Friday, May 22, 2009

Military History graduate degrees

Now that my “work” master’s degree is at last finished, or at least in its finishing throes, I’ve decided to start looking for the program that I’ve really wanted to take for my own satisfaction. My goal has been a graduate degree in history since my time as an undergrad, but circumstances to date haven’t been compatible with pursuing such a degree. Since I’m not interested in relocating to pursue the degree and am curious about a degree in military history, I’m probably limited to an online or distance learning program. That is probably not conducive to university teaching upon completion of the degree (or likely even acceptance to a PhD program, though I’m unsure exactly how that works) but that isn’t necessarily the goal I’m shooting for.

American Military University and Norwich University both offer programs for a Master of Arts in Military History. They may not be the most prominent programs, but certainly appear to be the most prevalent from their advertising. I thought I would see how the two programs compare head to head in several categories.

Norwich: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.
AMU: Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council.
Advantage: Even, given that I don’t know enough to gauge which is better.

Program of instruction.
Norwich: Six 11 week seminars (courses) of 6 credit hours each. Each semester consists of two seminars. Seminars include: Introduction to Military History, The Western Way of War, Military Thought and Theory, The Non-Western Way of War, U.S. Military History or Race and Gender in Military History, and the capstone seminar. The seminars are structured in a required sequence, and there are no electives. Normal completion 18-24 months from enrollment date. Program culminates in 1 week residency and graduation ceremony at Norwich in June. Total: 36 hours.
AMU: 4 required core courses on historical research methods, historiography, studies in U.S. military history, and great military philosophers. Selection of one of five areas of concentration: American military history, American Revolution, Civil war, World War II, and War since 1945. Each concentration consists of five required courses and one elective. No residency requirement, but there is a (optional) graduation ceremony in Washington D.C. each summer. Total: 36 hours.
Advantage: Even, depends on a given student’s preference for depth or breadth of study.

Start times.
Norwich: 4 --- March, June, September, or December.
AMU: monthly.
Advantage: AMU.

Flexibility of content.
Norwich: very little, with one choice between two classes during one semester. 6 mandatory seminars, taken in a required order.
AMU: choice of five concentration options. The concentration option most comparable to the Norwich degree is American Military History, which is comprised of five required classes and one elective. Required classes: American Revolution in Context, Civil War, World War II in Context, War Since 1945, and Great Military Leaders. Electives include classes on air power, land warfare throughout history, sea power, special topics and independent study.
Advantage: AMU.

Norwich: $657 per hour, or $7884 per semester, plus semester technology fee of $475 and resource fee of $450. Fees include all books and materials. Total: $26,427.
AMU: $275 per hour, or $825 per course. No additional mandatory fees, but students purchase their own books and materials. Total: $9,900.
Advantage: AMU, though there will be those who argue that you get what you pay for.

Exit requirements.
Norwich: capstone paper, similar to a thesis, which is defended during residency.
AMU: two options: capstone seminar/ thesis or comprehensive exam.
Advantage: Even, with a slight edge to Norwich as I favor an in-person defense of the thesis.

Norwich: degree has no mention of online designation. Students receive “the official, traditional diploma of Norwich University.”
Advantage: Norwich, given remaining stigma attached to online degree programs.

Some categories were intentionally omitted, as I had no effective way to compare them, or didn’t think them relevant. Class size wasn’t available for both schools. Faculty comparisons would a very research-intensive study outside the scope of this comparison. This comparison is admittedly quantity slanted vs quality, as I have no data readily available to compare the two qualitatively. Other than, hopefully, commentary from readers familiar with one or both programs.

On the surface of my rather limited analysis, it would appear that AMU is the clear winner. But it’s hard to quantify education, and whether one would be able to progress academically from either of these programs, so hopefully someone will be willing to share their thoughts.


mida said...

This is a very interesting comparison as we are investigating Norwich University for my husband's M.A. in History. He is an archeaologist now and is looking for a change of pace, he prefers military history and hopes his B.A. in Anthropology adding a M.A. in History will boost his career choices. We are strongly in favor of Norwich becuase it seems more legitimate and we definitely don't want "online" attached especially in a field such as history where tradition may matter more. Norwich has been around since 1819 so I'm assuming the name has some cache over AMU.

Anonymous said...

Good point. But does AMU have "On-Line" on their degrees?

Anonymous said...

AMU Degress make no mention of Online. The only way ANYONE would ever know an AMU degree was earned online is if they knew of AMU. The only time this will ever come up is if you are applying for a PhD (maybe if the admissions board bothers to visit the AMU website), or are dealing with someone familiar with AMU. Employeers care that the degree if from a regionally acreddited University, which AMU is. AMU doesn't have the stugma of a Univ. of Phoenix, Kaplan, or Capella, because they are not widely known. EVERYONE knows Phoenix is an online school only. To most people AMU seems likely nothing more than a Small obscure private school.

AC Siciliano said...

FWIW, I'm a current AMU student in the Military History, SOLIC undergrad program. It is fantastic. I have 2 classes left to complete my degree, and I am preparing myself for the Military History, American Revolution graduate program.

