Careers in History

Though the liberal arts curriculum traditionally offers knowledge for knowledge’s sake, the study of history opens numerous opportunities in a wide range of career fields. History, as one of the cornerstones of a liberal arts education, provides its students with a greater ability to think rationally, make informed choices, identify and explain trends, and render their conclusions into well-constructed and articulate written work. Because of this training, academic institutions, government and non-governmental agencies, and, yes, even businesses actively seek out history majors as employees. A cursory glance at the Fortune 500’s academic backgrounds of the top CEO and businessmen shows that around half have liberal arts backgrounds, many of which are in history.


Examples of career tracks with a history degree:

Historian — They not only teach history in colleges and high schools, but also work for major corporations, public institutions, law firms, and large private non-profits.

Other academic fields — History undergraduates often find themselves in anthropology, sociology, political science, and other graduate fields.

Foreign service — Since the study of history encourages proficiency in a foreign language as well as the knowledge of particular areas, foreign service is a natural fit for the historian. Knowing the language, culture, and history of various regions allows one to make better decisions that further US interests, while respecting host country sensibilities.

The military — Know your enemy, know your allies. Understanding your enemies’ and allies’ motivations through the knowledge of their past and cultures gives the soldier the knowledge to make better decisions regarding tactics and strategies.

Business — The successful businesswoman identifies and takes advantage of trends over time, accurately analyzing information that leads to more profitable and sustainable decisions. Knowing trends lessens risk.

Medicine — Our department has placed two of our students in the last decade in top medical schools.

Criminal justice and investigation — One can more effectively utilize various databases and sources to determine what information is useful and useless. Source evaluation is one of the critical skills a history curriculum emphasizes.

Insurance — The research skills learned in a vigorous history program, such as the evaluation of appropriate, often disparate resources, allows the insurance adjustor to make sophisticated, logical, and fair cases and evaluations concerning claims and insuring decisions.

Law school — Historians make up a significant number of students in law schools and successful lawyers.

Library science, information technology and archiving — A historian’s use and mastery of these resources makes that person a natural candidate for pursuing such endeavors after graduation.

  • Historic preservation
  • Museum curator
  • Teacher
  • Government bureaucrat — Historians are hired in various government positions, including the Treasury, State Department, Justice, Energy, and even NASA (Ashbrook was once an employee of NASA!).
  • Journalism
  • Creative Writing — One of the most popular novel genres is historical fiction and many creative writers use history in their essays and monographs.
  • Politics — but why would you want to waste such a good education?