Students who decide to enter college to pursue history might feel overwhelmed by the broadness of it all, as there is so much potential time and information to digest. Luckily, most programs require students to choose a specialty, so they can focus on a particular era, region or group of people during their studies.
History majors can explore a number of exciting careers in research or education; careers that will take them to environments as distinct as schools, art galleries, museums, historical tourist destinations, government offices and research facilities. They play a significant role in our communities, as students, politicians and researchers, guiding us through our own history to clarify, or sometimes complicate, our understanding of various forms of ancestry and the underpinnings of present day living.
History majors enjoy flexibility when it comes to choosing a field specialization. Students can dive into the history of certain locations, such as East Asia, the United States, Ireland or, for forward-thinking students, even the history of digital spaces. Scholars can choose from a specific time period, as they would when examining the Srivijaya period in Indonesia, the Zhou Dynasty in China or the European Renaissance . History majors can also choose to examine the history of specific demographics of people, delving into the African American or Jewish experience through the lens of history. It’s worth noting that specializations tend to become more definite as students progress into their studies at the graduate level.
Students can apply to history programs starting at the associate level and ending at the doctoral level. The career opportunities graduates qualify for will depend on the type of degree they hold.
This two-year degree gives students interested in history a cursory look at U.S. and world events. Generally, there is very little opportunity for period, location or demographic specialization at this degree level. The career opportunities for associate degree holders in history will be limited, and include assistant roles with history researchers or museum curators. Most colleges allow students to apply associate degree credits toward a bachelor’s.
This degree level takes approximately four years to complete. Undergraduate history majors can often select a specialty upon enrollment, such as a focus on a particular region, historical period or demographic. Those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history have numerous professional routes open to them in schools, newsrooms, museums and government offices.
This graduate program generally takes one to two years to complete. Students studying history at this level will most likely delve further into their chosen specialties, gaining expertise on a particular historical period, location or group of people. Professionals holding a master’s degree in history can explore careers as researchers or guides for museums, tourist centers and art galleries. Master’s students who wish to teach history at the collegiate level can continue their studies and research with a Ph.D. program.
People who obtain a doctorate in history will be considered experts within their specialty. Students might be expected to publish their research within a journal and defend their work in front of a dissertation panel. Those who hold a Ph.D. in history can continue teaching at the collegiate level, or work with museums, historical centers, art galleries and government offices as a historical expert.
History students pursuing any of the aforementioned degree types should strongly consider joining a national honors society such as Phi Alpha Theta. Professional organizations provide merit-based scholarships and grants, which can help history students fund their academic journey. History graduates entering the workforce should look into memberships with the American Historical Association and other professional organizations, since they can provide networking opportunities, job listings and industry publications.
Ideal Candidates for History
While many researchers fixate on discoveries that impact the future, historians are continually uncovering new facts about our past, including texts, tools and artwork that help us learn more about our ancestors. Social and communication skills are a must-have for historians who wish to teach as professors, museum guides or art curators. Historians might even be called upon to appear on television or in court as a history expert. Individuals who are comfortable sharing their passion and expertise with others will excel in community education roles.
Bachelor’s degree holders can often find work as historical research assistants, a career that pays an average of $38,120 a year or $18.33 hourly. The locations with the highest research assistant hiring rates include Washington DC, Maryland, Washington State, Oregon and Massachusetts.
Those who are interested in becoming historians usually have to earn a master’s degree to find an entry-level position. Unfortunately, the job outlook for this position is not favorable, with a 6% projected growth rate before the year 2022. Professionals who work as historians earn an average of $52,480 a year.
History degree holders can also find roles within museums and galleries as curators or archivists. These roles tend to pay an average of $44,410 a year, with an average job outlook growth rate of 11%. These professionals spend their time appraising items acquired by museums and galleries, and they sometimes play a role in the protection and conservation of these items.