grad student faculty and ranger

The Department of History and Philosophy is dedicated to providing quality education in History for two graduate degree programs, the M.A. and the Ph.D. 

The Graduate Program is designed to train students to think historically, to conduct research effectively, and to write lucidly. Students research and write in seminar settings as well as individually under the guidance of each student’s graduate committee.  The program seeks to expand students’ intellectual horizons and expose students to the variety of roles played by historians in academic and public life through seminar discussions, classroom instruction, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and internships.

Fields of Study

The Department offers training in four concentrated areas: environmental history; the history of science, technology, medicine, and society; the history of the American West; and public history.  Department faculty in these areas are among the leading scholars in the nation.  Their awards include the George Perkins Marsh Prize, the Mary C. Turpie Prize, and the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award.  They have served as editors and members of editorial boards for major academic journals including Environmental History, Isis, and Montana: The Magazine of Western History

In addition, the Department offers opportunities for individualized graduate training in the history of various parts of the globe, including the Middle East, Russia, China, Japan, Latin America, and Europe.  Department scholars in these fields have won major awards and fellowships from the Fulbright Program, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the Rachel Carson Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the Reischauer Institute at Harvard University.  Whether you plan to specialize in global history or not, all graduate students are encouraged to apply transnational, cross-border, and comparative methods in their research endeavors.

Our Community

Our program’s small size and our faculty’s commitment to close, one-to-one mentoring makes our program stand out from other graduate programs nationwide.  This is a program where students and faculty know one another and develop a collegial spirit through student research colloquia, First Friday get togethers, History Graduate Student Association events and the High-Altitude History Blog, as well as summer graduate student conferences at field stations across the West.  

In addition to the strong sense of community within the department, many of our graduate students collaborate with faculty and students in other disciplines across campus.  Graduate students often work with philosophy faculty on topics like environmental ethics.  Numerous Ph.D. students have taken courses in ecology, earth sciences, geography, American Studies, and Native American studies, using the knowledge they gain to produce cutting-edge dissertations.   Many students receive financial and research support from the Ivan Doig Center for the Study of the Lands and Peoples of the North American West, the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, and the Center for Science, Technology, Ethics, and Society.  The department regularly receives grants from National Parks that fund graduate student research.  See our Funding webpage for more information on internal and external funding options.

For many students, MSU’s unique setting in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain West offers a valuable historical laboratory in itself.  Combining outdoor and indoor archives, our program embraces and encourages innovative research methods, hands-on discovery, community engagement, and unconventional sources to write histories that are relevant and meaningful to the contemporary world. Public history is also a passion for our students who employ the skills they learn in a variety of internships and careers. We see historians as change-makers whose research, teaching, and scholarship are vital to building a sustainable and equitable future.  

Our Graduates are Changing the World

Students from our programs have gone on to pursue excellence in a variety of endeavors. Students who have completed internships with Yellowstone National Park have transitioned to working in the park. Some students have gone on to tenure-track jobs and have published well-regarded books appearing from the University of Washington, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas Presses.  Many have pursued diverse careers in areas ranging from historic preservation, to curatorial work in museums, to public lands agencies, to university administration, to nonprofit and cultural resource management.  Ultimately, MSU offers a flexible and nimble graduate program in which students work closely with professors to craft degrees that maximize their career opportunities. 

Application Deadlines

  • January 15 – Fall admission for Ph.D., combined M.A./Ph.D. and M.A. applicants.
  • November 1 – Spring admission for M.A. applicants (M.A. applicants are encouraged, when possible to begin in the fall for a more seamless start to their program).

The Admissions committee may consider applications submitted after the due date on a case-by-case basis, but most will be deferred until the next admissions date.

Montana State University Welcomes Diversity

For more information on MSU's commitment to being a diverse and inclusive place, please see the University's diversity statement.