A common misconception among people outside the field of history is that a degree in this discipline is only useful if you want to be a history teacher. What if you love the study of past people, cultures and events, but you don’t want your professional life to revolve around the classroom? Teaching may be the most well-known path for history experts, but it’s far from the only option to pursue. You might find that your master’s in history degree puts you on the path to a career in public history, journalism and creative media, business or law and politics.
Public History Career Opportunities
There’s an important distinction between teaching and education. Teachers educate students primarily in the classroom, but it’s also possible to work in a job role in which you educate people of all ages in the lessons we can learn by studying the past. Non-teacher roles that involve sharing your historical knowledge fit into the field known as public history or applied history.
Public history encompasses all of the ways people apply historical knowledge to practical, real-life situations in the public sphere, according to the National Council on Public History. In particular, public history career opportunities include jobs relating to museum curation and archives management, cultural resource management and historical preservation and interpretation. Although these careers may sound similar, there are important nuances in the focus and job duties they entail. For example, while archivists tend to work primarily in preserving and maintaining documents and records, while curators are involved in the acquisition, management and care of a wider variety of exhibits and collections, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Public historians may work for the government or for nonprofit or commercial organizations that focus on history. They might also work for themselves or independent historical consulting firms. Consulting historians may work on all kinds of projects, including those pertaining to land use and preservation and other areas of public history, according to the American Historical Association. Even roles like policy adviser and community activist can sometimes fall under the broad umbrella of public history career opportunities.
All told, more than half of all historians work for the government. The federal government employs 22 percent of the field, while local governments hire 19 percent of historians and state governments employ 15 percent of this workforce, the BLS reported.
Job Roles in Journalism and Creative Media
History continues to influence current communication, including stories of both the fictional and non-fictional varieties. As such, having a background in history can help you work in fields like journalism, writing and film.
On the journalism side, having studied history can give you context when writing about longstanding issues like racism and sexism. Graduate students of history also develop strong skills in conducting research, interpreting information and developing arguments based on evidence, all of which are valuable when you report on news in a journalistic capacity. You might also use these skills when writing non-fiction books such as biographies or writing the screenplay for historical documentaries.
Film and media producers also rely on professionals with historical knowledge when they are producing a story of historical fiction. Your history degree may qualify you for job roles that include researching the factual and technical details that will appear in works of historical fiction, whether the story is told in the form of a film, television show or series, podcast or radio show or book. In such a role, you might be called upon to advise directors, producers and costume designers on the historical aspects of how a scene or a character’s wardrobe should look to achieve a degree of historical accuracy.
Studying history entails a lot of reading and a lot of writing, which results in the student improving their writing and communication skills.
Business Careers That Emphasize Historical Knowledge
You might not think there would be much space on the corporate ladder for workers who are more interested in historical events than sales quotas and the ups and downs of the stock market. However, history students who have spent years learning how to research information are excellent candidates for research and analysis roles in the fields of business and finance, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Business analyst and similar roles, such as management analyst, are popular choices for history students who pursue a business career. Management and business analysts identify ways to improve an organization’s operations, which they come up with through research and critical thinking. Having some knowledge of historical events and their impacts on cultures and societies is valuable for management and business analysts, according to O*NET.
Entrepreneurs often have a background in history. Even if their companies do not relate directly to the study of history, the skills they develop in their studies – such as research, argumentation and communication – help them start and run a business.
Opportunities in Law and Politics
Two important fields in which a knowledge of history is an asset are law and politics. Understanding the development of laws and court decisions can help attorneys, paralegals and others working in the legal industry better make professional decisions about legal matters, including how to proceed with a legal case.
In politics, it’s important to know the history of legislative development and the historical impact of legislation. Seeing how laws have evolved and how legal changes have affected individual behavior, the economy and technological innovation can help lawmakers address problems effectively and avoid unintended consequences of the laws they write.
Not everyone with an interest in politics wants to be in the limelight as a politician. With a history background, you might also work as a political scientist, studying and interpreting political trends over time or advising politicians on relevant historical matters.