History Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary

History Careers: 2022 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

More than a million individuals call themselves historians (Data USA, n.d.). They lead us back into our collective memories to better comprehend the here and now. Therefore, those who make a living researching and writing about the past serve an important function in today’s society. They help make sense of murky cultural practices and contemporary political problems.

History degree graduates can seek employment in industries like education, library management, and museum management. This wide range of opportunities is attractive to many, especially intellectuals. Aspiring historians will find this guide useful as it will discuss the job positions that they may land in the future. It will also inform them about the value of acquiring a degree and developing the skills necessary in the field of history.

History Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in history?
  2. History Career Outlook
  3. Required Skills for History
  4. How to Start Your Career in History
  5. How can I advance my career in history?
  6. Alternative Career Options for History

Why pursue a career in History?

1. History allows us to revisit our past and rewrite our narratives.

We gain the privilege to take back the pride and bring justice to cultures and communities that have been erased by then-writers of history. Stories that were only at the peripheries before are making it to the center stage. One great example of this is the trend to tell herstory. Pursuing a career in history means sorting through conflicting narratives, finding the truth, and sharing it with the world.

2. History allows us to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Today, with access to the internet and information and communication technologies, we can learn about the great thinkers of history and read their works. If you choose to pursue a career in history, you can contribute to growing this collection of books and other written texts in the digital world. In this way, you will also help in spreading historical consciousness among digital citizens.

3. History allows us to make predictions about the future.

Amidst crisis, history is guiding our assumptions about when and how the pandemic will end. At the same time, historians today are documenting the events to ensure that future generations will learn from our experiences today. There were certainly other times when humanity faced similar circumstances as their predecessors. When things like this happen, it’s best to consult historians on what to expect and what best to do.

4. History allows us to engage in normative discourse and give us a chance to become better humans.

The past is a treasure trove of stories that make us understand the concepts of justice, freedom, equality, and other value judgments. It allows us to reflect on our shared humanity. Becoming a historian means examining our collective successes and failures in the past and using collective memory to guide present and future actions.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

History Career Outlook

As of 2020, there are only 3,100 historians in the United States (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). By 2030, that number is projected to grow by 5% or to 3,300, with only 200 new open positions (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). However, history careers are not limited to the historian role. In fact, the skills and knowledge of history graduates will come useful in a number of occupations, some of which will increase by 19% or more than twice as fast as the average rate of all occupations.

History degree jobs salary is quite competitive at $89,357 per year, on average (Data USA, n.d.). The federal executive branch, which has the highest level of employment and the highest compensation rate for historians offers them an average of $103,590 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).

RoleSalaryDemand
Library Technicians$31,840
0%
Tour and Travel Guides
$32,200
5%
Legal Secretaries
$40,990
12%
Museum Technicians and Conservators
$45,710
19%
Museum Curators
$56,990
19%
High School Teachers in History
$62,870
8%
Archaeologists
$66,130
7%
Writers and Authors
$67,120
9%
Historical Consultants
$76,150
5%
Chief Academic Officers$97,500
8%
Records and Information Managers
$98,890
9%
Political Scientists
$125,350
9%

Required Skills for History Careers

Much like other professionals, historians need to develop 21st-century skills to meet the demands of the job market in the fourth industrial revolution. They need a combination of technical and soft skills to be qualified for the positions in their field.

Essential Skills for History Careers

  • Data Collection and Analysis. Historians must be acquainted with database management systems and search engines that can facilitate more efficient data collection. They must also know how to interpret quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Foreign Language. Knowledge of languages other than English might help history scholars to source materials for their research papers. Fluency in historical languages, such as Greek and Latin is also an invaluable asset in this field.
  • Academic Writing. Historians must be able to respond to the texts they are reading through written forms, such as journal articles or books. This skill will be very useful in advancing one’s career and gaining recognition in the field of history.

General Skills for History Careers

  • Administrative. Entry-level jobs in history field would require professionals to know how to perform basic clerical duties. These include filing and managing documents, organizing schedules, setting appointments, responding to e-mails, and attending to phone calls, to name a few.
  • Reading Comprehension. History majors will need to know how to read at the analytical and syntopical levels. They need to learn how to handle heavy and dense materials. They must also be able to absorb these materials and make comparative analyses of texts.
  • Communication. This skill is particularly important to those who are interested in research work. Historians will be able to use this when gathering information and conducting interviews. They will also need it when presenting their research findings to fellow scholars or to the public.

History Careers Image 1

How to Start Your Career in History

An undergraduate degree is a good starting point for those who want to pursue history careers. The common jobs for history majors with an associate degree are administrative and technician roles. Meanwhile, those who have completed a bachelor’s degree have wider options in terms of role functions. They also have higher potential wages.

What can I do with an Associate’s Degree in History?

Library Technicians

Library technicians keep track of book loans, organize library materials, and systematize databases. They help library visitors locate books and access services. They also attend to phone calls and other clerical duties in the library.

For someone with a degree in history, staying in the library all day must be a dream come true. That is the place where all of the past come together and tell a story. And the good news is, you need only study for two years to get there.

Median Annual Salary: $31,840

Tour and Travel Guides

Someone with an associate degree in history can make tours not only organized but meaningful for tourists. They are particularly a perfect match for historical sites and museums. Other than knowledge of the places included in the tours, travel guides must have professionalism, communication, and interpersonal skills.

Median Annual Wage: $32,200

Legal Secretaries

Legal secretaries help lawyers with administrative and clerical tasks. These include organizing schedules, setting appointments, preparing legal documents, and helping with legal research. An associate degree in History is particularly helpful in performing the last two tasks on the list.

Median Annual Salary: $40,990

What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree in History?

