15 Unique Jobs in the History Field
- Fiction Writer
- Film and TV Writer
- Set and Costume Design
- Multimedia Designer
- Park Ranger
- History Professor
- Museum Curator
- Historic Preservation
- Research Analyst
- Arts Law Enforcement
- Exhibit Designer
Majoring in history not only gives you a deep understanding of the subject, but this major also allows you to develop transferable skills, like writing, speaking and critical analysis. These skill sets make history majors attractive to employers in several career fields.
In fact, the jobs for history majors run the gamut from professor to an attorney and even historical fiction writer. If you’re a history major out on the job market, here’s a look at the top 15 jobs for history majors. They’re all uniquely suited to the skill sets you’ve developed throughout your studies.
1. Fiction Writer
For ardent book fans, the world can never have too many books. Book lovers can’t get enough of the incredible fictional worlds that their favorite writers create.
This may be particularly true for lovers of genre fiction, like historical fiction and alternative history fiction. Over the last years, historical fiction books like, “The Man in the High Castle” by Philip K. Dick, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison and “Roots” by Alex Haley, have been turned into movies or miniseries.
The writing skills you develop as a result of your major, plus the study of history, give you many of the skills you need to become a historical fiction writer. Additionally, many university programs embrace a cross-disciplinary approach to study history. This means you may have gotten to read books, like “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Bread Givers” by Anzia Yezierska and “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” by Sloan Wilson in your history classes.
Books like these give their readers a valuable look at a historical period while the author was living it. Reading great books, coupled with your fiction writing practice, helps you further develop the writing skills you need. It’s worth saying again: Successful fiction writers read a lot of fiction, so you must spend plenty of time reading books of all kinds.
Once you develop some fiction manuscripts, you can get feedback from other fiction writers that allows you to continually improve your writing skills. With enough feedback and practice, your manuscripts can get the attention of fiction magazines, literary agents and the reading public.
2. Film and TV Writer
Being a film and TV scriptwriter counts as one of the coolest careers for history majors. Due to the expansion of the Internet, as well as subscription-based channels, like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, the demand for new and engaging content is higher than ever. Many of these programs, like “The Man in the High Castle” rely on history (or alternate history in this case) to tell the story.
Because of their knowledge of history, history majors have a great deal to bring to the table as writers. While many may work as scriptwriters, others may become historical consultants for period shows or script doctors. Still, others are documentary writers and filmmakers, like Ken Burns, director of “The Civil War,” “The Dust Bowl” and “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”
What’s even better news for aspiring film and TV writers is that while New York City or Los Angeles are still the major hubs for film and TV work, there are more and more indie film and TV projects nowadays. This means that you may find work in your local area or even start a production of your own.
3. Set and Costume Design
If writing isn’t where your passions lie, then you may want to consider set and costume design. Historians provide information about the historical background for period TV, stage and film productions. These historians may advise the production department on historical costuming or sets.
Additionally, there is an impressive list of media production companies and TV channels, like the BBC, the History Channel and PBS who hire these professionals because of their knowledge of history.
These professionals often study a more specialized history, like theater history, art history or fashion history. Taking this educational route gives these professionals the knowledge of a visual culture that their jobs require. As far as jobs for history majors, this one also pays relatively well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who design sets and exhibits make around $59,000 a year.
4. Multimedia Designer
The demand for multimedia designers has grown in recent years, in part, due to the continuing development of digital animation and the popularity of video games. These professionals spend their days creating websites and mobile apps, 3D animations, including character modeling and background design, video and audio files and software programs.
Multimedia jobs are jobs for history majors who specialized in history subjects, like theatrical or art history and who love technology. These two skill sets combined allow the designer to communicate with art directors and to advise production managers on the historical accuracy of a video game, educational website or a mobile app or website for a historical museum.
If you’re a history major who aspires to work as a multimedia designer, then you’ll want to learn some of the technologies, like the Adobe Creative Suite. You’ll also want to learn about video and audio production, character design and web development. To achieve this, you can learn the technical skills on your own or take on a double major.
Actors play characters in movies, on TV shows and in stage productions, and nowadays, the demand for actors is greater than ever due to the online gig economy. Independent film production companies, voice-over businesses and other entertainment outlets need the services of talented actors. The explosion of Internet-based entertainment has a lot to do with this.
Those who want to develop a reputation as actors and voice-over actors who work in period pieces will need to build a reputation as an actor who specializes in these roles. Many times, these roles are considered character actor roles, though not always.
