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Best Online Degrees in: History Science

Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in History Science

Online history science degrees are interdisciplinary degrees that emphasize the history of scientific discovery and the people behind the major advancements in science, medicine, and technology. Unlike a traditional degree in the hard sciences, a history of science degree doesn’t look at the application of scientific principles today, but rather at how those principles came about through human effort over time throughout history. This degree program is a good fit for students who are interested in the intersection of science and history, and who like the idea of learning about science from a humanities and social science perspective.

Most history of science programs are designed to be completed in four years, if the student is enrolled in the program full-time. Students may be able to complete the program more quickly if they transfer in prior credits from AP classes taken in high school or through basic courses taken in community college applied toward their general education requirements. However, the program could take longer if the student pursues a pre-professional track that requires the completion of additional courses or if a student enrolls in the program part-time.

Class Curriculum

Online history of science degree programs feature curriculum designed to develop a student’s broad historical understanding of the sciences. In specialized courses, students may survey the major contributors to the founding of the main branches of science, such as biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy/cosmology, and environmental science. Students also look at how contributions from medicine and technology have expanded our understanding of the sciences. Core courses vary dramatically from program to program, but may include an introductory course in the history of science that precedes the following:

  • The Origins of Scientific Thought. In this course, students look at how the way we think about science today was shaped over time, including its emergence from philosophical and religious traditions. The contributions of significant thinkers, such as Copernicus and Newton, are also explored.
  • Science in the 20th Century: A Historical Overview. This course exposes students to the major scientific advances that took place from the 1890s onward. Emphasis is placed on how society has perceived science over the past 100 years, and significant scientists who contributed a great deal to scientific thought and research during this time.
  • History of Biotechnology. In this course, students learn about the origins of biotechnology in the 20th century and its advancement in the 21st century, including the ethical and political considerations that have emerged from our newfound ability to manipulate living things through technology. Contemporary issues include genetic engineering, cloning, and stem cells.

As with a history degree program, students must commit a great deal of information to memory in a history of science program, so homework often emphasizes reading assignments. Students must demonstrate their knowledge of the material periodically through quizzes, mid-terms, and finals. In addition, students may be given essay assignments on the course content at hand. For example, students may be asked to write about the history of the scientific method in writing, or to discuss society’s changing conceptions of disease during the last two centuries, as our understanding of microbiology and genetics has advanced through scientific discovery.

Building a Career

Students with a background in history of science often pursue academic or research careers, although some pursue careers as historians or museum curators. Niche careers may also be available at nonprofit or governmental organizations. A sampling of jobs listed by the History of Science Society included: research associate at museums; oral historians, directors, and deputy directors for various nonprofits; college adjunct instructors, assistant professors, and lecturers who teach niche courses in History of Technology, History of Public Health, History of Science, or History of Medicine; and deans and department chairs at various universities in the U.S. and overseas.

Many of the best jobs directly related to the history of science will require an advanced degree, such as a master’s or Ph.D. Historians, for instance, generally must have a master’s degree or a Ph.D. to enter the field, and the Ph.D. is preferred for research positions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median yearly salary for historians was $53,520 as of May 2010, the BLS noted.

Similarly, museum curators typically must have a master’s degree to be eligible for all but the smallest of museum posts. Museum curators earned a median salary of $48,450 in May 2010, according to the BLS. Salaries for historians, museum curators, college faculty, and program directors for various nonprofit organizations can vary greatly depending on your level of experience, where you live, the size of your employer, and other considerations.

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