Where Do History Majors Work After College?

Is fear of not being able to find a job holding you back from studying history?

It might help you to know that there are plenty of places where history majors work after college. College classrooms. Government museums. Newsrooms. The opportunities for graduates of history degree programs are surprisingly varied.

Higher Education

One environment where history majors work after college is in higher education. A career in academia is especially common for graduates who go on to earn a Ph.D. in history after completing their undergraduate studies. More than half of history doctorates work as tenure-track faculty in a four-year college or university setting, according to the American Historical Association (AHA). In total, more than 69 percent of all history doctorates work at a two-year or four-year higher education institution, the AHA reported.

Government Agencies

Of course, there are also places where history majors work after college beyond the realm of academia. The students who pursue doctoral degrees in history are often drawn to higher education. At the bachelor’s degree level, there’s a lot more variability in what students choose to do with their degrees, and often, less focus on academic research.

Among all historians – not just those with a Ph.D. – government agencies employ the most workers. Around 39 percent of historians work for state and local government entities, the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports. Another 22 percent of historians work for the federal government. Often, historians who work for the government focus their historical research on past matters that affect today’s policy issues.

Museums and Historical Sites

What work environment would be better for someone who devotes their career to studying the past than a museum or historic site dedicated to preserving that history?  Places where history majors often work after college include:

  • Visitor centers
  • historic sites
  • museums

In these settings, historians can bring their research findings to life through educational exhibits. They work to collect, organize and archive historical artifacts of all kinds. These range from photographs and films to government records, personal letters and newspapers.

Jobs in Other Industries

Students who earn a bachelor’s degree in history don’t always go on to become historians. They may use their research skills and critical thinking skills to thrive in other fields, like:

  • advocacy
  • communication
  • business

Studying documents from the past is good practice for finding and interpreting cases that set a legal precedent as a lawyer or legal assistant. A history major who learns to thoroughly check artifacts for accuracy and authenticity would make a good journalist. Understanding contract history can make you a valuable asset for businesses that deal with many contracts on a regular basis.

If you’re resourceful when it comes to building your skills and looking for a job, majoring in history isn’t something that will hold you back. Instead, it’s likely to help you succeed. This long list of places where history majors work highlights just some of the opportunities that are open to you when you study history.

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Brenda Rufener
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