Is studying history a thing of the past?
If the latest data is any indication, fewer students are choosing History as a major than ever before.
The good news is that there are still plenty of jobs available, even if finding the right one feels like looking for a needle in a haystack.
But it’s out there— I promise. Here are five of the best career paths for History majors to explore.
Teaching is an excellent opportunity if you’re passionate about History.
Let’s admit it— not everyone is. If you survived a four-year degree and still get jazzed up over Roman emperors and medieval knights, then this could be the career for you.
As a teacher, you’ll need a good understanding of all different types of History (social, political, economic) as well as historiography. High school curricula can be quite broad, so if you’re planning on teaching this age range, be sure you’re up to the task.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure your students are just enthusiastic about History as you are. This will require excellent communication skills, patience, and understanding.
How easy is it to get a job as a History teacher?
If I’m being honest, the job prospects for teachers (at least in North America) are not always good.
In 2012, there were almost one million secondary school teachers employed in the US. It seems like a lot, but the employment rate is only supposed to grow around 6% over the next ten years. So most new teachers should be prepared to work contract positions before landing a permanent, full-time job.
As long as History is taught in schools, there will be a need for teachers. If you love working with kids and are willing to ride out the job market’s ups and downs, you’ll likely be satisfied working in education.
Sample Job Titles: Kindergarten Teacher, Elementary School Teacher, Secondary School Teacher, Substitute Teacher
Extra training required? Yes. You’ll need need a Teaching License from a certified post-secondary school. This usually takes 1-2 years to complete, depending on which country you live in.
Law is another “traditional” career path for History majors. While it’s not as lucrative as it once was (due to the sheer amount of competition), it’s still an option for headstrong graduates.
For a career in law, you’ll need excellent reasoning skills and the ability to be persuasive. Were you the type of History student who always looked forward to class debates? If so, then a job as a lawyer may be for you.
Written communication skills are also paramount, since you’ll be required draft legal documents, like contracts. A lawyer’s words are often legally binding, so it’s essential that your writing is clear and concise.
Of course, in order to practice as a lawyer you’ll need to get extra training. For some History majors, that just isn’t in the budget. Like grad school, law school is a multi-year commitment so you should make sure it’s actually what you want to do before you enroll.
With that said, you don’t need to shy away from law if it’s something you’re interested in. In fact, there are plenty of law-related jobs that don’t require an extra degree.
Sample Job Titles: Lawyer, Legal Analyst, Law Clerk, Legal Assistant, Paralegal
Extra training required? Yes. You’ll need to write an LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and then attend law school, which typically takes around three years to complete.
3) Writing and Editing
It’s no surprise that most History grads are also excellent writers. After all, they spent the better part of their degrees writing essays.
As a History major, you know how important spelling and grammar are to good communication. You’re also an old-hat at presenting written arguments in a way that keeps your reader’s attention.
Of course, there’s more to becoming a professional writer than just having the skills. You’ll need to build a strong portfolio of work you’ve done for clients other than your professor.
A good way to kickstart your writing career is to set up a professional website. Here, you can post writing clips (as you collect them) and start a blog. Guest posting on other sites can help you make connections with other writers and boost your credentials.
Doing the freelance thing works for many History majors (including yours truly), but if you’re looking for bigger fish to fry, you can try applying for entry level writing jobs. Finding an internship with a magazine or publisher is one of the best places to start if you’re a total newbie.
Sample Job Titles: Copywriter, Communications Writer, Editor, Content Designer, Proposal Writer
Extra training required? No, but it’s recommended. Check out college courses in Copywriting, Technical Writing, or Professional Editing.
4) Research and Development
Are you comfortable working with numbers and stats?
Do you know how to understand the “big picture” and suggest ways to improve it?
If you answered yes to these questions, then a career in research and development might be a good fit.
As a researcher, your career options are diverse. I’ve known History majors who went on to work on the R & D team at think tanks, non-profits, as well as corporations. You don’t need to have a specific area of expertise, although culture and historical preservation are logical choices.
There’s even more good news. As a History major, you’ve probably honed many of the skills you need for this career, which include problem-solving and time management skills. You’ll also need excellent communication skills and the ability to reduce complex information down to its most essential parts.
A job in research and development is primarily a “desk job,” although there may be some field work or travel involved.
Sample Job Titles: Research Analyst, Research Assistant, Research and Development Technician, Data Analyst, Development Officer
Extra training required? It depends. See specific job descriptions for details.
5) Information Management
As a History major, you’ve spent dozens of hours studying in the library.
Why not turn that experience into a career?
Many History majors have found lucrative jobs in the information management industry as librarians or archivists.
This is a particularly good fit if you have a high attention to detail. As a librarian, for example, you’ll spend most of your days cataloging and classifying information. This could include books, journals, magazines, audio visual materials, or online resources.
Of course, librarians also need good “people skills” as they interact with members of the public on a daily basis. There’s also a teaching component to this job as you’ll be helping others do research and showing them how to use the library catalog.
An archivist’s job is similar, although your workplace may be more diverse. These days, you can find archivists almost everywhere, from museums to insurance companies.
A career as an archivist is a natural fit for History majors because it is all about preserving the past. You’ll draw upon the analytical and organizational skills you learned in college to help organize and interpret different types of data.
Sample Job Titles: Librarian, Library Associate, Archivist, Archives Researcher, Information Analyst. See this list for more common job titles in the information management industry.
Extra training required? It depends. You may be able to score a job based on previous experience (say, working in the library as an undergrad), but many positions require a Master’s degree in Library Science. For general Information Management positions, having a college certificate in a field like Records Management is usually a plus.
Be patient and kind to yourself
Like Rome, a productive career needs a good foundation. If you’re struggling to find the right job, don’t let the fear of failure overwhelm you.
Make a list of all the practical skills you learned from your degree (and trust me, there are plenty!). With a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be more likely to find a satisfying career that suits your unique interests.