For me, it was initially a financial decision. AMU is very affordable. There are days that I feel like I'm getting over on them. For the level of instruction I've received, I would expect to pay far more. A nice bonus is that all undergrad books are free (via a grant). My library is stocked. Graduate students have to pay for books.

In the case of AMU, it's not 'you get what you pay for', it's 'you get out of it what you put into it'. If you can manage your time, read the assignments, write at a graduate level, and contribute meaningfully to the discussions - you will be richly rewarded by attending AMU.

Anonymous said...

Norwich has name recognition, that's it! AMU offers many course options, scheduling conveniences, affordable tuition, and full regional accredidation! You will get out of the program what you put it into it.

The question you have to ask yourself is: What is the purpose of this degree program? If its personal enrichment then AMU is likely the best program because there are many course options at an awesome price!

Anonymous said...


This summer (8/2009), I received my MA in Military Studies with a Civil War concentration, from APU. I attended the grad ceremonies in Chantilly, VA. They were impressive and well organized.

Norwich would have been much too expensive for me even though for some it may be considered a more "legitimate" degree versus an internet school.

I put a lot into all of my courses and did well graduating with honors and joining two honor societies. I completely agree with Mr. Siciliano's comment that a student gets out of a class what he puts into it regardless of whether one is sitting in a classroom or working online.

Interaction with students and the professor can be minimal unless the online professor makes good use of the classroom feature.

This is my fourth college/university degree and the only one, so far, taken online. I've attended five brick and mortar schools and enjoyed the instant interaction of professor and student which is not available online, at least when I attended APU. Still, the use of the classroom feature helped and apparently there is the availability of a chat room which none of my classes used.

Overall for me, APU was well worth my time and money. I haven't tried to find a job so my APU degree hasn't been an issue. I only hope they offer PhD programs in the near future.

Larry Freiheit

Don said...


I was pretty sure that was the route you had taken, and have been hoping you would see this and post. I was very interested in your insights into the AMU program, though I've been too busy lately to email directly. life's been in the way of late, so I won't be making the jump for MA II for another few months.

The resposnses for AMU has been overwhelming, and it seems somewhat revealing to me that no one has responded in defense of Norwich. In military circles, Norwich is much more well-known and receives more prerss, but I didn't see that much difference on first or second comparison (hence the post). This topic has drawn a good bit of attention, so I may attempt to re-open the discussion in a new post.

Don said...

Oops, sorry, larry. And congratulations on finishing your degree! Any chance I can get a peek at that paper you showed me the reference list for?

Anonymous said...


Forgive my poor memory--was that the bibliography for my cavalry during the Maryland Campaign book or some other paper?

I'm continuing work on the cav book but I'm sure it won't be done until next year. It will be at least 200 pages long with maps, photos, etc., but I could e-mail parts of it to you if you wish. I can send you a current TOC. In the near future, I hope to finish the HF escape column chapter--perhaps you would like to review it since you have done a lot of work on that episode? Craig said he might be able to review it, too.


SCUGrad said...


My training has been in physics. I have a bachelor's and master's degree in physics which I earned in 1987 and 1992 respectively. I have no *formal* postsecondary history experience and my purpose for the program is solely for personal enrichment. Since I live abroad, I would obviously have to take all classes online.

What undergrad stuff would I have to make up in order to get into the masters program? Also, how does being overseas affect my status?

Anonymous said...

Ok, not to offend any AMU people, but AMU IS NOT REGIONALLY ACCREDITED. This means the credits won't transfer over to a lot of schools, and if they won't transfer it's likely for a reason. Regional accreditation is the most respected. I would never, ever consider going to that school for that reason. National accreditation is practically meaningless. You will not get into a rigorous PhD program with an AMU degree....

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add--nobody is ever going to have a PhD program online. The difficulty and expense of doing that and not having it be a farce would be extremely cost-prohibited if not impossible. As much as I wish it were available, there's no way you can do it, especially with the foreign language requirements, the sometimes national trips to archives, the boards, the prelims.. no way.

Don said...


The beauty of the program being online is that your physical location is irrelelvant. As far as your status with the university for tuition and such, you would need to contact the school directly. The same is true for any undergrad make-up work, but I don't think there would necessarily be any. The writing is liable to be the only issue, as a science academic career todate lends itself to a different sort of writing, but nothing that I think would give you too many problems.

Don said...


One thing I've learned with the internet is to never say never. I wouldn't have thought backelors degrees would be offered online, much less graduate work, yet today it's pretty widespread. I do agree that an online PhD program is very unlikely any time soon, however.

As long as you complete the degree with the same school, does regional accredibility really matter? If I don't attempt to transfer, what difference would it make? I would think the matter of a completed degree would generally stand on its own merits.

That being said, all schools are definitely not equal when applying for PhD programs. From what I can tell from the available literature, acceptance into a PhD program after a MA from either of these schools would likely be a case of both or none would qualify. Whether "online" is a tag on the degree or not, those screening for the PhD program will take a careful look at where you did your graduate and undergraduate work.

Anonymous said...

