Professional Opportunities for History Graduates and Minors

 
 

It is widely assumed that most individuals who earn bachelor's degrees in history teach in the public schools. Actually, because of the analytical and literary skills developed in their undergraduate programs, 90% find employment in other areas, while fewer than 10% become teachers. More history graduates find careers in top and mid-level management as executives and administrators than in the public schools, according to the 2008 edition of Julie DeGalan and Stephen Lambert's Great Jobs for History Majors.

The most recent edition of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook reports:

Employment of historians is expected to grow by 11 percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations, reflecting the relatively few jobs outside of federal, state, and local government. Nonetheless, historians possess broad training and education in writing, analytical research, and coherent thinking, so their skills can be applied to many different occupations. As a result, many workers with a history background will find work in areas with specialized titles, such as researcher, writer, or policy analyst.

Employment In The Private Sector

The following list indicates some of the areas which offer employment to history graduates In the private sector.

The private sector offers opportunities for students with a history background, who can research, document, analyze, synthesize, and communicate effectively.

Advertising, Publication, Promotion, and Marketing

  • Studying and analyzing market trends
  • Placing corporate activity in historical perspective
  • Managing corporate archives
  • Preparing historical data for corporate promotion

Banking

  • Developing historical financial, economic, and political risk analyses
  • Managing archives
  • Researching policy issues affecting the public and private sectors
  • Writing and teaching corporate history
  • Developing historical displays

Communications

  • Researching and writing historical documentaries and narratives
  • Identifying and analyzing public trends
  • Providing background and documentation for motion pictures, network and cable television, and independent production companies

Insurance

  • Researching and evaluating case histories
  • Preparing studies of policy matters
  • Lobbying at all levels of government in behalf of the corporate interest
  • Analyzing the impact of legislation on company operations
  • Maintaining corporate archives

Investment Services

  • Managing corporate records and maintaining its archives
  • Conducting research and analysis for firms that purchase, issue, and sell corporate equity, including brokerage firms and investment banks

Journalism

  • Researching records and archives to provide historical perspective for current events
  • Conducting oral interviews
  • Writing and editing newspapers, news, trade, and professional journals, historical and popular periodicals and magazines, textbooks, and other works of non-fiction

Law and paralegal

  • Researching public and private archives and records collections
  • Collecting oral history for depositions
  • Developing support material from historical evidence

Manufacturing

  • Charting and evaluating markets, finances, economics, and political risk
  • Instructing new employees in corporate history
  • Conducting workshops on cultures and historical background of countries in which the company operates
  • Gathering information and oral histories documenting organizational history
  • Managing company records and maintaining its archives
  • Writing the corporate history
  • Preparing and displaying exhibits of archival materials and memorabilia

Mineral Extraction Industries

  • Analyzing political risk and key political figures with reference to economic implications for business
  • Researching claims and geographical and land use history

Travel and recreation

  • Planning and managing conventions, meeting, and other events
  • Collecting and analyzing information
  • Planning, directing, and guiding tours

Utilities

  • Reviewing local issues and concerns
  • Making policy and management studies
  • Providing information services
  • Performing historical analysis
  • Managing archives

Industries in general

  • Researching
  • Performing analysis studies
  • Writing public relations and educational materials
  • Writing corporate communications
  • Documenting organizational history
  • Managing archives and information retrieval services

The Public Sector

Federal Government

  • The executive branch
  • Congress
  • Federal Courts and judicial system
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • National Archives and Records
  • Library of Congress
  • National Park Service
  • Intelligence services
  • Foreign service

Civil Service

  • Studying current issues
  • Analyzing policy performance, long-range trends, etc.
  • Preserving and organizing institutional records
  • Editing public records and documents
  • Gathering and digesting information
  • Organizing and publishing bibliographic material
  • Serving on congressional and legislative staffs
  • Providing research assistance
  • Providing assistance to constituents
  • Collecting and preserving records
  • Analyzing issues
  • Drafting studies, reports, and routine office correspondence

The foregoing list applies to state and local government as well

The Military

  • Serving in all components of the armed forces
  • Managing the museums and archival and records centers for all branches of the military
  • Conducting studies of various issues
  • Researching and writing institutional histories

State Government

  • Archives, libraries, and legislative reference bureaus
  • Museums, parks, and historic sites
  • Arts and humanities councils

Municipal and County Government

  • Municipal archives
  • Urban planner
  • Grant Specialist
  • Historic preservation specialist
  • Research analyst

Other Opportunities

  • The public sector offers other employment opportunities in libraries, historic sites, museums, national and state parks in historical interpretation and re-enactment, and at community history education centers.
  • History majors have been employed in oral history projects, public administration, cultural resource management, genealogy and family history, folklore, public works, land-use management, urban history and development, demographic history, environmental history, and archaeological projects.

