A history degree trains students to investigate the past, assess primary sources, and craft evidence-based arguments. While some history majors become historians, many apply the skills gained during a history degree to other careers. The best jobs for history majors draw on a student's writing, research, and analytical skills. These fields include education and the legal space.
History students should begin their careers with planning and job search preparation while in school. For example, students considering a career working in education, museums, archives, or libraries may benefit from internship opportunities in those fields. Alternatively, history students who want to work in the legal field or in business can start building networks in those areas. This article gives an overview of the many jobs available to history majors, with an emphasis on earning potential, the skills history majors bring to different industries, and job boards for history graduates.
Skills Gained in a History Program
During a history program, students complete coursework focused on a variety of time periods, regions, and thematic areas. As a discipline, history trains students in critical thinking, analytical skills, and writing, which serve as important qualities for the profession. Regardless of whether graduates take history related jobs or work in fields outside of history, these skills help history majors succeed in many industries.
- Analytical Skills
History students examine primary sources, secondary sources, and other documents to identify relevant information and build arguments based on their analysis. They often use analytical skills when writing research papers, integrating their conclusions into an argument supported by evidence. Analytical skills benefit many seeking careers with a history degree.
- Communication Skills
History classes require verbal and written communication skills, as students debate in class and write persuasive essays and papers to support their positions. History also trains students to understand a document's audience, purpose, and goals — a valuable skill that can translate into strong communication abilities.
- Foreign Language Skills
As a liberal arts major, history students often build foreign language skills as part of their training. Some bachelor's history degrees require foreign language, and most graduate-level programs expect reading proficiency in a foreign language. These skills can lead to history degree jobs in government, such as working for the U.S. Department of State.
- Problem-Solving Skills
History students use research and analysis to answer questions about the past. They act as investigators, studying the past for clues to understand history or link past events to the present. A history degree builds strong problem-solving skills, which benefit graduates pursuing many different jobs.
- Research Skills
During a history program, students hone their research skills, conducting original research to answer a question designed by the professor or the student. History students learn how to identify relevant and reputable sources, find the most relevant documents, and answer questions based on their analysis. At the graduate level, history students conduct extensive research that culminates in thesis or doctoral dissertation.
Why Pursue a Career in History?
History majors explore the past, learning about the culture of different societies and the causes of historical change. During a history degree, students study ancient Egypt, medieval England, imperial China, and modern America. History programs also let students explore the history of science, medicine, and technology, military history, and art history.
While learning and about the past, history students gain valuable skills for a variety of career paths. History requires exceptional critical-thinking, analytical, and writing skills, which benefit graduates who pursue careers in the legal field, in education, or in business. History graduates also work in museums, archives, and libraries, helping to preserve historical documents and artifacts that teach others about the past.
Possible careers in history can also include teaching history at the secondary or postsecondary levels. A history degree provides the skills and the knowledge to become an educator at a school or museum, and history majors may choose to earn additional degrees to expand their career opportunities.
How Much Do History Majors Make?
The jobs for history majors cover a variety of careers and industries, meaning that the average salary for history graduates varies widely. However, professionals with a bachelor's degree in history earn a median salary of $54,000, according to Georgetown University; professionals with a master's degree see a 48% increase in their salaries, on average. Several factors influence salaries, including the industry, the location, and the job title and level. The degree level also affects salaries, with advanced degrees typically increasing earning potential. As professionals gain additional experience, they also see an increase in their salary.
Graduate Degree Wage Premium$26,000 (48%)
Meet a History Major
Brendan Gawlowski Author, Baseball Prospectus
Please give us a brief background of your academic and professional experience.
I graduated with a degree in honor's history from the University of Washington. I picked history because I was good at it in high school and it didn't have any calculus, which isn't really the smartest reason to choose a major, but here we are.
Once I got out of school, I started my career as a freelance editor. From there I edited a book, took a position in marketing, and eventually came back to writing and editing. Today, I work as a content editor and a baseball writer on the side. I couldn't have done either without writing a ton of essays as an undergrad, and getting tremendous feedback from professors and peers.
What do you find most fulfilling about your career?
I like editing and writing because of the dynamic challenge inherent in making a piece convey information succinctly and engagingly. You're always striving for perfection when you're working on an article, and while you can't really obtain that, you can still feel very satisfied after you've worked hard on something.
What types of people excel in this field?
Critical thinking skills are important, as is some command of the language. To write or edit well, you have to be able to look at bad writing and not only poke holes in it, but also find a way to make the piece better while keeping the author's original message intact. That's not easy to do at first, and the challenge is greater if you need to look at a thesaurus regularly. It sounds too obvious to be valuable advice, but it's very hard to work as a content writer, journalist, or editor if you struggle writing college essays.