This comment is regarding the comment of Anonymous dated 16 Nov 09. AMU earned their regional accreditation earlier this year.

Unknown said...

I am currently enrolled in AMU for a BA in Military History. I intend to continue on to a MA in MIlitary History after completing my BA. Before enrolling I researched the course offerings of several online colleges in history.

When I saw that AMU offered degree programs in military history I narrowed my research to that subject. AMU offers the best selection of online classes in military history, and, in my opinion history. The class selections are numerous and varied. Other online and many brick and mortar colleges do not offer the same level of choice in military history classes. From selection alone AMU is superior to Norwich and others. The varied class offerings keep the student interested and engaged in the learning process. Some of our professors have published books in the areas of history.
Myself and many of my classmates are in the military.

For us, AMU offers an educational advantage we would not otherwise be able to take advantage of until after our service. The advantage of taking AMU classes while still serving is that the tuition and the books are free.

Anonymous said...

AMU has had regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association since 2006.(, 30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, IL 60602, 800-621-7440)

As for PhD canidacy, I know of AMU grads currently pursuing PhDs at FUI and Penn State.

Sean M. Warner said...

Full disclosure: I am an Army veteran currently finishing my MA in Diplomacy (International Relations) at NU.

I can't comment on AMU at all. I will admit I did consider it briefly, but only briefly, because if you are going to spend the time, and expense, of pursuing an MA and you don't think that in addition to the quality of the education you receive (the most important consideration), the reputation of a brick and mortar institution and a long history as a private military academy (one of the 6 Senior Military Colleges, along with North Georgia, Texas A&M, the Citadel, VMI, and VA Polytech) doesn't're kidding yourself.

My undergrad degree (double major at the U of Minnesota in Russian Language and Literature and Russian Area Studies) was very writing intensive compared to most undergrad programs. It wasn't even in the same league as NU. When NU says be prepared for 25-30 hours a week to devote to studies, they are not kidding, in the least. I thought the first 2 courses in the MDY program were "weeder" courses, courses designed to thin out those who couldn't hack...boy, was I wrong. NU is one of the few online programs that really thought their process through and wanted to keep their curriculum and program above the normal reproach assigned to typical online degrees. A friend of mine is doing his MMH through Norwich, after completing his GMAP at The Fletcher School at Tufts, and he is adamant that the coursework, research, writing and reading demands at NU are just as tough and demanding as at Tufts and GWU.

I share something in common with the original poster...the MDY is my "gotta have it for work degree," but I really want to complete a Masters program in Military History, which has always been my true passion...even though professionally, it will not really benefit me that much. I know that the common wisdom is not to go to a school that one has a previous degree from, which is why I am also looking at the MH programs at Austin Peay in Tennessee and Sam Houston State University in Texas. I understand North Georgia should also soon have an online MMH program up and running. But right now, I am so impressed with NU, and have gotten such positive feedback from both academics and military personnel on the value of an NU degree, that odds are I will return to NU for the MMH program as soon as I wrap up my MDY studies.

Anonymous said...

The AMU degeree is near useless -- AMU is a for-profit university that passes anybody and anything. They have faux accred. Also, take a look at the faculty between AMU and NU -- NU wins hands down -- they have some of the best military historians in the world teaching their courses and advising students on their capstone papers. Note that AMU has tried to recruit some of the MMH faculty, but the profs don't want their name attached to AMU. If you want to pay you fee and get a piece of paper that is as useful as a piece of TP, go with AMU. If you want to get a real degree and study with some of the best miltiary historians out there, go with MMH at NU. Note, if you don't have a background in history, don't try to do the MMH program -- it will chew you up and spit you out. Consider that I like baseball, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to play for even the Pirates. If you're a "buff" who likes history, AMU will work for you. If you want a good education, and one that will challenge you, go with MMH.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how the pro-NU anonymous comments are on the unprofessional side with little data, where the AMU comments seem to be more professional and the posters are forthcoming with data. So far, I've seen false accusations against a well-respected regionally and nationally accredited institute of higher learning (AMU) and only trash talk from pro-NU writers. As a senior DOD civilian, I can state that at least 6 of the 72 employees in my division have AMU degrees. They fill positions ranging from management to research assistant. Some of the professors from the National Intelligence University under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence "moonlight" at AMU as online professors in addition to their daytime work instructing CIA, DIA, NSA, and FBI. I know some of those professors personally. The AMU degree holds its own, and it it respected in federal and contractor hiring circles. I do know one Norwich graduate, who is also a respected researcher. He is equally competitive with the AMU grads, but there is no difference in the hiring process. It has been a couple of years now, and both Norwich and AMU are both equally known as online institutions because of their advertising campaigns. Honestly, I didn't think Norwich was a brick-and-mortar because I had only seen their name when offering their distance programs on advertisements on the History Channel website and Janes Defence online. It sounds like a great program. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. If AMU ever offers a PhD, I know I would consider it as an alternative to brick and mortar because it would enable learning and accomplishment without taking me as far from my family and my career. (myself: BA History; Masters of Strategic Intelligence)