What is a Contract Historian?

Have you ever considered a career as a contract historian? When we think of the word history, we often think of sitting in class year after year hearing stories about the past. While some find history boring, others find it extremely interesting. In fact, some love it so much they choose to become historians. Historians are people who have such a love of and interest in history that they research and study it for a living. They may choose a particular person or a certain thing to study and research. Whatever happens to interest them at any certain time is what a historian will research, which could make being a historian very interesting.

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What is a Contract Historian?

Historians research, interpret, analyze historical documents and various sources so they can write about the people and the events. They use books, archives, artifacts and whatever sources they can find to gather their historical data. They often choose particular fields from which to gather historical documents. They also gather historical information and analyze it to determine its significance and authenticity. They have various duties as part of their job.

  • Tracing historical documents
  • Writing articles, reports and books on theories and findings
  • Provide guidance or advice on preservation issues and historical topics
  • Build historical profiles of a particular event, area or person

Whether the historian works with an agency or independently as a contract historian, he or she may perform analysis and research for businesses, historical associations, governments, nonprofits or even individuals. When doing their research, they use a variety of sources, including institutional and government records, films, newspapers, photographs and unpublished manuscripts like letters or personal diaries.

Historians working for historical associations often work with curators, archivists and museum workers to detail the significance of their findings and to preserve the artifacts. Once the historian has completed all the required research and analysis, he or she presents the findings through the Internet, a book, report or an exhibit.

How to Become a Historian

Historians must have a history degree at the graduate level. Many historian positions require a master’s degree in history or public history. Historians who want research positions must have not just a history degree but one at the doctoral level. Doctoral degrees are also required for those who wish to do research for the federal government or teach. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in history may be accepted for entry-level positions in an organization but not as historians.

In most of the historian programs, the student must also complete an internship to obtain hands-on training in handling exhibits, carrying artifacts or creating exhibits. A student pursuing a doctorate in history may often choose from several areas of specialization. Examples of specializations may be a political or social history, a certain field, a specific period or a particular country or area.

Career Outlook & Wage Potential

The American Historical Association states that historian positions generally fall into one of two categories: either part of a staff working with an agency or firm or working as independent contractors/consultants. Contract historians typically have more flexibility in terms of location and job terms, which may allow them to earn higher wages.

Many historians work for agencies and organizations that rely on funding and donations for their revenue. Historian wages are often dependent on funding, which is probably why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only predicts a six percent employment growth from 2016-2026. The average annual wage for historians was $64,220 as of a May 2017 BLS report.

Almost every one of us has, at one time or another, thought of something that happened or existed before we were born and wondered what it would be like. Contract historians have the type of career where they don’t have to wonder because they study it until they have the answer.

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