Jobs for Historical Interpreters

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as a historical interpreter. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Applied Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Historical Interpreters Do?

Historical interpreters help people understand history, usually through historical reenactments. These professionals are actors, performing different roles based on our understanding of significant historical figures in order to entertain and educate their audiences. In order to be as authentic as possible, they typically need to do research on the people that they portray from a variety of first and secondhand sources where available. Their typical employers are museums, putting them in contact with other interpreters to help them improve their skills and learn new techniques.

Learn more about this job in the table below.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Training Required On-the-job training
Key Skills Acting ability, knowledge of history, communication skills
Licensure Required Certified Heritage Interpreter (CHI) credential offered by the National Association for Interpretation may be helpful
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% (for all actors)*
Average Hourly Wage (2015) $37.47 (for all actors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Historical Interpreter?

As a historical interpreter, your main job will be to embody the roles of historical figures at museums and amusement parks. You will work with other historical interpreters to recreate past time periods and historic events. For example, you might find a job working as a historical interpreter at the living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia. You might find work that involves recreating the roles of generals and soldiers from the past and performing scenes from well-known battles.

Historical interpreters have a strong eye for detail, an interest in history and a flair for communication and performance; historical interpreters are both entertainers and historians. You might need to conduct research into the historical time period or figure you're trying to recreate. You could read old letters or biographies to understand how a particular person spoke and acted.

What Type of Education or Training Will I Need?

There is no single type of formal education that can prepare you for a career as a historical interpreter. You might consider earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in history; a few schools offer programs that allow you to minor in historical interpretation.

You might also benefit from a bachelor's program in communication or drama. Some schools offer degree programs in museum studies or recreation management that will teach you how to communicate historical information to an audience in an interesting and entertaining way.

Most living museums will not require you to have any type of standard degree. Many of them provide on-the-job training that will teach you how to research historical roles and interact with guests. You might strengthen your historical interpretation skills by taking workshops or classes through organizations like the Association for Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums.

Can I Gain Certification in the Field?

You could apply for the Certified Heritage Interpreter (CHI) credential offered by the National Association for Interpretation. Such a designation might assure prospective employers that you have the necessary training to work as a historical interpreter. Eligibility requirements for the CHI credential include completion of either an associate's or bachelor's program in addition to 5,000 hours of experience as an interpreter. Applicants who haven't earned an associate's or bachelor's degree need at least 8,000 hours of professional experience in order to qualify for the credential.

What Salary Can I Expect to Make?

According to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2015, actors in general earned an average hourly wage of $37.47.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Choreographers plan dance routines for performers, typically set to music that helps to express the feelings and message intended through the dance. Dancers carry out these routines, practicing for many years to become physically fit and talented enough to perform these routines. Neither career typically needs any formal education, as many learn their craft through training throughout their childhood, though some do pursue higher education, with a common choice being a bachelor's degree.

Museum technicians work in museums, planning out acquisitions of artifacts, loaning out pieces to other institutions, handling insurance policies, and caring for the general safety and integrity of the things on display. They also keep detailed records of what is in a museum's possession. They typically need a bachelor's degree.

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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