Jobs for History Majors: Time-Honored and Not-So-Obvious Career Choices
| Last Updated April 7, 2022
Jobs for history majors aren't as elusive as you may think. Whether you want to take a history program or have already completed one, you've likely been asked what you can do with a history degree. That's because the line from a history education to a career isn't linear. Many history majors end up in career fields that seem—at least on the surface—like they have nothing to do with history at all. For example, journalism, office management, and event planning are jobs you can do with a history degree.
Working toward a history degree can provide you with a highly developed and well-rounded skill set that's useful for many different lines of work. You're not automatically destined to become a historian or fill other traditional jobs for a history major.
That's one reason why a history major's salary tends to be more. So, in contrast to some mistaken beliefs about history majors, jobs and earning opportunities can be quite abundant.
Check out the following examples of traditional and non-traditional career opportunities, as well as tips for promoting yourself to potential employers. Keep in mind that not all of the careers listed below require a history degree. Jobs also exist for people who are simply interested in history and want to embark on a career that aligns with that interest.
- Jobs for history majors with bachelor's degrees or higher
- History major career options in seemingly unrelated fields
- How to sell your history degree on your resume
Online History Degrees
- History - Bachelor of Arts
- American History - Bachelor of Arts
- European History - Bachelor of Arts
- Military History - Bachelor of Arts
- Public History - Master of Arts
Jobs for History Majors With Bachelor's Degrees or Higher
Although many entry-level jobs for history majors are available, the reality is that some of the best jobs will require a graduate degree. Many people choose to earn a graduate degree in a supporting field like law, business, geography, or library science. So, with that in mind, we've compiled a broad list that includes some common career paths of history graduates.
Some history graduates go on to become lawyers. That's because history students often develop skills that are highly valuable in the legal world. Think about it: Lawyers need to devise arguments based on historical data. They have to be able to analyze large amounts of information and find the flaws and patterns in it. History students often spend a lot of time doing exactly that during their studies. So if you have an interest in the law, it may be worthwhile for you to consider becoming a lawyer.
Geography is one of the many different types of history majors or specializations. A lot of history students study both human and physical geography. It helps you understand the relationships between cultures, economies, societies, and the physical landscapes of the earth. You can help shape the future by knowing the past from a geographical and historical perspective and you will be able to offer excellent insight into climate change, urban development, energy development, and air and water pollution.
3. Research Analyst
You may want to consider becoming a researcher if you already have a history degree. After all, conducting and compiling research probably dominated much of your studies. You likely excel at sorting through mountains of data, making sense of it, and presenting it concisely Online and print publications and film, radio, and TV producers often seek people like you. They need employees who can research stories and fact-check them for accuracy. Other organizations that conduct large volumes of research include companies like Nielsen. They perform vast amounts of market research in hundreds of countries worldwide.
4. Post-Secondary History Instructor
Becoming a college or university instructor is one of the most commonly chosen paths when deciding between possible history careers. Becoming a history teacher might be a great choice if you're passionate about history and want to work directly in it. You can help shape the minds of future history students who want to acquire a broad understanding of the world. Along with planning, preparing, and delivering course content, you can also get involved in academic research projects and may even have opportunities to publish your own research and findings.
5. Elementary or High School Teacher
Can you think of a better job for history majors than one where you get to help develop young children's interest in the subject? That's what you can do when working as an elementary or secondary school teacher. You can recreate historically significant events of the past in creative and fun ways and show students how those events have shaped the world in which they live. If you already possess a history degree, you likely just need to complete state-approved teacher training to get started.
The field of anthropology breaks down into four subsectors—archeology, biological/physical anthropology, cultural/social anthropology, and linguistic anthropology—all of which complement the field of history. A history degree is a great starting point for beginning a graduate degree program in anthropology. You'll be responsible for looking at historical aspects of humanity within your specialization and understanding how those aspects have contributed to modern society. Depending on the nature of your work, your findings may help educate the public or be used to help shape cultural, public, and social policies.
Does your affinity for learning and acquiring knowledge extend well beyond the subject of history? Then you may want to consider working in information science as a librarian. From books, journals, and newspapers to audio and video recordings to digital content, you'll be responsible for organizing and managing a large amount of materials and helping people access them. You can work in public, school, or medical libraries, and you can even focus on an area like research, technical service, or catalog systems.
The world is full of important information of historical value from all kinds of different sources, including individuals, media outlets, and government organizations. All of that information needs to be collected and archived. That's what archivists do. They start by determining which documents are of value. Then they arrange and organize them, describe their contents, and make them accessible to outside users. If you become an archivist, you'll also coordinate any necessary repairs or preservation-related tasks. Plus, here's something to keep in mind: Historical archiving qualifies as one of the history careers that pay well.
You become an archivist by earning a master's degree in history, archival science, public administration, library science, or political science. Then, you pursue open archivist positions in government agencies, businesses, community organizations, medical organizations, or cultural, educational, or religious institutions.
As a historian, it will be your job to research and interpret the past and present your findings to the public or organizations that need the valuable information. Although historians have a broad understanding of history, they typically specialize in a specific area. You may choose to hone your knowledge about a particular historical period, country, geographical region, or group of people. Many job opportunities are found within colleges and universities. You could also work for government agencies, heritage institutions, and even private companies. For example, some film production companies want to ensure that their works are historically accurate. You could even write your own book.
