Career Paths for Graduates with a History Degree

If you’re wondering what you can do with a history major, there are many possible career paths that offer a growing number of job opportunities.

When you have an educational background in history, you’ve got plenty of exciting options. The wide variety of potential jobs for history majors means you can choose a career in an array of fields to showcase your skills and your understanding of how past events influence the modern world.

A historian shows a group of children a display during a tour of a museum.

Research ability, communication skills, and critical thinking are all sought-after assets that a history degree may provide, and each is applicable to a number of industries and fields. Your history degree can prepare you to build a career as a government historian, museum curator, journalist, archivist, records manager, or teacher, just to name a few potential options.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates that many of these career paths will experience growth in the future. For example, the need for post-secondary teachers is expected to grow by 15%, and many museum-related positions are expected to grow by 14% between 2016 and 2026.

What industries are hiring graduates with history degrees?

A number of industries seek to employ graduates with bachelor’s degrees in history, both due to their specialized knowledge and their critical thinking and communication skills. These industries include:

  • Education and museums
  • Journalism
  • Politics
  • Law
  • Government
  • Research
  • Marketing
  • Public relations
  • Business

What are some popular history major jobs?

History majors’ job options span a wide range of sectors, including at nonprofit organizations, corporations, and in state, local, or federal government.

Because of the breadth of skills developed when earning a history degree — including analyzing information, understanding the context of civil and social affairs, conducting thorough research, and communicating effectively — graduates can adapt to the needs of many different jobs.

History majors may deal with broad topics or explore specific subjects within their area of interest. The nature of a graduate’s specific career path will determine how much additional training is necessary.

Government Historian

While many government historian jobs require a master’s degree or a Ph.D., entry-level positions do exist if you have a bachelor’s. These positions often include more varied responsibilities and a broader look at historical topics.

Government historians are needed at all levels, including state, local, and federal. Duties include gathering and interpreting historical data, educating the public, research, and more. Often, historians provide additional context behind programming or exhibits at museums or within both formal and informal educational programming.

Growth and Salary

The salary range for historians varies widely depending on factors like subject, location, and experience, with a median wage of $52,350. According to the BLS, 6% job growth is expected between 2016 and 2026, and many of these jobs are highly sought-after.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Research and analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Foreign language skills

Museum Curator

Although many museum curators hold advanced degrees and have a wealth of professional experience, small museums may seek curators who hold a degree like a bachelor’s in history. Curator responsibilities include organizing and planning exhibitions, as well as procuring historical artifacts.

This job often requires a niche understanding of a specific area of history and is well-suited to those who pursue specialization in their history studies.

The Art Career Project — an online resource for job seekers who hope to secure a position in the arts — cites expertise in areas like restoration, education, and fundraising as critical skills required of museum curators.

Growth and Salary

According to the BLS, the need for museum curators is projected to grow 14% between 2016 and 2026, well above the national average for all occupations. With a median salary of $54,000, this presents an exciting opportunity for those who hold a history degree.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Organization
  • Computers and technology
  • Specific subject-area knowledge
  • Leadership

Journalist

With a duty to report on current events, journalists require a number of skills learned through a history degree. Perhaps most importantly, history majors are able to put events into context based on the past — a critical skill for journalists and reporters in areas like government, politics, foreign affairs, and other specialized subjects.

As a journalist, you are responsible for conveying information to the public through a variety of outlets, including articles, videos, and social media. Journalism jobs can follow different paths, including broadcast news analysis, correspondence, and reporting.

Growth and Salary

The pay range for journalists varies widely based on factors like the specific career path, location, and experience. Reporters earn a median salary of $39,000, whereas broadcast news analysts earn a median salary of $63,000.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Computers and technology
  • Problem-solving
  • Attention to detail
  • Critical thinking

Archivist

Strong organizational skills allow archivists to preserve and maintain historical records and artifacts. Through proper archival practices, including electronic and physical record-keeping, tangible evidence of past events remains available for researchers, curators, educators, and the public.

This position ensures the protection of materials that could be critical to future research and academic understanding. In addition, many archivist positions include an element of public outreach and education, and many people in this role are seeking to leverage technology to digitize their archives.

Growth and Salary

Archivist positions are expected to grow by 13% between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS. The median salary for archivist jobs is approximately $52,000 per year. Many archivists find work in government agencies, corporations, and museums.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Organization
  • Computers and technology
  • Preserving historical objects
  • Technology

Records Manager

Those in records management positions are responsible for maintaining their employer’s organizational archives. This can include gathering and creating new records, organizing past documents, and digitizing materials for easier access.

In addition, a records manager may be asked to use the information in past records to make recommendations for the future. As such, records managers should be skilled interpreters and communicators, as well as organized and detail-oriented.

Growth and Salary

According to data compiled by PayScale.com, records managers earn an average salary of about $59,000 per year, commensurate with experience. The most experienced professionals in this position can expect to earn around $92,000 annually. The BLS anticipates a 10% job growth rate from 2016 to 2026 for records managers, which falls under the category of administrative services managers.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Computers and technology
  • Research and analysis
  • Organization

Teacher

Within the field of education, there is an increasing number of jobs for history majors. History teachers are expected to be subject-area experts and to inspire their students to learn a variety of skills and knowledge sets.

Educators’ responsibilities include preparing and delivering lesson plans, organizing field trips, differentiating curriculum based on student learning needs, and more. History teachers primarily find work in public, private, and charter schools. Common courses include U.S. history, European history, world history, or other specific areas.

For student’s aspiring to become a teacher, further licensure beyond majoring in history will be required. Qualifications vary by state, but certification or an advanced degree may be necessary in order to teach at some levels.

Growth and Salary

The BLS anticipates higher-than-average growth in secondary education between 2016 and 2026. With 10% overall growth, a significant number of those positions will likely go to history majors. In addition, the median salary for post-secondary history teachers is $59,170.

Skills recommended to succeed:

  • Critical thinking
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Flexibility and resourcefulness
  • Computers and technology
  • Creativity

Explore what you can do with a history major.

The list of potential jobs for history majors is deep and diverse. At Maryville University, we offer an online bachelor’s degree in history designed to help you sharpen your critical thinking and analytical skills while gaining other abilities that many employers value.

Learn more about our online Bachelor of Arts in History program and explore your potential career options today.