Career outlook

A degree in history

Students earning a degree in history graduate prepared to conduct independent research, think critically, and write clearly and persuasively. These skills are in demand across a variety of professional fields. 

At museums, historians work to help their communities understand the importance the past plays in the present. Students can combine history degrees with work in archival management or library and information science and pursue careers in archives and libraries. And, of course, many history majors choose to share their love of history with others as teachers at the secondary or college level. 

History students also commonly go on to careers in law, medicine, and public service. History is an excellent pre-law major, and student can focus on United States history as they prepare for the joint M.A./J.D. A number of pre-med students find that a history degree helps in their application to medical school by rounding out their profile and helping them to stand out in a sea of applicants. Historians make connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information, and then communicate the importance of their work to others, making them valuable resources to the intelligence community and other career areas that value data collection and analysis.

 

Transferable skills

A history degree offers:

  • Research skills: How to locate resources that will inform the topic at hand
  • Critical thinking: Identifying the arguments being made or rebutted in the literature
  • Strong writing: Able to express the importance of your work to others

 

Some careers in history

Career Median salary Market growth
Lawyer $115,820  + 6%
Doctor  $187,200  + 9% - 13%
Intelligence Analyst  $77,200  little or no change
Archivist in a historical library or archive  $50,250  + 5% - 8%
Curator in a museum  $51,420  + 5% - 8%
History Teacher (teaching at the high school level)    $57,200  + 5% - 8%
Historian (teaching at the college level)  $69,400  + 9% - 13%

Source: O*NET Online, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration

 

Graduate study

This degree also provides a solid foundation for graduate study in:

  • Law – J.D., Juris Doctorate
  • Medical Doctor – M.D.
  • History – M.A. and Ph.D. in History
 

Notable people with a history major

  • Sonia Sotomayor (Supreme Court justice)
  • Louis Theroux (documentary filmmaker)
  • Ken Chenault (CEO and former chair of American Express)
  • Steve Carell (actor and comedian)
  • Susan Rice (U.S. national security advisor)
  • Grant Hill (former basketball player, Detroit Pistons (et. al.) sports analyst, NBA TV)

 

Why history is not a useless major

The American Community Survey sent surveys to several million households from 2010-2014. Their findings challenge myths that students with history degrees are underemployed when compared to other degree holders; that history degrees do not prepare students for gainful employment; and that students with history degrees are underpaid.

Some fast facts:

History majors are employed in a number of industries.

 

Careers of history majors

Careers of history majors by industry

Source: Perspectives on History Data source: ACS 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Includes individuals who stated they were in full-time employment, between the ages of 25 and 64, had achieved a bachelor's degree or higher and had either history or US history as the field of study for their bachelor's degree.

 

Students often complete their formal training with the Bachelor's degree but those wishing for additional training in fields like law or management, pursue advanced degrees.

 

Highest education attainment for history majors

Highest education attainment for history majors by degree 

Source: Perspectives on History Data source: ACS 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Includes individuals who stated they were in full-time employment, between the ages of 25 and 64, had achieved a bachelor's degree or higher, and had either history or US history as the field of study for their bachelor's degree.

 

Students with history degrees earn on average the same as their counterparts in the sciences.

 

Median income (in thousands of dollars) by bachelor's degree field – 25th percentile

Median income 25th percentile

Median income (in thousands of dollars) by bachelor's degree field – 50th percentile

Median income 50th percentile

Median income (in thousands of dollars) by bachelor's degree field – 75th percentile

Media income 75th percentile

Source: Perspectives on History. Data source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Indicators, table III-4a

Full article: History is Not a Useless Major: Fighting Myths with Data by Paul Sturtevant

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