Using Your History Degree in the Real World

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Get Ready to Market Your Historian Skills

Find out which skill sets you develop as a history student are valuable in the broader job market.

Job Boards for History Graduates

Get a jump on your job search with these online resources.

Because history is lodged in the past, people commonly hold the misconception that graduates of history programs are irrelevant in the modern job market. The career paths it offers are not as clearly defined as other programs, like business, where graduates generally have a good picture of the type of work they will be doing upon graduation. To make the most of your history degree, you need to assess how far you are willing to delve into academia and how you can market your skills to potential employers once your education is complete.

Understand the Challenges of Becoming a Historian

Before beginning your studies, you should know that the biggest factor that affects your employability in the field of history itself is the level of your education. Traditionally, a historian is someone who works to preserve and interpret the past for academic, government, or private research and educational institutions. If you want to be a historian in this manner, you need a master’s degree. Some positions even require a PhD. Go talk to historians before you make this choice to really understand if this is the path that you want to take.

Job competition to become a historian is high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that new job openings for historians will number about 700 in the decade from 2010 to 2020. The government agency expects there will be far more qualified candidates than jobs in the field. Therefore, students who have completed both undergraduate and graduate programs should be prepared to leverage other skills sets they’ve developed along with their degree to secure employment outside of this field.

Get Ready to Market Your Historian Skills

The abilities you have developed in your history program are applicable to many careers. Therefore, when you enter the job market, draw attention to your ability to:

  • Critically analyze and interpret information
  • Effectively communicate orally and in writing
  • Conduct research
  • Solve problems
  • Work independently to develop an idea, thesis and to analyze situations

As the American Historical Association notes, the skills that a history degree teaches are applicable to a wide variety of careers, including:

You’ll need a PhD to teach at the university level, but undergraduate history majors often enter careers in education as secondary teachers at the middle and high school levels. But the field of education has more to offer than just teaching jobs. You can also look into positions as curriculum designers, textbook consultants, and as public educators at museums and other arenas for public outreach.
Landmarks can’t speak for themselves; historic preservationists do the talking for them. These employees work at architectural firms, city planning offices, construction sites, and historic parks to preserve national historical resources. In this niche of history, you can expect to negotiate the value of culturally significant sites in real-world terms with government agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and engineering firms.
Filmmakers, novelists, and other creative storytellers often set their tales in historical backdrops. They employ historians to verify the accuracy of their work and to offer pertinent details about the way people lived day-to-day to help create a believable reality for their characters to inhabit.
Librarians, archivists, and information managers all draw upon skills critical to history students; most notably, the ability to discover, organize, and synthesize vast amounts of data.
A history degree can launch you into many communication-driven careers, including journalism, writing, publishing, and editing jobs. A grasp on history provides you with the context for current events as well as a reverence for fact-checking the true events of a story. Furthermore, the training in academic writing that history teaches will help you develop a way with words and a sharp editorial eye.

Apply for Jobs With These Resources

Once you have your degree in hand, start your quest for a great career in the history field with these sites.

Professional Association Job Boards

These job listings come from professional associations connected to history and related fields.

  • American Association for State and Local History: This public resource collects opportunities for professional historians and those in related professions, such as museum curators, from local historical societies, museums, and landmarks.
  • American Historical Association: The American Historical Association, a professional association open to all historians regardless of specialty, hosts this job resource. Registration or AHA membership is required to view these listings.
  • National Council on Public History: This is a free public job-listing service from the NCPH, who examine all submitted postings for relevance to those pursuing careers in public history.
  • PreserveNet: Focused on the crossroads between architecture and history, this site hosts a wide range of jobs if you are interested in working to preserve historically important buildings.
  • Society for Historical Archaeology: SHA collects and posts jobs relating to important historical and archaeological sites as well as internships and other professional opportunities.
  • Society of American Archivists: This career page focuses on archives specialists and allows you to post your resume for employers to browse directly, as well as automatically monitor their listings for new positions.
  • National Association for the Social Studies: This professional group focuses on teaching civic values along with historical knowledge, and provides a free-to-register job-searching tool for people searching for positions in the field.

Non-Professional History Job Boards

These listings are maintained by independent groups or individuals and aren’t affiliated with any institution or group.

  • This site includes job tips and postings as well as other opportunities, such as fieldwork schools, internships and fellowships, and upcoming conferences.
  • ShovelBums: This informal site and mailing list focuses on archaeological and historical field-work and historical preservation opportunities, including many international positions.
  • eCultural Resources: This clearinghouse for the “cultural resource management industry’ includes blog articles alongside job opportunities for historians, preservation specialists, archaeologists and more.

Educational Institution Job Boards

These listings focus on the academic and teaching aspects of the historical profession, ranging from elementary social studies to tenure-track professorial posts.

  • H-Net: Part of an educational project at Michigan State University, this job resource focuses strongly on academic positions, including those on the tenure track, along with many educational resources.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education: The CHE is a clearinghouse higher education jobs in the United States, including many administrative and leadership positions as well as faculty and research opportunities.
  • K-12 Job Spot: This free and public site advertises nationwide openings in K-12 education, with several different specialized categories including social studies.
  • School Spring: Another nationwide resource for teaching jobs throughout the country, including social studies and history jobs open at private, public, and charter schools.

National, State and Local Governments

Government agencies often have a strong demand for historical skills and knowledge, and these are some guides to start searching for public service jobs.

  • A repository for state-level openings in the public sector, this site can require some searching but has nationwide opportunities for history majors.
  • Smithsonian Institution Office of Human Resources: The renowned institution in Washington D.C. posts their openings for work throughout the system of museums and archives throughout the Capitol area.
  • USA Jobs: This central site for the Federal government’s Office of Personnel Management have openings in dozens of fields and agencies throughout the Federal government, with a strong focus in Washington.