It’s also important to note that there is the possibility of secondary work, like historical consulting for movies and TV: Adding to the list of jobs you can do within the entertainment profession allows you to pick up more freelance work.
To prepare for this job – in addition to getting your degree – you must have headshots made, as well as a resume of all the roles you’ve played as an actor. It’s additionally helpful to have a website where you can post a demo reel of clips from shows you’ve been in. This gives potential casting directors a chance to see your work.
If you do voice-overs as well, don’t forget to include samples of those: You can include voice-overs you’ve done for movies or commercials, as well as work you’ve done narrating books.
As far as careers for history majors are concerned, few are as well matched to the historian’s skills as th law is. The historian’s research skills come in handy because many lawyers spend their days researching case history. Attorneys must analyze the information in these documents and determine if any legal precedence applies to the case the attorney is working on.
Attorneys also write legal documents, like briefs, mortgage contracts and wills. If the attorney is a trial lawyer, then some of his or her time is spent speaking in front of a crowd of people.
In all, the skills that you developed and fine-tuned as a history major, like reading, writing, oral communication, critical thinking and analysis, are skills that the average attorney also uses each day. The pay isn’t too bad, either. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earn between $58,000 and $120,000 or so a year.
The study of history prepares a journalist for his or her job in several ways. The historian’s ability to read large amounts of text and analyze is a great asset. This skill allows the historian to look at events in a greater historical and cultural context and allows him or her to make connections and spot trends in history.
This skill transfers well to journalism. To be sure, the journalist writes about history in the making. However, when it’s time to write opinion pieces, the journalist trained in history can put modern events into historical perspective for opinion pieces, books and other similar projects.
Additionally, the writing and research skills that the history major develops throughout a degree program are also useful on the job. Advanced historical research requires the history major to delve deeply into a subject, to write about it and to provide annotations for it.
Finally, history majors are accustomed to researching primary source documents, like old letters, photographs and other materials. For the reporter who covers historical events, like unsolved crimes, natural disasters, business history and more, these skills are very valuable. Having the historian’s research skills trains the would-be journalist to analyze the validity of each news source.
If all of this sounds like something that would appeal to you, then maybe you’ll use your skills to become a journalist of note due to your training in history. Being a journalist is one of the most interesting jobs for history majors that there is.
8. Park Ranger
This is one of the more fun jobs for history majors. While much of the park ranger’s job requires outdoor skills, like trail and wildlife management, there is a historical component to the job.
Many park rangers also run interpretive centers and historical sites, which require them to talk about the history of a place in the course of their workday. They must also answer questions about the exhibit and even lead guided informational tours at times. They learned much of this information in their history studies.
All park rangers go through training. For the park ranger at the interpretive center, that is training in history. However, others may train in law enforcement, conservation or forestry. As with many jobs on this list, the job requirements vary by location.
Many park rangers get their start by working seasonal jobs. They may also volunteer to clean trails or work in conservation centers. Park rangers earn between $27,000 and $61,000 a year.
9. History Professor
Teaching history at the college level is a history major’s dream. How could it not be? Not only does it pay nicely – around $78,000 a year, according to the BLS – it also allows the ardent history buff to dive more deeply into the history and to do so every day. These professionals spend their days expounding historical concepts to their students. They also provide academic advising and set up internships for their students as well.
Additionally, tenured history professors are required to conduct research in their field and to publish their findings, allowing them to explore little-known pockets of history and get paid for it. Their research journey could take them to the banks of the ancient Nile River, to a cabin in the woods that supported the Underground Railroad or back to the Roaring 20s.
This is one of the reasons why it’s a favored career among history students: Through the professors’ research, the lessons of history come alive once again.
10. Museum Curators
The museum curator’s job is filled with historical documents, sepia-toned photographs, antique paintings, ancient artifacts, 3D simulations of ancient cities, fundraising activities, digital archiving, exhibit creation and even an occasional elementary school class. The history major fits into this environment perfectly. These jobs require a critical understanding of history so that the curator can create exhibits that are cohesive in theme and understandable to the public.
The jobs also require the history major’s persuasive skills. Much of the curator’s job revolves around fundraising, both via mail and email, as well as in person. Writing, speaking and persuading are skills that all competent history majors develop during their studies.
Finally, many of these professionals hold advanced degrees in history, allowing them to provide an in-depth perspective on history to patrons, museum interns and visiting school classes.
11. Anthropologist/ Archaeologist
The study of history, along with coursework in anthropology and archaeology, prepares history majors for a very interesting career, indeed. While both anthropology and archaeology are college majors in their own right, there is some overlap between all of these professions.
