What Can You Do with a History Degree?

With the job market favoring STEM majors, liberal arts and humanities majors have turned into the “most useless college degrees.” But, I would argue that the skills developed from any degree could be of use in various jobs.

After taking a couple of history courses here at UCSB, I learned to construct well-developed arguments backed by evidence, to engage in critical reading and analysis of the facts, and to acknowledge competing perspectives from those of my own. I ultimately decided to declare history as one of my majors and could not have been more pleased with the decision.

For all my fellow history majors, here are just a few career paths that could use your skills.

 

  1. 1. Law 

    Many history majors, including myself, have found that the skills we developed throughout our history courses can assist us in preparation for law school and a legal career. Most of the time, they usually assign textbooks that provide us with primary sources detailing an event from two different perspectives alongside another that provides its historical context. After reading the sources, we are asked to write a well-written paper with a clearly defined argument based on their findings. Just like us historians, lawyers must look at two sides of a story, critically analyze the evidence, and communicate their findings as a well-developed argument. Similarly, lawyers also use past decisions as precedent for their arguments.

  2. 2. Business 

    This one may be less obvious, but history majors could be incredibly valuable in the financial and corporate sector. Often, those with a history degree work closely with economists and entrepreneurs to assess economic trends throughout history. Based on previous economic downturns and other financial crises, these individuals could advise bankers and speculators before they make any decisions. Just like those Supreme Court justices, they use the past to make decisions that would affect the future. Additionally, since history majors develop persuasive writing skills, this would also give them an edge in a career in marketing and other business communications.

  3. 3. Education and Academia 

    Often, history majors become so fascinated with a particular concentration or topic in history that they eventually decide to do research. While some pursue graduate degrees to further immerse themselves in historical research, others may decide to also teach students at primary and secondary schools or universities. In primary and secondary schools, they might have less freedom to speak about their research to their students and will have to follow a clear curriculum. However, the work can be incredibly rewarding and fun! They are typically tasked with articulating significant historical events in a creative and engaging way that can be understood by students, depending on their age.

    I can still remember how my sixth-grade history teacher taught the three competing belief systems of ancient China by demonstrating how classrooms would be conducted according to those philosophies. On the day she taught us the Legalism philosophy, she organized the classroom into neat rows and yelled with a booming voice for us to sit in our seats. She later pulled out a ruler and slammed it on her desk as a sign for us to be quiet. To this day, I still recall that unique method of teaching us the tenets of these ancient Chinese belief systems and have even used it to help me best understand the Legalist texts that I am now reading in my upper division courses.  

  4. 4. Museum Archives and Curation

    The textbooks that our professors give us to read for the quarter are often a compilation of primary sources that were translated or transcribed to fit in the pages of a sourcebook. The real sources come from the parchment pages of a diary written in the late 1800s or from a scroll whose text comes from woodblock printing. These original sources are preserved in glass display cases in museums all over the world for visitors to see. When a person looks at the original Declaration of Independence, they look at the symbol for a huge turning point in the history of the United States. As these artifacts and sources are of great importance in shaping our modern society, they need passionate historians who understand their value and can explain to museum visitors and other individuals in the field of their significance.