Historian Career Information and Salary Outlook

Explore the career requirements for historians. Get the facts about degree requirements, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering American History degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Historian?

Historian careers can involve researching, writing and teaching. These professionals analyze the past and present by studying archives and artifacts. They're able to verify authenticity, evaluate significance and trace origins. They often present their findings to the public to offer insight about historical subjects and preserve materials for museums and sites. They also lead educational programs. Read on to learn about the common educational requirements, employment outlook, job duties and median salary for this field.

Degree Required Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study History
Key Responsibilities Research and analyze content; archive historical materials; draft reports and other documents on research findings
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%*
Median Salary (2015) $55,800*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would My Job Duties Be as a Historian?

As a historian, your job duties would involve interpreting the past through research and analysis. To do so, you need to utilize a variety of information sources, such as newspapers, interviews, photos, personal letters and government records. You may specialize in a specific field, period or region. For example, you might specialize in the political or social aspects of history or the history of a particular continent or country. Many historians are also writers who compile their research findings in articles or books. Others have teaching duties, in addition to their research and writing responsibilities.

What Type of Degree Do I Need?

Educational requirements vary by employer, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), historians and other types of social scientists have among the highest educational attainment of all occupations (www.bls.gov). Generally, you need a master's degree or Ph.D. to become a historian, but some entry-level positions may be open to bachelor's degree holders. For example, you might be able to get a job as a writer or research assistant with a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree and the appropriate license may qualify you for a job as an elementary, middle or high school history teacher.

What Will I Study?

As an undergraduate history major, you may research historical figures and topics, examine historical sources, view historical films and learn about historical interpretation. In addition to general education requirements, curricula typically include a broad look at history, including courses in modern, ancient and medieval history. Most bachelor's degree programs in history take about four years to complete and lead to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History. Some colleges and universities allow you to earn your B.A. in History entirely online.

A Master of Arts (M.A.) in History program generally takes at least two years to complete and may culminate in a thesis or non-thesis option. As a graduate history student, you're likely to gain a broad history education, but you may be required to select a concentration, such as anthropology and archaeology, European history or U.S. history. Joint master's degree programs are available that enable you to study history and library science at the same time.

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest level of history degree you can earn. Designed to prepare students for careers in research, analysis, education and writing, a Ph.D. in History is generally very research-intensive. In a Ph.D. program, you might specialize in a variety of history topics, such as the history of sexuality and gender, ethnic history, intellectual history or diplomatic history. A doctoral program is also likely to provide teaching opportunities and stress interdisciplinary study and independent research.

What Is the Career Outlook?

According to the BLS, employment opportunities for historians were expected to increase 2% between 2014 and 2024, which is slower than average compared to other occupations; however, because qualified applicants typically outnumber available positions, you can expect keen competition for jobs. With that said, an educational background in history can qualify you to work in a number of related specialty fields, including writing, teaching, research and policy analysis. State and local governments provide the majority of historian positions, although you might also work at a historical site, museum or visitor center.

How Much Could I Expect to Earn?

Based on the median salary data from the BLS, historians earned a median salary of $55,800 in 2015. The median annual wage for secondary school teachers as of May 2015 was $57,200, but this reflects all subjects, not just history teachers. If you decide to become a history teacher at a college or university, you can expect to earn slightly more. According to the BLS, postsecondary history teachers earned a median annual wage of $69,400 in 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers include anthropology and archaeology, economist and political science. Anthropologists and archaeologists research the development and functioning patterns of culture. Economists analyze the history and patterns of the economy. Political scientists study how political systems are built and operate. All these careers require a master's degree for entry.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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