What Can You Do With A Degree in History?

With an undergraduate degree in history, students may pursue a wide range of opportunities for future study and career work, including area studies, business, education, government, journalism, law, the military, non-profit organizations and foundations, political science and publishing, as well as continuing studies toward the goal of becoming a professional historian.

Recently, a number of Scranton history graduates have entered law schools at Georgetown, Villanova, Boston College, Harvard, Seton Hall, Notre Dame and Fordham. Other history graduates have accepted positions with ABC News, Fox News, IBM, Jesuit Volunteers International, the New York State Assembly, the U.S. Military, Merrill Lynch, American Express, U.S. Department of State, and various state agencies in Pennsylvania.

Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honor Society, has published a listing of career opportunities for History majors. They include:

Private Sector Opportunities

The private sector offers many opportunities for students with a history or liberal arts background. Listed are numerous, but by no means exhaustive, examples of the types of businesses and industries which rely on employees who can research, document, analyze, synthesize, and communicate effectively.

Marketing and Advertising: Researching market performance, determining trends for future decisions, analyzing historical marketing techniques and systems and advertising strategies.

Publishing: Copyediting, manuscript evaluation, researching market demands for historical publications and their uses (educational, personal, etc.)

Public Relations: Research and analysis of public trends, presentation of clients' activities based on historical interpretation, manage company archives, write historical material for organization’s promotional purposes.

Manufacturing: Analysis of markets, financial, economic, political risk over time, staff training in corporate history and foreign cultures through diversity and multiculturalism workshops, collect and document oral histories for organizational diagnosis, manage company archives and curate exhibits of archival materials and memorabilia.

Mineral Extraction Industries: Analyze political risk and key political figures with reference to economic implications for business; research claims and geographical and land use history, write for corporate communications and public relations, manage company archives and information retrieval services.

Other Industries: Research analysis studies, writing public relations and educational materials, archival and records management.

Utilities: Review local issues and concerns, policy and management studies, information services, historic analysis, manage archives.

Law: Research public and private archives and records collections, collect oral history for depositions, develop support material from historical evidence.

Banking: Produce historical financial, economic, and political risk analyses, manage archives, research policy issues, write and teach staff corporate history, curate and exhibit historical displays.

Insurance: Research and evaluate case histories, prepare studies of policy matters, perform legislative analysis, manage company archives.

Investment Services: Archival and records management, and research, and analysis for companies which specialize in the purchasing, issuing, and selling of corporate equity, such as brokerage firms and investment banking houses.

Communications: Research and write historical documentaries and narratives; analyze public trends over time, provide information and archival services to motion picture firms network and cable television companies, and record and tape industries.

Journalism: Searching and researching historical records, Interviewing with oral history techniques, writing and editing for newspapers, news, trade, and professional (scholarly) journals, historical and popular periodicals and magazines, textbooks, and books.

Public Sector Opportunities

The government is one of the largest employers of students with training and degrees in history and related fields.

Executive Branch: Cabinet-level departments: The Department of State, Department of the Interior, National Park Service, etc. Independent organizations within the federal government: National Endowment for the Humanities, Smithsonian Institution, etc. perform such duties as current issues studies, analysis of policy performance, long-range trends, etc., preservation and organization of institutional records, editing of Public records and documents.

Legislative Branch: Opportunities can be found within the historical offices of state legislatures, the Senate and the United States House of Representatives performing such duties as staff and committee investigations, publication of bibliographic material, service on study commissions, and research assistance where needed.

Judicial Branch: The United States Supreme Court Curator's Office and various historical offices, projects, and regulatory agencies. Records collection and preservation, policy analysis, research where needed, writing of reports and various office correspondence, etc.

Military Services: Manage the museums, and archival and records centers for the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard. Lecture on specific issues, prepare institutional histories, etc.

The Foreign Service: A test is required for entrance and placement analysis. Duties include such activities as research and writing on the diplomatic, economic, political, social and cultural history of various areas.

Civil Service: A test is required for entrance and placement analysis. Duties depend on the type of location placement is granted.
National Archives and Records Service: Archival, manuscript, and, records management; microfilming of collection items.

Other Opportunities: Employment in libraries, historic sites, museums, and community history education centers. Work in policy history, oral history, public administration, cultural resource management, genealogy and family history, public works, land-use management, urban history and development, demographic history, environmental history, archeological projects, and others.

Non-Profit Sector Opportunities

In addition to appointments within the United States government, the non-profit sector (organizations with 501(c)3 status) offers a wide array of professional positions in research, administration, education, and exhibition design. History majors in particular are well-suited for appointments within the following institutions: historical commissions, associations, and societies, scholarly and professional associations, galleries and museums, colleges and universities, research foundations and institutional "think tanks" and with service institutions (agencies, foundations, and other philanthropic organizations which provide educational, social, and cultural services to the public).

Opportunities in the Field of Education

If teaching history is what you would like to do, appointments can be found in public and private elementary and secondary schools, community colleges, small and large undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities. Other possibilities include district and state offices for curriculum and text preparation, state and federal departments of education, adult education centers, and in corporate, training programs.

Individual and Small Firm Opportunities

If you have the entrepreneurial spirit and wish to get involved with a small firm or start one of your own, several fields where a history major will surely come in handy are:

Consulting for Cultural Resource Management: Make contracts with developers, public agencies, business firms, and counseling services on preservation and cultural resource management policy, research and prepare cultural resource statements for environmental impact reports, identify and evaluate historic structures and other cultural resources, select structures for legal protection, prepare and teach preservation education programs.

Consulting for Cultural Resource Research/Writing: Prepare histories, etc., search and research public and private records, perform legal and policy research services, oral history interviewing and transcribing work in historical editing and indexing.

Genealogical Services: Search, research, and prepare reports on family and community histories.

Preservation/Restoration Services: Firms offering historic preservation/restoration services, rehabilitation of historically accurate buildings and artifacts, information services on the field, research on preservation law and tax benefits.

Writing: Author your own historical books, pamphlets, articles, and research papers or freelance, for various publication agencies.

Sources of Information

American Association for State and Local History
172 Second Avenue North, Suite 202
Nashville, Tennessee 37201

National Trust for Historic Preservation
740-748 Jackson Place, NW
Washington, D.C. 20006.

National Endowment for the Humanities
1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20506

American Historical Association
400 A Street, SE
Washington, D.C. 20003

Public History Resource Center


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