What was the job search process like after earning your degree?
My biggest initial challenge was in identifying how my skills best translated to the working world. There aren't "history jobs" in the same way that there are electrical engineering or finance positions; you have to get creative. My strongest skill was my writing, so I started by pursuing jobs as a freelance writer and freelance editor. As I worked as an editor and a writer, I sharpened those skills further and became qualified to do more substantive work over time. The thing with a history degree is that you build so many skills: critical thinking, analytical, writing, research, etc. You could just as easily end up in marketing or data research and do very well in those fields with the skills you develop in a history program.
What challenges do you face at work on any given day?
Spending part of my time writing, and part of my time editing, I get to see the viewpoints of the editor and the writer from both vantages. Inevitably, there's tension in the editorial process, and navigating that is always challenging.
What additional advice would you give to a history student looking to start their career?
Learn what you can about SEO before you graduate and apply for jobs. Anybody that says "you can't get a job with a liberal arts degree" doesn't know what that acronym means, and there are plenty of jobs available in the industry for someone who can write. You don't have to go down that path, but becoming proficient in SEO can help you get your foot in the door in writing, editing, marketing, sales, and a few other fields where you can launch a career.
Educational Path for History Majors
Earning Your Degree
The jobs you can get with a history degree include careers in education, library and museum services, and the legal field. Graduates also take history degree jobs in government. But before history majors can apply for jobs, they need to earn a degree. Many entry-level jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, and history majors can use their degree to pursue careers in many industries.
The jobs for history majors vary depending on the degree level and the field. For example, many research-intensive history careers require a graduate degree, while other fields related to history may only require a bachelor's degree. To become a history professor, for example, applicants typically must hold a doctorate. Candidates with an associate degree in history might also fill positions that require the skills a liberal arts degree teaches.
Prospective students planning to earn their first college degree or considering returning to school for an advanced degree in history may benefit from earning a history degree online. Online programs provide flexibility and convenience, particularly for working professionals and students with family obligations.
How Many Years Does it Take to Enter This Field?
History degree jobs may require a college degree or a graduate degree, depending on the field. Prospective history majors must consider the amount of time it takes to earn a degree when researching career paths. For example, while most associate programs require 60 credits and take two years of full-time study, most bachelor's degrees require 120 credits and four years of study. Undergraduates who hold an associate degree or transfer in college credits may earn a bachelor's degree in less time.
Most master's programs in history take two years to complete. A doctoral program may take five to seven years, as students build the language and research skills required to write and defend an original dissertation. For some students, the investment required to earn a doctoral degree may not prove worth the limited career opportunities.
Other career paths may require additional training or education. The common jobs for history majors include positions in education and the legal field. For example, K-12 teachers may need a degree in education to earn a state teaching license, and lawyers must attend law school and pass the bar to practice. Because a history degree leads to so many career paths, prospective history majors need to research each specific industry to learn more.
Concentrations Available for History Majors
History majors often concentrate on a particular region, time period, or thematic area within the discipline. At the undergraduate level, history majors often take courses in a variety of areas to learn more about those fields. Many bachelor's programs ask students to choose one or two broad concentrations, while graduate-level students typically specialize in a narrower field. For example, an undergraduate might concentrate in U.S. history, while a graduate student might specialize in the Civil War. Different types of history majors may even earn a degree in U.S. history or military history.
History majors may focus on American history, European history, Asian history, Latin American history, African history, or world history. Regional concentrations emphasize geographical areas with a shared history or culture; within that region students may take courses from a variety of time periods.
- Time Period
Many history majors choose a particular time period for their concentration. This may include the ancient period, medieval and Renaissance Europe, modern U.S. history, or early modern Europe. Students may also focus on a particular region or study comparative history within that time period.
History students also concentrate in thematic areas. For example, some students specialize in women and gender studies, taking courses on women's roles in societies throughout history. They may also study the history of science and medicine, charting the development of different approaches to nature and the human body. Other thematic concentrations include military history, art history, environmental history, and the history of technology.
What Can I Do With a History Major?
History majors pursue a variety of career paths after building their research, writing, and analytical skills. Some of the jobs you can get with a history degree include positions in schools, museums, archives, and libraries. Many history majors go on to work as social studies teachers at the middle school or high school level, using their knowledge of history to teach young learners. At the highest level, historians with a Ph.D. can become university professors.
Earning a history degree does not just prepare students to work in education and academia. Graduates also pursue history degree jobs in government or business, using their research skills to become analysts or writers. At all degree levels, history graduates find fulfilling and lucrative career paths, from museum directors to professors.
