sociology.  UF has fewer job placement programs than some other schools on this list, but they make up for it in the long run with their wealth of graduate courses, which make their average online graduate one of the highest earners in the country.

George Washington University

The oldest university on this list (founded 1821) is also one of the most modern.  GWU comes in third on this list because of the treasure trove of resources available for their online students.  Their library is considered one of the best in higher education and online students don’t need to travel all the way to Virginia to enjoy it because of their major digitization efforts.  GWU’s alumni network is also extremely beneficial for those looking to network and forges connections as a path to a good job; the proximity to the nation’s capital certainly doesn’t hurt either.  GWU’s history department features a number of only-online classes, furthermore, meaning that they prioritize all their students and not just their on-campus students.  Online learning at GWU also gives you the chance to make yourself known before graduating, as their undergraduate journal of history, the George Washington Historical Review, lets you submit your original research and get your name out into the world of history.

Marist College

Students who study American history at Marist College’s online higher learning program have a number of key advantages.  First, the university’s working relationship with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum offers a wealth of information and primary sources on American history during the Depression and World War II.  Second, Marist has one of the smallest class sizes in all of higher ed at just sixteen students for each faculty member.  They get a spot on this list because of their successful efforts to build an online history graduate program while many other schools only offer undergraduate courses.  Students interested in a career in history — rather than history as a means to a career — will have a fantastic opportunity at Marist.

Full Sail University

With an unorthodox name and not much history of its own, it’s understandable that students might not give Florida’s Full Sail University a second glance.  That would be a mistake, however, since FSU is committing almost all of its time and efforts to becoming a leader in online higher education.  Thus far, it’s paid off quite well: the university has won the 21 Century Best Practices in Distance Learning award given by the United States Distance Learning Association, as well as Apple’s Innovators in Education Award.  Students in Full Sail’s history program get a leg up in ways that other universities haven’t even thought about, such as access to laptops at heavy discounts, an advisory board for the program itself, and contacts with industry professionals who are keeping a close eye on FSU as a guinea pig for new ideas and innovations.  Students also receive an excellent education: at just $7,500 per year, the classes are very affordable and the graduation rate of 80% is hard to beat.

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