What kind of jobs can a History major really look into?

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Natasha from the College of Saint Elizabeth asked the following question:

I graduated in December of 2011. I majored in History with a minor in Political Science, and I did take some business classes as well. Everyone has been asking me what I am going to do with a History degree. My answers have ranged from “I don’t know” to “Why didn’t I go into teaching?”

I just read your What Should I Major In?  post, and History is the subject that interests me most. My question is “What kind of jobs can a History major really look into?”

Hi Natasha,

There are a few things you have to consider in answering this question.

First – How important is your level of compensation?

How much do you need to make to make ends meet given your current lifestyle?  To what lifestyle to you aspire? These are really important questions, because they will drive the kinds of opportunities you should consider.

You mentioned teaching as being an option you might have considered.  Teaching is a great profession, but no one ever got rich by being a school teacher.  Being a teacher can be very personally and professionally rewarding; it’s just never going to be very financially rewarding.

As you consider potential jobs and career paths, you must factor in compensation.  I often say that you’re not going to live in a big house, drive a fancy car and vacation in the mountains and at the beach on a regular basis   as a teacher, unless you marry well, have a trust fund or win the lottery!

Money is important to everyone.  The question you have to answer is how important is it to you at this point in your career?

Second – Location, Location, Location

 Do you want to/need to find  job where you currently live?  Are you willing to relocate, and if so, where are you willing to go?  There is nothing wrong with not wanting to move, but placing geographic restrictions on your job search may impact the type and variety of jobs and careers are able to consider.

Third – Do you “work to live” or “live to work”?

To what extend does your job need to hold meaning  for you; that is, to what extent must it relate to your personal passions and interests.  For some folks, a job is a means to an end – it’s a paycheck that allows them to do what they love outside of work. These folks “work to live.” Others do what they love in their jobs.  They get paid to do the things that interest them most.  They “live to work.”  This is not an all or nothing proposal, but you do have to be honest with yourself in answering this question, because your answer will dictate the types of jobs you pursue.

Fourth – What is your ideal workplace?

In what types of work environments do you thrive?  Corporate office settings? Government office settings?  Educational environments?  Indoors or outdoors?  Formal or casual? Large or small?  Entrepreneurial or more conservative?  Competitive or collaborative? etc.

Knowing the types of work environments that suit you (and those that do not) will help you assess potential job opportunities.

And finally – What types of careers do History majors often pursue?

This could be a very long list, because History majors work in all variety of jobs, industries and work settings.  They work in business, in government and in education. They work in the public sector and the private sector; in for-profit companies and for non-profit organizations. They are teachers, lawyers, administrators, public servants, researchers, curators, archivists, docents, claims adjusters, sales representatives, managers, fund raising professionals,  . . . the list goes on and on.

The American Historical Association has a Careers for History Majors page on its website.  It also has a page for Careers in Public History.  The resources on both of these pages are free, but they do references some sites that do require AHA membership or other fees; so surf carefully.

Also, check out the other History-related professional associations listed on our Professional Associations page.

Hope this helps!

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