You could be responsible for managing or overseeing important historical collections at places like museums and heritage sites. Curators are the people who work behind the scenes to create impressive visual displays and exhibits. You'll likely need to acquire, store, and display collections of historical significance. You may decide on the theme of exhibits and displays and oversee their setup. You could also be responsible for conducting tours and cleaning objects. Additionally, you may participate in your organization's fundraising, promotion, and research efforts.
11. Museum Conservator
Imagine being a key contributor to preserving the history of humankind. That's what you'll do as a museum conservator. Your primary responsibility will be to record, restore, and preserve artifacts, specimens, and other historical, archaeological, or scientifically significant items. Along with helping set up exhibits, you'll be responsible for ensuring that everything is accounted for and properly stored when exhibits are dismantled. You'll ensure the appropriate storage conditions, and handle the preservation and repair processes for items. You may even be responsible for overseeing and educating other museum staff and conducting special tours for the public.
12. Editor, Journalist, or Writer
Many history graduates work in the media and communications sector. Writers and journalists are responsible for researching, collecting information from various sources, verifying those sources, and ensuring that their data is complete and accurate. In addition to writing well, they also need to think analytically and critically. Those skills tend to be aligned with the abilities of history degree graduates. You could write for all types of publications, including scholarly journals, magazines, and textbooks. You could work on feature pieces, conduct investigative journalism, or even write screenplays or your own books. If you become an editor, you'll also need excellent communication skills and organizational abilities.
History Major Career Options in Seemingly Unrelated Fields
Did you know that organizations like the Walt Disney Company, FBI, NSA, Google, Apple, Nike, Time Warner, and CBS hire many arts and humanities graduates? The reality is that a growing number of employers recognize the incredible knowledge, skills, and capabilities that those grads bring to the table.
Consider the Transferable Skills You've Gained
Think about the abilities you developed while earning your history degree. Jobs that utilize your strong research and writing abilities will likely suit you well, even if they're not directly related to the field of history. For example, you might excel in a position where you get to research and analyze historical trends to determine the best courses of action. In such a position, you may even get to present your findings and make persuasive recommendations to board members, managers, coworkers, and the public.
As a history major, you also likely have a unique perspective on the world. You can identify patterns and relationships that other people would have difficulty recognizing. It's also probable that you can easily discern between fact and fiction and know how to communicate your ideas well. Your strong knowledge of the past probably means that you have a good idea of what direction to go in the future. Those are all attractive employee attributes to many organizations.
So, if you already have your history degree and are trying to decide what to do next, consider your complete spectrum of job options before heading off to graduate school. You may see an industry that speaks to you and decide to complete additional career training that complements your existing education. Here are a few sectors that may be worth considering:
- Government administration and politics: Working in government often requires an understanding of historical policies and events, making it an attractive field for history majors. You could be conducting intensive research, preparing written and verbal reports, and arguing points intelligently and logically to persuade the public or other members of government. Examples of government jobs for history majors include intelligence officer, legislative aide, lobbyist, lobbying researcher, political campaign researcher, urban planning researcher, and public policy analyst or researcher.
- International relations and foreign affairs: Appreciating cultural diversity and understanding how history's economic, political, religious, and social events have shaped the world's current landscape means that you could be successful in an international relations career. You could work for government departments, private companies, or international organizations like the United Nations, IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank, Doctors Without Borders, Greenpeace, or Amnesty International.
- Tourism: Working as a tour guide, educator, heritage site manager, or even a national park manager appeals to many history graduates. It means that you get to share your love of history with the masses. You could also consider assisting municipalities and organizations with tourism development.
- Filmmaking: Many history majors also have a passion for storytelling. As a result, they end up working in the film industry. You could create small-scale documentaries that detail historical events or document your research findings. Or you could go big and work behind the scenes to make interesting and captivating historical blockbusters. Becoming a filmmaker is a great way to share your love of history with the masses.
How to Sell Your History Degree on Your Resume
Having a history degree means that you may be able to read, write, research, communicate, and think critically better than many other job candidates. And those are abilities that most employers seek when hiring new employees. A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found that companies want to hire people who are capable of:
- Solving problems
- Leading and working on a team
- Communicating effectively
- Analyzing data
- Taking initiative
- Relating well to others
- Paying attention to detail
- Planning and organizing
So for people who major in history, jobs that use their abilities are often in plentiful supply. You have to show potential employers that you possess those competencies. You should have many examples from your years in school that prove it. Take some time to brainstorm the projects that you've worked on and how you can make them relate to the workplace. Check in with current or former classmates to see if they can help you develop some ideas.
Also, remember that studying history may allow you to look at past events from an economic, political, psychological, or sociological perspective. You may also learn how to sort through large volumes of data to identify patterns and establish cause-and-effect relationships. And you'll probably be able to present your findings, ideas, and arguments eloquently with the factual data needed to back them up.
Once you've made a list of your abilities, start shaping it into a well-written cover letter and resume. Make sure you don't sell yourself short. Your history degree has provided you with valuable knowledge and abilities, and your resume gives you the opportunity to shine. It's up to you to show employers why you'd be a great addition to their organizations.