Besides preparing you to be a historian – one of the highest-paying social science jobs but also a relatively small occupation – earning a history degree can prepare you for a variety of other job roles. Although you aren’t learning the kind of highly technical skills found in science and engineering programs, majoring in this subject of study in the humanities will help you develop skills that have applications in many different professions. By the time you graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history, you should be proficient in researching, thinking critically, analyzing information and communicating thoughts and ideas.
Having a lot of information committed to memory can be valuable, but knowing where and how to find new information can be even more advantageous. After all, no one person can store in their mind every possible scrap of knowledge they could ever need on every single topic. Even if you could know all of this past information, you would fall behind on the developments that are ongoing. Strong research skills mean that you are adept at finding and making sense of the data – whether qualitative or quantitative – that you need.
The government entities, organizations and professional services companies that employ historians aren’t the only ones who appreciate candidates with an aptitude for research. The research skills used in the study of history are also sought-after by private-sector employers in fields like business and finance, according to U.S. News & World Report. With the research skills you polish while studying history, you might also be hired to work in a law firm, a marketing agency, or a newspaper or magazine publishing company.
Research skills emphasized in history degree programs are different from the hands-on experimentation found in physical sciences and other social sciences, but evaluating the quality of sources means that research in history should follow similarly high standards.
Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills
Law, medicine, business, finance, engineering, social work, education – just about every field has a need for candidates who can think critically to achieve better productivity or results. Although you need different areas of knowledge to assess legal arguments, patient symptoms, investment opportunities and product designs, the underlying skill of critical thinking that you need for each of these careers is a big part of a history degree program.
Closely related to your capacity for critical thinking are your analytical skills. Strong history students analyze each piece of historical information they read. They need to know not only its authenticity – in the sense of whether it truly dates back to the time it is believed to be from – but also its accuracy. A person writing during that time could have been giving an account of the event based on incomplete information, or giving a subjective account of their experience that may be very different from what people in other locations or socioeconomic classes experienced during the same event.
Students of history need to learn to think critically about the quality of sources, differences in perspectives of historical figures and the complex factors that caused or contributed to a historical event, so developing this skill is crucial for success in this role.
Communication and Debate Skills
The better you are able to express your ideas, the greater the likelihood of rising to a higher level, regardless of the job field in which you work. Students of history learn the skills to communicate their theories and the quality of the evidence that backs up those theories. They also learn how to construct intelligent historical argumentation based on sound evidence. Compelling, well-reasoned argumentation can be presented through speech or in writing, but either way, it expresses ideas in a manner that is sound and professional.
No matter what field you work in, you are sure to disagree with someone at some point in time. Being able to calmly and professionally express your viewpoint and the evidence that supports it is a crucial step to winning over the other party’s cooperation or, at least, their respect.
Good workers – and particularly, good managers – excel at communication. The communication skills you learn as a history major are just as valuable when expressing ideas to colleagues, consumers, clients or another party in a career outside of history.