Over one million people are working in the field of history (Data USA, n.d.). They guide us down our collective memory lanes and help us understand the present. This is why professionals pursuing history careers play a crucial role in modern society. They make sense of complex traditions and cultures as well as shed light on the sociopolitical issues we face today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
|Tour and Travel Guides||$32,200||5%|
|Museum Technicians and Conservators||$45,710||19%|
|High School Teachers in History||$62,870||8%|
|Writers and Authors||$67,120||9%|
|Chief Academic Officers||$97,500||8%|
|Records and Information Managers||$98,890||9%|
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.
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.
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
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 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
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 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 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
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
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.”
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
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
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
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 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.
Median Annual Salary: $98,890
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
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.
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.
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 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.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100
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.