Museum Technicians and Conservators

Museum technicians and conservators handle collections from restoration to exhibition to maintenance. They know how to identify, document, and preserve various artifacts. Graduates who majored in art history are preferred for this position.

Median Annual Salary: $45,710

Museum Curators

Museum curators conceptualize and materialize an exhibition. Their work requires research skills, creativity, knowledge of art history, organization, and attention to detail. One emerging trend in this particular field is the digitalization of collections and installations.

Median Annual Salary: $56,990

High School Teachers in History

High school teachers in history create lesson plans that align with the curriculum, deliver lectures or facilitate classes, and assess students’ understanding of the lesson using tests and examinations. The majority (82%) of high school teachers work in local elementary and secondary schools while the remaining 14% are employed by private schools (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). Prior to practicing the profession, they need to pass the licensure or certification exam required by their state as detailed at TEACH.org.

Median Annual Salary: $62,870

Can you get a History job with just a certificate?

Unfortunately, pursuing a career in history with only a certificate might be difficult. You will be at a disadvantage in the job market because more than 9 in 10 historians have at least an associate degree (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

How can I advance my career in History?

Professionals in the field of history are encouraged to pursue a master’s degree or a doctorate degree to facilitate their career advancement. That’s because a master’s degree is now considered as the new bachelor. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Youth Studies titled “Preparing for Successful Transitions between Education and Employment in the Twenty-First Century,” Jennny Chesters (2020) notes that “In the less competitive labour market of the twentieth century, the completion of a bachelor degree facilitated entry into professional occupations. However, competition for graduate entry positions intensified in the first two decades of the twenty-first century and graduates are now encouraged to undertake Masters’ level degrees for entry into many professions.”

What can I do with a Master’s in History?

Archaeologists

Archeologists specialize in collecting and interpreting data from past cultures. They study artifacts and remains in historical sites. A history major will surely help prepare an individual for this career position. It will equip them with the tools necessary to understand the historical implications of their research findings.

Median Annual Salary: $66,130

Writers and Authors

History graduates can become textbook writers, historical fiction writers, or biographers, among many things. They can document historical events or write about the past and give readers factual historical data. They can also lend their expertise to those working on documentaries, period films, and other types of media.

Median Annual Salary: $67,120

Historical Consultants

Historians may work independently as consultants and offer their wide array of knowledge to individuals and organizations needing some investigation or research about historical topics, including personal histories, genealogy, and legal background checks. In May 2018, there were only 100 historians offering consultancy services in the United States.

Median Annual Salary: $76,150

What kind of job can I get with a Doctorate in History?

Chief Academic Officers

Chief academic officers are responsible for overseeing all education concerns of students and faculties. They also direct and/or supervise the research and academic projects of the department. Someone with a history major may see this as a great opportunity to make contributions to their field, either directly or indirectly.

Median Annual Salary: $97,500

Records and Information Managers

Records and information managers handle all documents of an organization and implement related rules among employees. History majors can perform well in this job because they will be able to determine the historical value and accuracy of an organizations’ documents. Additionally, they may also work with those in the library science and archiving industry.

Median Annual Salary: $98,890

Political Scientists

Political scientists study existing political theories and develop new ones. They also examine and design government policies and laws. A history degree is a good foundation for those who want to pursue this career as it allows individuals to recognize historical patterns and make accurate forecasts of political trends.

Median Annual Salary: $125,350

Which certification is best for History?

The best certification for you would depend largely on your career goals. For instance, if you want to become an archivist, The Academy of Certified Archivists offers a certification program for that position. If you are aiming for a management or leadership position, it might be a good idea to get certifications related to project management and business such as the ones offered by the Project Management Institute and International Institute of Business Analysis.

History Careers Image 2

Alternative History Career Options

Even if you are not a history graduate, you can still pursue a career in history. Detailed below are some positions that you may consider.

What other History Careers can you pursue?

Historic Buildings Inspector

Historic building inspectors help in the conservation efforts of historic structures. They conduct site appraisals, write reports on the status of buildings, and give counsel on projects related to historic site care and preservation. They also enforce the rules and regulations that apply to building construction, use, and maintenance.

Median Annual Salary: $62,860

Academic Researcher

Academic researchers formulate research questions, write research proposals, and apply the scientific method in the conduct of their studies. Typically, they specialize in one area of research and seek funding from institutions within that area. They are responsible for creating budget plans and schedules and accomplishing drafts within the timeframe set by the grant holder. They may also focus on specializations like art history, Egyptology, and more.

Median Annual Salary: $64,100

History Careers Image 3

Wielding the Power of History

In the age of information, it is very easy to be consumed by trivialities and to think of different aspects of history only at the surface level. But learning about the past should be a transformative experience. If we allow it, history could empower us by teaching us something about ourselves that we would otherwise not know without having encountered our past. More than anything in this time, perhaps history has the greatest power to allow us to ruminate about what really matters, how our collective actions brought us where we are and how we can go from here. As such, history careers are necessary now more than ever. The only question now is whether it is the right path for you.

Choosing to pursue history as a profession requires one to have an eye for detail and a passion for learning the past and educating others on their findings. Higher education has an important role to play in spreading historical thinking and consciousness. There are many college degrees that you can choose to pursue, but perhaps there is none as deep as what history can offer.

 

References:

  1. Chesters, J. (2020). Preparing for Successful Transitions between Education and Employment in the Twenty-First Century. Journal of Applied Youth Studies. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s43151-020-00002-8 
  2. Data USA (n.d.). History. Retrieved from https://datausa.io/profile/cip/history
  3. O*NET Online (n.d.). Historians. Retrieved from https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3093.00
  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021). Occupational Employment and Wages. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/oes/
  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021). Occupational Handbook Outlook. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/

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