Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

What Can You Do with a History Degree?

5 minute read

What Do History Majors Do?

History is the study of events, societies, and cultures that have shaped the world. A history degree provides a strong foundation for careers in research, education, cultural preservation, and more, allowing a history graduate to contribute to understanding the past and its impact on the present and future. 

Being a history major equips individuals with critical thinking and analytical skills, wanted assets in many career opportunities. This liberal arts degree allows history students to thrive in graduate study, education, research, and public history. In this article, we will delve into the best jobs for history majors: 

  • Historian

  • Archivist

  • Museum Curator

  • Educator/Teacher

  • Researcher

  • Writer/Editor

  • Librarian

  • Cultural Resource Manager

  • Historical Consultant

  • Heritage Manager

  • Preservationist

  • Public Historian

  • Policy Analyst

  • Political Scientist 

  • Journalist

  • Government Analyst

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Let’s break down these many history career opportunities:

Education and Academic Exploration

Perhaps the most widely known career trajectory is history education and academia. Pursuing a history graduate program beyond the college major can lead to opportunities for original research and publication. Historians contribute to the academic discourse, unraveling untold stories and shedding light on overlooked historical events. Their work enriches our collective understanding of the past, providing valuable insights into the forces that have shaped societies across time.

Historians, as educators, also play a pivotal role in shaping the intellectual landscape of future generations. Teaching at the secondary or post-secondary level, history educators instill critical thinking skills, a deep understanding of historical contexts, and an appreciation for diverse perspectives.

Historical Preservation and Public History

For those passionate about preserving and sharing historical narratives, a history degree opens doors to careers in public history. Public historians engage with diverse audiences, curating exhibits, developing educational programs, and working in museums, archives, and historical sites. Their goal is to make history accessible, engaging, and relevant to the public. Archivists and curators, often with a history undergraduate program under their belt, play a crucial role in preserving and organizing historical documents, artifacts, and records. They ensure that our collective memory is safeguarded for future generations, contributing to the preservation of cultural heritage.

Research and Writing

A history degree equips individuals with research and analytical skills that extend beyond the classroom. Historical research is not confined to academic institutions; historians may work for research organizations, think tanks, or as freelance researchers. Through writing books about American history, articles about the social sciences, or contributing to historical documentaries, they share their findings with a broader audience, influencing public perceptions and contributing to ongoing conversations about our shared history.

Archival Work and Information Management

Archivists, armed with a history degree, serve as guardians of historical records. They work in archives, libraries, and government institutions, organizing and preserving documents, photographs, and artifacts. Archival work ensures that valuable historical resources are accessible to researchers and the public, contributing to the documentation of our shared human experience. 

In the digital age, the role of archivists extends to managing digital records and ensuring the preservation of electronic archives. This information manager work is crucial for maintaining the integrity of historical records in an era where information is increasingly stored in digital formats.

Historical Consulting and Heritage Management

Historians in this field advise on historical accuracy in various projects, including films, TV shows, and museum exhibits. They contribute their expertise to ensure that narratives accurately reflect historical contexts and events. Heritage managers work to preserve and promote cultural heritage sites, ensuring that historical landmarks are maintained and accessible to the public. Their efforts contribute not only to the preservation of physical structures but also to the storytelling that accompanies these sites.

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Policy Analysis and Advocacy

Those with a History BA may work for government agencies, non-profit organizations, or research institutions, applying their understanding of historical precedents to inform contemporary public policy and civil service issues. By analyzing historical patterns, historians contribute to the development of policies that address current societal challenges. Their expertise in understanding the long-term consequences of policies and decisions adds a historical lens to discussions surrounding social, economic, and political issues.

History projects completed by Polygence students

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How Can You Explore More Career Paths Before College?

Through Polygence, middle and high school students can work with research mentors to learn about the variety of avenues they can choose to take with a degree in History. For instance, meet Polygence mentor Ellis S. Her expertise lies in Iberian and Latin American literatures and cultures, contemporary activism and social movements, and humor studies. She wrote her thesis on Spanish humor in times of crisis (i.e: the Spanish Civil War and the 2008 financial crisis). Another excellent mentor is Desira P, who studies the intersection of fashion and history, or mentor Elizabeth M, who has taught various history courses at prestigious institutions like Columbia, MIT, and Stanford! 

If you’re not sure which area of specialization might be most interesting, you could try the Polygence Pathfinders career discovery program! This career services program is designed to help prospective students explore paths they are interested in, including history careers. Program participants meet 1-on-1 with three expert mentors to receive personalized advice and guidance.

Final Thoughts

As societies evolve, the role of historians becomes increasingly crucial. A liberal arts undergraduate program empowers history students to navigate the river of time, uncovering hidden stories, preserving cultural heritage, and contributing to a collective understanding of who we are and how we got here. Whether you aspire to be an educator, researcher, curator, or advocate for historical accuracy, a history degree illuminates diverse job paths in the expansive landscape of human history.