Associate Degree in History
In an associate program, history students gain analytical and writing skills by conducting independent research and presenting their findings in papers. Students also build critical-thinking skills. An associate degree prepares graduates for jobs as administrative assistants or teaching assistants who provide support services for business or education professionals. With an associate in history, graduates can also transfer into a bachelor's program to earn a four-year degree in as little as two years. Prospective history students may also consider an online associate degree in art history. Many of the following jobs let professionals earn an online bachelor's degree while continuing to work.
- Administrative Assistant
Administrative assistants work as support staff in an office environment. They may enter data, keep records, or conduct correspondence. Administrative assistants must possess strong writing and organizational skills. Some positions may also require direct contact with customers. Professionals with a history degree benefit from their writing experience.
- Teaching Assistant
Teaching assistants help teachers work with students of all ages, from preschool to the college level. They perform administrative tasks, provide teaching support, and work with special needs students. At the college level, most teaching assistants are graduate students, but some bachelor's students may hold the position. Some positions may require a teaching assistant certification.
- Tour Guide
Tour guides escort visitors at a tourist attraction or historically important site. They educate visitors about the location, answering questions and providing additional resources to learn more about the attraction. History students often bring strong public speaking skills, research abilities, and historical knowledge when working as tour guides.
Bachelor's Degree in History
Students earning a bachelor's degree in history complete general education requirements and upper-level courses within their major. Many programs let students specialize in an area of history, such as modern U.S. or medieval Europe. Some students complete an undergraduate research paper as part of their graduation requirements. History majors gain valuable skills in research, writing, and analysis, which lead to careers in education, public history, and preservation. A bachelor's degree also qualifies graduates for entry-level positions in many fields.
- Liquid error: internal Museum Educator
Museum educators provide educational support at museums, assisting visitors learning about the collections. They may create learning strategies, give lectures, or create activities designed for visitors. Museum educators may also teach classes or oversee museum volunteers. History majors interested in education often bring valuable skills such as communication to this profession.
- Graduate Research Assistant
Graduate research assistants work for a professor to conduct research, analyze information, and create reports. This training often occurs hand-in-hand with graduate-level history coursework. After earning a bachelor's degree, history majors may apply to a graduate program and gain a position as a graduate research assistant.
Archivists organize and preserve documents, books, manuscripts, and other items of historical significance. They work for libraries, archives, government agencies, and private organizations. History majors draw on their research and writing skills to work as an archivist, though the field may require additional education or an archiving certification.
Master's Degree in History
With a master's degree, graduates can expand their careers in history. Many jobs that directly draw on the skills of a historian, such as adjunct instructor or museum curator, require a graduate degree. During a master's program, students complete advanced coursework, build their analytical and writing skills, and often write a master's thesis demonstrating their historical knowledge. Some specialties, such as public history, may include an internship component to build skills working in a museum, library, or archive.
Historians study the past, research and interpret sources, and analyze evidence to reach conclusions. As professionals, historians draw on the analytical, research, and writing skills gained during a graduate program in history. They may work in academic positions, for museums, or for libraries and archives.
- Museum Curator
Curators help museums function by determining which content to display in exhibits and what the museum should acquire. They also design exhibitions, create support documents and information, and oversee museum operations. History graduates may choose to apply their skills by working in an art or history museums.
- Museum Director
Museum directors plan and oversee a museum and its staff. They acquire items for the collection, design exhibitions to feature the museum's artifacts, and create rules and protocols for the museum. As one of the highest-level positions within a museum, directors often possess a graduate degree in their museum's focus area.
Doctoral Degree in History
Graduate students who earn a doctoral degree in history typically pursue careers in academia. A doctoral program includes coursework in a specialized field, comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation. Most history Ph.D. programs require at least five years to complete the research, language, and writing requirements. After graduation, historians may apply for academic positions as assistant professors. Professors contribute to the field through scholarship and teaching, and tenured professors can also hold positions as a department chair, dean, or provost. Graduates may also choose non-academic careers in public history, museums, or government.
- Professor, Postsecondary
College and university professors teach undergraduate and graduate courses in their field. In history, most professors teach between two and four classes each semester. They also perform community services and help mentor students. Most professor positions require a doctorate.
- Department Chair (College/University)
Department chairs work as professors who take on additional administrative responsibilities in exchange for a higher salary and fewer teaching obligations. Department chairs must hold tenure, and they must continue their research agenda while serving the department. They play a role in hiring and promotion decisions, lead department meetings, and represent the department at meetings with the dean.
