Frequently Asked Questions


Must I be a history major to apply?

Many students admitted to our program have a BA or an MA in history, but we welcome applications from able students who have a historical foundation while majoring in other disciplines.

Is an MA required before applying to the PhD program?

Some of our admitted students have completed Masters degrees, but many have not. You may apply directly from an undergrad program.

What is the most important part of the application?

The application is seen as a whole—test scores, personal statement, writing sample, and recommendations are all of importance. We also value the opportunity to meet applicants and encourage you to come for interview. Many professors consider the writing sample to be a very significant component of the application.

Whom should I ask for letters of recommendation?

Usually, letters are from professors who have taught you in the past, either in undergraduate or graduate work. They should comment on your abilities as a student and potential as a historian.

What should I put in my personal statement?

Your personal statement should explain your interests and intended trajectory as a historian. What kinds of work do you want to do as a historian? How did you come to be interested in pursuing a graduate degree in our field? Are there faculty members with whom you wish to work? If there are any personal circumstances that have adversely affected your academic career that you wish to make known to us, do so in the personal statement.

What should I send for a writing sample?

Please send a polished piece of historical writing, ideally a research paper (or part of a research paper), preferably based on analysis of primary sources.

How long should the writing sample be?

There are no specific length restrictions. However, most applicants submit papers between 15 and 35 pages. When submitting a longer writing sample, please indicate which section(s) you wish readers to focus on. If you submit a part of a longer work, please include a table of contents or other description so we can situate the sample in the larger work.

Do I have to select an adviser during the application process?

Not necessarily; first year students who have not yet selected an adviser will be advised by the Graduate Coordinator.

Should I know what my area of study is before I begin the program?

Most students come to us with a strong inclination to pursue a specific area of study with a particular professor. However, some students may not yet have fully narrowed down their interests, and students have also changed advisers and fields early in the program.

Can I come for an interview?

Yes, we strongly advise that you visit us. Please schedule with our Graduate Coordinator to come spend a Thursday in the department to meet faculty and students, and attend our colloquium. It is important for you to meet us and us to meet you. If you are overseas or otherwise unable to visit, we can schedule a series of interviews over the telephone or Skype.

Do you admit students from overseas?

Yes. Upon admission, international students must consult with the international student office for information about visa requirements, etc.

How do I apply?

Application to study the history of medicine in the Program must be completed through the School of Medicine’s online application process.

If admitted, when must I accept or not?

April 15 is the deadline for admitted students to accept or decline their offers of admission. This deadline is a national deadline for all schools that are a part of the Council of Graduate Schools.

Do you have a waiting list for admissions?

Our acceptance policies change from year to year but we have admitted students from a waiting list in the past.

In the Program

What is the difference between the Program and the Department?

The Program is a shared entity between the Department of the History of Medicine (in the School of Medicine) and the Department of the History of Science and Technology (in the School of Arts and Sciences). Students progress through the Program together, taking courses as a cohort, and working informally in dissertation reading groups and the like.

What are the two campuses?

The Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, located at 3800 Charles St., is known informally as ‘Homewood’ after the original settlement there. Our department is located downtown on the medical school campus (known informally as ‘East Baltimore’) at 1900 E. Monument St in the Welch Medical Library. A regular free shuttle bus connects the two campuses with stops at the Penn train station and the Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory in Mt. Vernon.

Can I get credit at Hopkins for graduate work somewhere else?

We do not accept graduate credits from other institutions.

If I have a Master's degree in History, will I still need to do coursework?

A number of our students enter with an MA, but they still take the first year requirements (Methods and the Survey). A student with an MA may choose to petition to have that MA serve as completion of one field.

Do you offer graduate housing?

Hopkins does not offer graduate housing. Most grad students live in apartments in neighborhoods near the Homewood Campus such as Charles Village, Remington, Hampden, and Waverley. Others live closer to the East Baltimore campus in Mt. Vernon downtown, or further afield in Mount Washington or out in Baltimore County. Rents in Baltimore compare very favorably to rents in other East Coast cities. For more information see our Life in Baltimore page.

What kinds of evaluations are there during the PhD program?

Each May, the Graduate Coordinator, in consultation with the student’s adviser, writes a letter of evaluation, commenting on that year’s accomplishments and setting goals for the forthcoming year. Depending on what stage the student is at in the program, evaluations are based on exam performance, work in graduate seminars and fields, and progress towards completion of the dissertation.

Can I pursue my degree part-time?

No. Ours is a full-time program which requires the full-time commitment and presence of our students. Two years of full-time residence is a requirement of the program.

What are the language requirements?

Students must demonstrate reading knowledge of two languages, usually French and German, by the time they commence dissertation work. The German Department offers a year-long reading course; satisfactory completion fulfills a language requirement. Competency in other languages is demonstrated through a written exam, usually a translation of three passages. Recently, our students have studied Swahili, Latin, Korean, and Classical Chinese. The Department offers a range of support to students pursuing competencies in languages not available at Hopkins.

What is the Ethics requirement?

The NIH mandates that all graduate students in the School of Medicine complete Research Ethics Training. In our Department, this requirement is fulfilled by a combination of an on-line course and four two-hour modules, each of which focuses on a specific historical ethics topic.

What is a field?

A field is a course of study in a particular area, such as Modern Biomedicine or Early Modern History of Medicine. The specific requirements for such fields are set by the faculty member directing the field, in consultation with the student. These fields entail both broad and intensive reading, and may include an examination, research paper, and/or preparation of several historiographic essays. Students in our Department must complete four fields.

Are there any required fields?

Yes. All students take the first year survey, which serves as a general field in the History of Medicine. In addition, all students must take one of their three remaining fields in the History Department.

To whom do I turn to if I have an issue or grievance in grad school?

In the first instance, students can talk with either the Graduate Coordinator or the Department Chair. Outside the Department, all students in the Medical School can consult with the Student Assistance Program

What do graduates of your department go on to do?

Many of our graduates are professors in history departments, including Oklahoma University; University of London; University of Michigan; Georgetown University; University of Houston; and Drexel University. Others have made careers as librarians rare book libraries and academic editors. For more details see our Alumni page.

How else can I find out about requirements?

See our Program Requirements page and consult the Graduate Handbook.


What financial support is available?

Every student admitted to the program is offered a standard package of financial support, which includes five years of tuition, stipend, and health insurance. Each year, continued funding is contingent upon satisfactory progress in the program.

What do students have to do in return for funding?

As a part of professional development, students serve as teaching assistants for three of their five years of support.

Is funding available for conference travel and research expenses?

Yes. Each student receives a travel and research allowance of $1000 per year. Additional funds may be available for travel to present papers at scholarly conferences and are granted on a case-by-case basis.

What is ‘outside support’?

Students are strongly encouraged to apply to outside agencies and institutions to support their dissertation research. Our students have won highly-competitive major fellowships from the National Science Foundation; Social Science Research Council; Fulbright; and many other funding bodies.


Are there opportunities to teach during the PhD program?

Yes, students are expected to serve as TAs in three of their five years. Students do not TA their first year. Senior students are also eligible to apply for Dean’s Teaching Fellowships, a competitive award that funds a student to design and teach his or her own undergraduate course. Program faculty evaluate and advise students about their teaching on a regular basis.

What are the responsibilities of a TA? 

TAs usually teach a ‘section’ of a larger lecture course, in which they meet with 12-15 students once a week for structured discussion of assigned reading. TAs also grade assignments and exams.