Anthropology is the study of human behavior. Archaeology delves deeply into humanity’s past. History is the study of people, ideas and events of the past. The study of history may provide an anthropologist or an archaeologist with some additional context for the job.
The history major who’d like to go on to become an anthropologist or archeologist must pursue a graduate degree in one of those subjects. An undergraduate major in history helps future archeologist or anthropologist to learn how to interpret historical documents and artifacts, including very ancient ones.
The job setting for these professionals varies. The archaeologist might work for the local transportation board to ensure that no new construction encroaches on land with historical significance. The anthropologist could run an interpretive center. Teaching at the college level is also a possibility for these professions. The salary varies, ranging anywhere from the $36,000 or so up to almost $100,000 a year.
12. Historic Preservation
If the preservation of important historical sites, documents and artifacts are of supreme importance to you, then you might consider a career as a museum conservator or historic preservationist. In this job, you’ll be tasked with recording and restoring, as well as preserving artifacts and other items of scientific or historical significance.
Many of these items go on display in exhibits. Some are kept in the museum’s archival area. Additionally, once an exhibit is done, you’d also be responsible for putting the artifacts away for safekeeping. It should be noted that this job can sometimes overlap with that of the curator’s job, depending on the size of the organization that the preservationist works for.
13. Research Analyst
Probably no one has to tell the history major about research. This major is filled with tons of it as a matter of course. It turns out that all that researching prepares history majors for research jobs, including jobs in research analysis.
These research professionals get paid to read. Granted, there is a bit more to it than that. They must also sift through a great deal of data, analyze it, and then synthesize it into an understandable report. Along the way, they’ll fact check and cross-reference information as needed.
Research analysts work primarily in the scientific and technical fields. A great number of them also work in the insurance and finance fields, management and wholesale. Four percent of them work in publishing.
14. Arts Law Enforcement
This job ranks right up there in the coolness factor. For people who studied art history as a specialization, there is the FBI’s Art Crime Team. This 20-person task force investigates crimes involving art theft, counterfeiting and other related crimes.
Since getting its start in 2004, this specialized crime unit has recovered at least $800 million in stolen artwork. The historians who work in this unit must have both an understanding of art history and an understanding of the law as it relates to art theft and fraud.
15. Exhibit Designer
An exhibit designer is a person who creates the exhibits that people see when they’re in museums, interpretive centers and corporate art collections. While at least one college now offers a degree in exhibit design, that hasn’t always been the case.
Once upon a time, this was a job for the theatrical designer or illustrator, and much of the time, these professionals needed to have a strong foundation in history, including specialized history subjects, like visual art and theater.
This foundation in history allows the exhibit designer to arrange the pieces of art or artifacts in an exhibit in a way that provides a context for the works. For example, an exhibit designer tasked with creating an exhibit about science fiction literature and TV will likely feature photos and clips from books and movies, like “Star Trek,” “Logan’s Run” or “The Hunger Games.” If the featured book or TV show had special significance in the past, that will be highlighted in the exhibit’s educational materials.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who design sets and exhibits make around $61,000 a year.
As a history major, you had to learn a broad range of skills throughout your studies. True enough, you did learn a great deal about history.
However, it is maybe more accurate to say that history is how you learned skills, like written and oral communication, critical analysis, research and how to organize and understand the information you are reading. Additionally, if you studied world history or art history, you may also possess foreign language skills.
Now, here is some context for these skills. Employers look for employees who have excellent communication and analytical skills, who know how to conduct research and who know how to problem-solve, according to an article on the Balance Careers website. Some 21st-century employers also want employees who have foreign language skills, too.
Once these two lists are compared side by side, it is easier to see why the history major becomes a sought after employee. This isn’t to say that as a history major you won’t have the opportunity to use your knowledge of history on the job. As this list of jobs for history majors demonstrates, an understanding of history is critical to do the job.
The truth is history majors are curious, creative and provide deep insight into where humanity has been. It is this knowledge that allows them to make predictions in the marketplace and about people they meet.
- 30 Best History Degree Online Programs (Bachelor’s)
- In What Ways Can a History Major Provide Litigation Support?
- What is the Best Degree for Becoming a High School History Teacher?
- What Jobs Can You Get with a History Degree?
- What Skills Do I Need to Succeed in the Study of History?
- What Specializations are there For History Majors?
- 5 Fascinating Careers in Travel for History Majors
- 5 High Paying Careers for Someone with a History Degree
- 5 Ways a History Degree Can Help You in the Field of Media Communications
- Can a History Major Study Ancient History?