Provosts act as academic administrators at the highest levels of a college or university. Their role includes managing the institution's educational programs, advocating for student affairs, and allocating funds to departments within the institution. Historians with a doctorate may move into administration after working as a professor.
Other Career Paths for History Majors
While some history majors earn a graduate degree in history and become academics, other graduates take different career paths. Professionals with an undergraduate or graduate history degree do not just pursue careers directly related to history. They also work in a variety of professional sectors, applying their skills to areas like law, business, and communications.
A history degree builds valuable and transferable skills. History majors build strong analytical and writing skills that prepare them for careers in writing and editing. They also hone their argumentative abilities, which benefits graduates who move into the legal profession or the business sector. History also emphasizes politics and its impact on society, meaning graduates also pursue careers in government, in policy organizations, or in nonprofits. Finally, a history degree requires exceptional communication skills, enabling graduates to move into the communications sector.
Many history majors pursue careers in the legal field, including jobs that require a law degree. In fact, Case Western Reserve University reports that around 25% of their history majors go on to law school after graduation. History helps prepare graduates for law school and the legal profession because lawyers must understand how the legal system changes over time. Law students often take legal history courses, and an undergraduate history major provides the skills to succeed in those courses.
According to Fordham University, a history degree also builds the research, communication, and debating skills necessary for law school and the legal profession. History majors also possess the writing skills required for many positions. In addition to working as a lawyer, history graduates may go on to become district attorneys, judges, or paralegals.
Writing and Editing
History majors spend a lot of time writing and editing. Most history classes require analytical and argumentative papers, where students must research primary and secondary sources in order to create an original paper. At the graduate level, history students also conduct extensive research to write longer papers, and graduate students often edit and critique each other's work.
This experience prepares history graduates for careers in writing and editing. History degree jobs may include content writing positions for businesses, journalistic writing for print or online publications, or editorial positions. History majors can boost their chances of gaining positions in writing and editing by working in their school's writing center, publishing articles while in school, or contributing to undergraduate or graduate scholarly journals. In addition to positions as a writer or editor, the common jobs for history majors in this sector include also proofreader, copywriter, and technical writer.
The business sector includes a variety of careers for history majors. History graduates may work in wholesale or retail trade, in customer-centered industries, or in information services and telecommunications. They may also work in administrative or support services. With so many different career paths, professionals can choose from many history degree jobs available in business.
Historians with strong quantitative analysis skills may pursue jobs as statisticians gathering information from data to make business decisions. They may also use their analytical skills to work as research analysts, mapping market trends or researching consumer choices and opinions. History graduates with strong communication skills may also pursue careers in human resources or work as executive assistants providing critical support to business managers.
Politics and Government
History majors also work in politics and government, holding positions as policy analysts, communications directors, or research analysts. Government positions at the local, state, and federal level draw on the research, writing, and communications skills gained while earning a history degree, and history graduates also pursue jobs in political campaigns.
Many history majors, particularly those with a focus in U.S. history, modern history, or global history, use their analytical skills to understand current events and problems facing governments. These history graduates may work in the State Department, putting their foreign language and analytical skills to work. They may work in embassies and consulates around the world, volunteer for the Peace Corps, or move into legislative affairs. The ability to analyze information, research trends, and understand historical context benefits professionals in politics and government.
The nonprofit sector includes tax-exempt organizations that serve a public interest. In fact, 10% of American workers work for a nonprofit organization, making it the third largest sector in the country. With 1.6 million registered nonprofits in the U.S., history majors can pursue nonprofit jobs after graduation. Nonprofits specialize in a variety of areas, including the arts, education, and advocacy. This sector also includes charities and religious organizations.
History graduates may use their research and analytical skills to gather valuable information for nonprofits as analysts. They may also use their communication skills to build relationships with donors to strengthen the nonprofit organization. History majors in this sector often work in a communications or public relations capacity, promoting the nonprofit organization's agenda. Nonprofit organizations also need employees with strong writing skills, which history graduates provide.
The communications field requires written and verbal communication skills, plus the ability to analyze information. History majors build strong communications skills during their degree, both from writing papers and debating during class discussions. They also learn how to craft persuasive arguments backed with evidence, a valuable skill in communications. Students who specialized in public history or oral history also build strong interviewing skills, which benefits professionals in the communication sector.
These skills help history graduates pursue careers in marketing and communication, including as a public relations director or a marketing director. In public relations, professionals must develop communications strategies based on research, skills which history majors can transfer from their education. Marketing directors craft campaigns to communicate with potential customers or clients. They collect and analyze data to develop marketing plans, which requires strong research and communication abilities.
Where Can I Work With a History Degree?
