What Can You Do With a History Degree?
Few educational paths offer as much post-graduation flexibility as history. Colleges and universities with programs in this subject know how to help students get ready for an extraordinary world of different career options. In fact, most people who choose this path don't end up becoming professional historians. Instead, they often decide to use their beneficial skills in other types of careers that are just as engaging and satisfying.
Plus, history graduates enjoy higher median salaries than all other grads of the liberal arts and humanities.* And the public's interest in history is a major economic driver. Look at these stats:
- American college graduates from the Class of 2014 who obtained jobs with a history degree earned starting salaries of $37,557, on average. And some of them reported making a starting salary of more than $43,900.**
- About 10 years after graduation, the median salary for history majors in the U.S. is $71,000, and the highest-earning history grads make over $149,000.***
- Culture and heritage tourism in the U.S. is worth more than $192 billion, which ranks third behind only shopping and dining as America's top travel-related sectors.****
So history isn't just a fun intellectual pursuit. It also provides many avenues for making a good living while contributing something positive to society. Here are seven of the most popular areas you can go into with a history education:
1. Business and Finance
All kinds of forces are continually shaping the economy and modern life. But those forces also keep evolving, and they are often difficult to understand. As a result, organizations of every variety are under constant pressure to keep up. Yet the smart ones know that identifying historical trends can be a powerful way to gain useful insights about present circumstances as well as situations likely to affect the future. It helps them plan and make better decisions related to everything from product development to financial investments.
And you simply can't ignore the other types of value that a history grad can add to a business or nonprofit organization. Beyond recognizing historical patterns, specialists in history also frequently have the ability to:
- Contemplate several different points of view and find points of commonality
- Analyze problems creatively to discover practical solutions
- Persuade clients, customers, or colleagues based on sound arguments
2. Law and Advocacy
Many history majors decide to take advantage of the abilities they've acquired in school by pursuing further education in the legal field or becoming professional advocates for causes they believe in. After all, understanding history means that you can also understand many modern-day issues at a much deeper level than the average person. And studying the past at a history college enables you to build your skills at assessing evidence, evaluating conflicting and nuanced interpretations, explaining facts, and persuading people to accept a well-argued point of view.
History is one of our most powerful teachers. It gives us the opportunity to learn by example so that we don't repeat tragic or costly mistakes. But it can also shine a light on inspiring or forgotten people, events, and ideas from the past that are relevant to helping our society progress now and into the future. So history educators are incredibly valuable. They help nurture respect and excitement for history in many kinds of places. For example, some of them educate students in schools (at all education levels), and others help educate the public as curators or guides at museums and heritage sites.
4. Media and Communications
Being able to communicate ideas precisely and persuasively is a highly valued trait in today's marketplace. And it's something that history students generally get a lot of practice at. As a result, many of them go on to have successful careers as journalists, writers, editors, public relations specialists, documentary producers, and similar types of professionals. Plus, it doesn't hurt that they're often able to bring proper historical context and an understanding of different worldviews into the work they do.
5. Research and Consultation
Knowing where and how to find relevant information is another prized trait within many kinds of organizations. And you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone better at doing that than history majors. But their research skills go beyond digging up useful info. They also include tracing the roots of a problem or challenging issue to its source and incorporating any new information that's found into a well-reasoned analysis. As a result, some history grads are hired as research specialists or advisors for think tanks, museums, cultural and historical preservation agencies, and governments.
6. Information Management
Documenting and preserving information in a way that keeps it accessible and searchable is a specialty unto itself. But people with an educational background in history often excel in this area better than anyone else. That's probably because they know the high value of information in all of its forms. Their enthusiasm and dedication to the cause often makes them good archivists, librarians, and records managers.
7. Politics and Public Policy
History is perhaps the most relevant of all subjects when it comes to public governance. It provides a map of where our society has been and how far we have yet to go. But it also allows us to examine and debate what has or hasn't worked in the past and use those lessons to help determine what may or may not work today or in the decades to come. That's why many history majors have found success as political campaign managers, public policy makers, congressional assistants, international relations consultants, and even elected officials.
Start Making Your Own History
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* Georgetown University, Center on Education and the Workforce, website last visited June 30, 2015.
** National Association of Colleges and Employers, website last visited June 30, 2015.
*** The Wall Street Journal, website last visited June 30, 2015.
**** The Cultural Traveler, website last visited June 30, 2015.