Non-Profit Sector Career Possibilities

The non-profit sector offers positions in research, administration, education, and exhibition. Some history graduates find employment raising funds for organizations in this sector.

History majors often secure appointments in the following institutions:

  • Historical commissions, associations, and societies
  • Scholarly and professional associations
  • Museums
  • Colleges and universities
  • Research foundations and institutional "think tanks"
  • Service institutions (agencies, foundations, etc.)
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Other philanthropic organizations that provide educational, social, and cultural services to the public

Career Possibilities in Education

Strategies for improving marketability of history graduates

  • Complete an internship in a potential area of employment
  • Enter as many scholarly paper and research competitions as possible
  • Submit papers written in class for publication
  • Actively participate in campus organizations
  • Take challenging courses and maintain a good academic record
  • Consider continuing your education in graduate or a professional school
  • Seek summer employment in areas that offer opportunities for full-time work
  • Develop proficiency in a foreign language
  • Volunteer for work that will afford experience that will enhance your resume
  • Hone research, analytical, and writing skills
  • In selecting courses for your degree, choose those that offer the best preparation for the potential career path
  • Develop computer skills in a variety of programs used in possible areas of employment
  • Select a minor that enhances your prospects for employment
  • Compile a portfolio that showcases your potential
  • Take advantage of opportunities to make classroom and extra curricular presentations to improve oral communications skills

Links to Useful Websites


Herodotus a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC, considered the father of history.

 

"'History,' Stephen said, 'is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.'" James Joyce

"Since history has no properly scientific value, its only purpose is educative. And if historians neglect to educate the public, if they fail to interest it intelligently in the past, then all their historical learning is valueless except in so far as it educates themselves." G. M. Trevelyan.

"To each eye, perhaps, the outlines of a great civilization present a different picture. In the wide ocean upon which we venture, the possible ways and directions are many; and the same studies which have served for my work might easily, in other hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and application, but lead to essentially different conclusions." Jacob Burckhardt

"History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity." Cicero

"The past is useless. That explains why it is past." Wright Morris

"Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them. He must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes." Francis Parkman

"History . . . is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind." Edward Gibbon

"There is properly no history; only biography." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things rotten through and through, to avoid." Livy

"What experience and history teach is this-that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it." G. W. F. Hegel

"Everything must be recaptured and relocated in the general framework of history, so that despite the difficulties, the fundamental paradoxes and contradictions, we may respect the unity of history which is also the unity of life." Fernand Braudel

"The function off the historian is neither to love the past nor to emancipate himself from the past, but to master and understand it as the key to the understanding of the present." E. H. Carr

"If you do not like the past, change it." William L. Burton

"History does nothing, possesses no enormous wealth, fights no battles. It is rather man, the real, living man, who does everything, possesses, fights. It is not History, as if she were a person apart, who uses men as a means to work out her purposes, but history itself is nothing but the activity of men pursuing their purposes." Karl Marx

"An historian should yield himself to his subject, become immersed in the place and period of his choice, standing apart from it now and then for a fresh view." Samuel Eliot Morison

"History is for human self-knowledge. Knowing yourself means knowing, first, what it is to be a person; secondly, knowing what it is to be the kind of person you are; and thirdly, knowing what it is to be the person you are and nobody else is. Knowing yourself means knowing what you can do; and since nobody knows what they can do until they try, the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is." R. G. Collingwood

"History is more or less bunk." Henry Ford

"That historians should give their own country a break, I grant you; but not so as to state things contrary to fact. For there are plenty of mistakes made by writers out of ignorance, and which any man finds it difficult to avoid. But if we knowingly write what is false, whether for the sake of our country or our friends or just to be pleasant, what difference is there between us and hack writers? Readers should be very attentive to and critical of historians, and they in turn should be constantly on their guard." Polybius

"You have reckoned that history ought to judge the past and to instruct the contemporary world as to the future. The present attempt does not yield to that high office. It will merely tell how it really was." Leopold von Ranke

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity. . . . But the tale of history forms a very strong bulwark against the stream of time, and checks in some measure its irresistible flow, so that, of all things done in it, as many as history has taken over it secures and binds together, and does not allow them to slip away into the abyss of oblivion." Anna Comnena

"Only a good-for-nothing is not interested in his past." Sigmund Freud

"Every past is worth condemning." Friedrich Nietzsche

"The historian does simply not come in to replenish the gaps of memory. He constantly challenges even those memories that have survived intact." Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi

"Each age tries to form its own conception of the past. Each age writes the history of the past anew with reference to the conditions uppermost in its own time." Frederick Jackson Turner