History graduates move into a variety of industries, which affects their job prospects and salary potential. Graduates who move into the business or legal field, for example, may command higher salaries than those in certain teaching positions. Location also influences jobs for history majors. History professionals need to research the factors shaping the job market to find the best career path.
Location plays an important role in job opportunities for history graduates. Certain areas may offer more job opportunities. For example, many historians work in higher education or in museums, which congregate in cities and offer fewer opportunities in rural areas. However, history majors who become teachers benefit from job openings in almost any area. Location also influences salary potential, with urban and higher cost of living areas offering higher salaries.
History majors can learn more about the relationship between location and professional opportunities in the following map.
Museums specialize in history, natural history, technology, and other areas. Museum employees design exhibits, guide visitors through the collections, and help the museum operate smoothly.
Average Salary: $38,783
- Public K-12 Education
Teachers at the K-12 level build fundamental skills like reading, critical-thinking, and analytical abilities. The jobs in a history major, such as leading presentations, help prepare graduates to teach social studies, government, or history.
Average Salary: $56,475
- College or University
Professors teach college students and conduct research, publishing within their speciality. They also mentor students and serve in administrative positions. At the college level, historians may hold tenure-track or adjunct positions.
Average Salary: $50,980
- Business Research, Analysis, and Advisory Services
History majors may use their analytical skills in the business field conducting research or analyzing data. They may also hold advisory positions, drawing on their ability to read and analyze information in a business capacity.
Average Salary: $70,264
- Advertising, Branding, and Sales Promotions
In marketing and sales, historians use their communication skills to help advertise and promote a company or product. History professionals drawn to written and verbal communication may thrive in this sector.
Average Salary: $57,710
- Law Firm
Many history majors go into the legal field, attending law school and taking jobs in law firms. As lawyers, history majors build on their ability to analyze information and craft persuasive arguments.
Average Salary: $64,618
How Do I Find a Job as a History Major?
History majors need to highlight their analytical, research, and writing skills. History majors also benefit from considering uncommon careers that draw on their skills. Because majoring in history prepares graduates for a variety of career paths, job seekers can draw on multiple professional development resources. History majors can find networking opportunities and job postings at the American Archivists career center, the National Council on Public History job board, and the Smithsonian Institute job and internship page.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), historians may work for state and local governments, the federal executive branch, and in research positions. Many fields promise growth potential, with the BLS projecting 14% growth for archivists and 15% growth for postsecondary teachers through 2026. Overall, may see 6% job growth through 2026, with candidates holding a master's or Ph.D. enjoying an advantage.
Professional Resources for History Majors
- American Historical Association: The most important professional organization for historians, the AHA provides a wealth of resources for history majors, graduate students, and professional historians — including professional development resources, publications, and awards, grants, and fellowships for history students. The AHA also offers teaching prizes for K-12 teachers.
- Careers for History Majors: Run by the American Historical Association, the careers page provides information on possible career paths for undergraduate history majors, covering the many jobs available for history majors. The page covers careers in education, communications, research, the legal field, and business. It includes a list of possible careers and links to additional information.
- AHA Career Center: The American Historical Association also runs a career center where employers can post history-related jobs. History majors can create a free account, browse job postings, and upload a resume. They can also create job alerts and access additional career resources through the page.
- Organization of American Historians: A professional organization for American historians, the OAH dates back to 1907. It offers internships, publications, and resources for professors and teachers of U.S. history. The OAH also provides an online career coach for careers in history, including job listings.
- Teaching Resources for Historians: History majors who go into education benefit from these teaching resources developed by the AHA. The resources include classroom materials designed for students of all ages that teachers can use in their courses.
- H-Net: An online resource for humanities and social sciences, H-Net connects visitors with over 100 listservs devoted to different topics and a career center geared toward academic positions. The networks, moderated by scholars, include multimedia materials, discussions, and educational resources.
- National Council on Public History: The NCPH provides resources for public historians, including professional development and career guidance. The organization's jobs page provides listings for positions at archives and libraries, museums and historical societies, and in historic preservation. For historians who want to work outside of academia, the jobs board lists numerous career opportunities.
- U.S. Department of State: History majors possess the research and analytical skills needed to pursue a career in the State Department as civil service officers or analysts. The State Department's career page provides information on jobs, including at consulates and embassies, student programs, and the Peace Corps.
- American Association of State and Local History: An association for professionals in history-related fields, AASLH provides resources for educators, museum employees, historical society workers, genealogists, and archivists. The site also includes a career center with job postings and a resume review service.
- American Alliance of Museums: History majors planning a career working in museums benefit from the resources at the AAM, including career management resources, a jobs board, and a salary information tool. The AAM also provides professional development resources and helps history majors network with museum professionals.