What Can I Do With My History Degree?

by

Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, so let’s give it up for our history majors!

History majors possess invaluable knowledge that explains to us the mysteries of our present with clues from our past. They study the wars before us, honour the people who made our world the way it is today and would ace the boggling U.S. history questions on Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

Where does someone desiring a job in history begin? Certainly not back in BCE, right? Join your university history society. If your interest is in art history, try the visual arts club. If you’re concerned with equality and mistreatment of people through history, join the debate team or your school’s chapter of Amnesty International. Perhaps you want to be a history teacher.

“For anyone considering a future career in academia, the most important thing is to network and be seen as a future scholar,” suggest Justin Bengry, a history teacher and student whose testimony is found below. Bengry recommends attending conferences, where one can meet senior scholars, submit papers and gain a reputation as a professional.

Start working on your career outside of school. Join organizations applicable to your area of research. “Since I do British history, the most obvious choice is the North American Conference on British Studies,” Bengry suggests. “Others should join broad organizations like the Canadian Historical Association. There are dozens of professional organizations for historians based on the area and period you study.”

One might also consider travelling. What better way to study Italian art history than to visit the Vatican? The sight of the original, ancient masterpieces before you will only ignite your passion further.

And if your interest in history is only that—a passion, not a career—then do not despair. After all, the historical figures have left you a strong message: do not give up. Take your analytical skills, writing skills and problem solving abilities and market yourself to new employers. And don’t forget the gift that history offers in abundance: perspective!

While National Treasure makes treasure hunting seem like an exciting and viable career, there are many other options for someone with your rich background.

Related jobs: archaeologist, archivist, documentary editor, information manager, lawyer/paralegal, librarian, museum curator, professor/teacher, researcher, writer

Related fields: administration, archaeology, business, education, journalism, libraries, management, multimedia

Top 10 most popular jobs for history majors, according to PayScale.com: administrative assistant, customer service representative, high school teacher, inside sales representative, marketing manager, non-profit organization program coordinator, office manager, operations manager, paralegal/legal assistant, retail store manager

 

Justin Bengry

History teacher and postdoctoral fellow in history at the University of Saskatchewan

PhD in History and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara
MA in History at the University of British Columbia
Bachelor of Arts in History and German at the University of Lethbridge
Bachelor of Management at the University of Lethbridge

A PhD is absolutely essential today to be considered for academic positions in the humanities at universities, and even community colleges increasingly require PhDs for their teaching staff. I knew that if I wanted to become a professor and work at a university, a PhD was critical. But I also love history and was excited about the opportunity to pursue my area of research to the highest level possible with leading experts in the field.

I’m still on the path to a full academic career. I’ve finished my PhD, but with a market currently flooded with well-trained, intelligent candidates, you need more and more to land that first university job. So, increasingly, PhD graduates who want jobs in academia have to continue through one or more postdocs—periods of paid research, writing and teaching—before they will be hired as full-time professors.

My degree was a critical step and excellent preparation for my current position as a postdoctoral fellow. I continue to research and write in my area of expertise, but now I also teach courses in history at the University of Saskatchewan. My PhD gave me the skills I need to become a professor, but the postdoc is almost like an apprenticeship in which I can hone those skills and build my academic profile still further.

 

Stephen Strauss

Freelance science writer

B.A. in History, cum laudePhi Beta Kappa, University of Colorado

I majored in history, although just barely because I have considerable minors in English and philosophy. I chose history, in part, because I was much struck with the truth of the Shakespearean line I reflected on in my high school graduation speech: “The past is prologue.”

I became a journalist because I realized while in law school that I didn’t like lawyers and I did like writing. I became a science writer at The Globe and Mail after looking around the newsroom one day and asking myself, “Is there anything I can report on for more than a couple of years without getting bored?” The only thing that came to mind was science.

I had no background in science except for the fact that I couldn’t graduate from high school without taking a science course, so I took an elementary physics course, and I couldn’t graduate from university without a science course, so I took an elementary chemistry course. I have tried to make up for this deficiency by reading a lot, but even more so by thinking about what scientists tell me through what you might say is the lens of history. While I am quite fussy about getting the facts right, I am equally fussy about context.  What I want to tell people is not so much how methodologies work as how what has been found has changed a scientist’s mind, changed us non-scientists’ sense of the world, and may eventually change who humans think we are. My reformed sense of history has told me that in the modern world, sometimes the present is more prologue than the past.

 

Debbie Vago

HR administrator for Kuehne + Nagel Ltd

Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management
B.A. in History: Early Modern Europe at the University of Toronto

I was one of those people who didn’t know what they wanted to do with their life; I started in architecture, switched to economics, and finally landed in history, after having taken a few courses and loved them.

Although I love learning about history, I felt that it wasn’t something I wanted to do in my future. Instead, I enrolled in a one-year college post-graduate program in Human Resources at Sheridan College. Because the program was so intense, an undergraduate degree was required—ensuring that people could handle the course load.

My current job isn’t related to what I studied in university, but my degree still prepared me by giving me analytical skills and writing skills, both of which are essential to my current job. I think that it’s great for people to switch from what they studied in school, as it gives them a wider perspective in the “real” world.

 
Click here to find out what you can do with your degree.

Share
About the author

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).