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.