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Jobs for History Majors: Time-Honored and Not-So-Obvious Career Choices

By Luke Redd
| Last Updated April 14, 2020

Jobs for History MajorsJobs 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 than that of a general liberal arts major—about $66,000 for mid-career earners. 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.

Annual salary ranges are based on 2019 data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program unless otherwise noted. Average annual job openings are for the decade between 2018 and 2028 and are based on employment projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.



Jobs for History Majors With Bachelor's Degrees or Higher

Jobs for History MajorsAlthough many entry-level jobs for history majors are available, the reality is that some of the best jobs will require a graduate degree. In fact, many people like you choose to acquire 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 of the most common career paths of history graduates.

1. Lawyer

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, then it may be worthwhile for you to consider becoming a lawyer.

  • Annual salary range—$59,670 to $208,000 or more
  • Annual job openings—45,700
  • Typical entry-level education—Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree

2. Geographer

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. By having a strong understanding of the past from both a geographical and overall historical perspective, you can help shape the future. You can offer excellent insight into topics like climate change, urban development, energy development, and air and water pollution.

  • Annual salary range—$52,280 to $113,140 or more
  • Annual job openings—200
  • Typical entry-level education—Bachelor's degree

3. Research Analyst

If you're searching for careers with a history degree already in hand, then you may want to consider becoming a researcher. 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 all, and presenting it in a succinct manner. Online and print publications, as well as 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 around the world.

  • Annual salary range—$41,000 to $79,000 or more (according to PayScale)
  • Typical entry-level education—Bachelor's degree; may require additional education or training for your specific field of employment

4. Post-Secondary History Instructor

Becoming a college or university instructor is one of the most commonly chosen paths when it comes to deciding between possible history careers. If you're passionate about the field and want to work directly in it, then becoming a history teacher might be a great choice. 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.

  • Annual salary range—$39,580 to $139,140 or more
  • Annual job openings—2,400
  • Typical entry-level education—Master's degree; may also require additional teacher training

5. Elementary or High School Teacher

Can you think of a better job for history majors than one in which you get to help develop young children's interest in the subject? That's exactly what you can do when you work as a teacher at an elementary or secondary school. 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, then you likely just need to complete state-approved teacher training in order to get started.

  • Annual salary range—$39,020 to $99,660 or more
  • Annual job openings—192,700
  • Typical entry-level education—Bachelor's degree; may also require state-approved teacher certification

6. Anthropologist

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. That's why 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.

  • Annual salary range—$39,460 to $97,950 or more
  • Annual job openings—800
  • Typical entry-level education—Master's degree

7. Librarian

Does your affinity for learning and acquiring knowledge extend well beyond the subject of history? Then you may want to consider working in the field of 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.

  • Annual salary range—$33,820 to $94,520 or more
  • Annual job openings—14,700
  • Typical entry-level education—Master's degree

8. Archivist

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 out by determining which documents are of value. Then they arrange and organize all of the documents, 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 definitely qualifies as one of the history careers that pay well. In fact, OES program data shows that the starting salary for an archivist is often around $30,000, but you can earn much more after gaining a little experience.

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.

  • Annual salary range—$31,870 to $91,350 or more
  • Annual job openings—1,000
  • Typical entry-level education—Master's degree

9. Historian

As a historian, it will be your job to research and interpret the past and present your findings to the public or to organizations that need the valuable information. Although historians have a broad understanding of history as a whole, they typically specialize in a specific area. You may choose to hone your knowledge in relation to a certain time period, country, geographical region, or group of people. A lot of job opportunities are found within colleges and universities, but 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. Plus, according to OES program data, the median wage for a historian is $63,680 per year.

  • Annual salary range—$29,760 to $114,810 or more
  • Annual job openings—400
  • Typical entry-level education—Bachelor's or master's degree

10. Curator

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 set up. You could also be responsible for conducting tours and cleaning objects. Additionally, you may play a part in your organization's fundraising, promotion, and research efforts.

  • Annual salary range—$30,740 to $94,750 or more
  • Annual job openings—1,700
  • Typical entry-level education—Master's degree

11. Museum Conservator

Imagine being a key contributor to preserving the history of mankind. That's exactly what you'll do as a museum conservator. Your main responsibility will be to record, restore, and preserve artifacts, specimens, and other items of historical, archaeological, or scientific significance. 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 that the storage conditions are appropriate, and you'll 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.

  • Annual salary range—$26,110 to $76,330 or more
  • Annual job openings—1,800
  • Typical entry-level education—Master's degree

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 a variety of 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 perfectly in line 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 to possess excellent communication skills and organizational abilities.

  • Annual salary range—$24,520 to $122,450 or more
  • Annual job openings—29,600
  • Typical entry-level education—Bachelor's degree; additional communications training may be required


History Major Career Options in Seemingly Unrelated Fields

Did you know that organizations like the Walt Disney Company, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), NSA (National Security Agency), Google, Apple, Nike, Time Warner, and CBS are all reported to be employers that hire large volumes of arts and humanities graduates? The reality is that a growing number of employers are recognizing 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 in which you get to research and analyze historical trends in order 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 easily 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 that you 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 deciding what to do next, then consider your full 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:

  1. Government administration and politics—Working in government often requires an understanding of historical policies and events, which makes it an attractive field for history majors. You could be conducting intensive research, preparing written and verbal reports, and arguing points intelligently and logically in order to persuade the public or other members of government. Examples of government jobs for history majors include positions like intelligence officer, legislative aide, lobbyist, lobbying researcher, political campaign researcher, urban planning researcher, and public policy analyst or researcher.
  2. 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.
  3. Tourism—Working as a tour guide, educator, heritage site manager, or even as 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.
  4. Filmmaking—Many history majors also have a passion for storytelling. As a result, they end up working in the film industry. You could create your own small-scale documentaries that detail historical events or document your own 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. In fact, 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 make use of their abilities are often in plentiful supply. All you have to do is 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 come up with some ideas.

Also, remember that studying history may give you the ability 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 in order 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.