public history

A Degree in History

Students earning a degree in history will be prepared to do independent research, think critically, and to write clearly and persuasively. In public history, historians work to help the community to understand the importance the past plays on the present. History is an excellent pre-law major, and student can focus on United States history as they prepare for the joint M.A./J.D.

A number of pre-med students find that a history degree helps in their application to med school by rounding out their profile and helping them to stand out in a sea of applicants. Historians make connections between seemingly disparate pieces of information, and then communicate the importance of their work to others, making them valuable resources to the intelligence community and other career areas that value data collection and analysis.

Students can combine history degrees with additional work in Archival Management or Library and Information Science to work in historical archives and libraries. And, of course, a history major can go on in education to share their love of history with others through teaching at the secondary or college level. 

 

History is Not a Useless Major: Fighting Myths with Data by Paul Sturtevant

The American Community Survey sent surveys to several million households from 2010-2014. Their findings challenge myths that students with history degrees are underemployed when compared to other degree holders; that history degrees do not prepare students for gainful employment; and that students with history degrees are underpaid.

The data reveals

History majors are employed in a number of industries.

Source: Perspectives on History Data source: ACS 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Includes individuals who stated they were in full-time employment, between the ages of 25 and 64, had achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, and had either history or US history as the field of study for their bachelor’s degree.

Students often complete their formal training with the Bachelor's degree but those wishing for additional training in fields like law or management, pursue advanced degrees.

 

Source: Perspectives on History Data source: ACS 2010–14 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). Includes individuals who stated they were in full-time employment, between the ages of 25 and 64, had achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher, and had either history or US history as the field of study for their bachelor’s degree.

Students with history degrees earn on average the same as their counterparts in the sciences.

 

Source: Perspectives on History Data source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Indicators, table III-4a. Available at http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/content/indicatordoc.aspx?i=287.

Source: Perspectives on History Data source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences Humanities Indicators, table III-4a. Available at http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/content/indicatordoc.aspx?i=287. Methodological note: The ACS survey records undergraduate major by a free-response text block, with no apparent guidance on how to represent a person’s degree. As a result, the number who reported their major as “history” may also include some who studied US history. The overall number of US history majors reported in the ACS is very low, to such a degree that they may make statistical analyses problematic. It is for these reasons that I combine the US history and history majors in my analysis, though the American Academy of Arts and Sciences does not.

Transferable Skills

A history degree offers:

  • Research Skills
    • How to locate resources that will inform the topic at hand
    • Understanding the difference between primary and secondary sources
    • Weighing the importance and validity of internet resources
  • Critical Thinking
    • What is imporant to the discussion?
    • Identifying the arguments being made or rebutted in the literature
    • Identifying the perspectives and biases of the writers
    • Weighing your own perspective
    • Understanding where your research fits into the discussions in the field
  • Strong Writing 
    • Clarity in communication is central
    • A historian must be able to express the importance of their work to others

Some Careers in History

Career Median Salary Market Growth
Lawyer$115,820 + 6%
Doctor $187,200 + 9% - 13%
Intelligence Analyst $77,200 little or no change
Archivist in a historical library or archive $50,250 + 5% - 8%
Curator in a museum $51,420 + 5% - 8%
History Teacher (teaching at the high school level)   $57,200 + 5% - 8%
Historian (teaching at the college level) $69,400 + 9% - 13%


Source: O*NET Online, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration

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Graduate Study

This degree also provides a solid foundation for graduate study in:

  • Law - J.D., Juris Doctorate
  • Medical Doctor - M.D.
  • History - M.A. and Ph.D. in History

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Notable People With an History Major

 

Sotomayor Sonia Sotomayor (Supreme Court Justice)
Louis Theroux Louis Theroux (Documentary Film Maker)
Ken Chenault Ken Chenault (CEO and Chair of American Express)
Steve Carrell Steve Carell (Actor and Comedian)
Susan Rice 
 Susan Rice (U.S. National Security Advisor)
Grant Hill Grant Hill (former Basketball Player, Detroit Pistons (et. al.)
 Sports Analyst, NBA TV)

 

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