What Are the Career Options for Someone with a History Degree?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with a history degree. Read on to learn more about career options in history-related fields along with salary and job outlook information. Schools offering American History degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can You Do With a History Degree?

A history degree imparts scholarship into the history of human civilization, which helps inform our present and opens the door to a variety of career choices. After studying history, you could become an educator at the primary, secondary, or postsecondary levels, opening a window to the past for students of all ages. You might also work in a museum or publish original research. History teachers at the middle and high school levels provide general education in areas like American history or world history. College history professors often conduct and publish highly specific research while teaching specialized subjects. They might host seminars on topics like the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia or the global consequences of the Great Famine of Ireland in the 19th century. Museum curators and archivists catalog and preserve rare artifacts from ancient times, as well as educate the public about them by putting them on public display. Historians research the past and present their findings to colleagues to increase our understanding of the world we live in. Historians often publish research or even books. Read the table and descriptions below for more information on each of these career paths.

EducatorMuseum Curator/ArchivistHistorical Researcher
Degree Required Bachelor's degree for middle and high school teachers; doctorate for college professors Usually a master's degree Usually a master's degree or doctorate
Licensure Required State certification required for all public middle and high school teachers Certified Archivist designation helpful None
Key Skills Plan lessons, assess, and teach students, develop curricula Appraise and preserve historical documents, organize archival records, create digital media Research historical sources, interpret historical evidence, publish for different readerships
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for high school teachers,
6% for middle school teachers,
10% for college history professors
7% for archivists,
8% for curators
2% for historians
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $55,860 for middle school teachers,
$57,200 for high school teachers,
$69,400 college history professors
$51,520 for curators,
$50,250 for archivists
$55,800 for historians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Careers in Education

The first option you may choose from is a history educator. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you'll need a bachelor's degree and state credentials to teach history in most public schools (www.bls.gov). A master's degree is required in some states and is sufficient to teach at some junior colleges. In either instance, you'll want to find degree programs that focus on both history and education. Beyond state licensing requirements, you can seek voluntary national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (www.nbpts.org). The board provides two certification exams for history - social studies: The first leads to an early adolescent certificate and the second to an adolescent and young adulthood certificate. BLS statistics on salaries and job growth vary by grade level.

The 2015 median annual salary for elementary school teachers of most subjects was $54,890, with as-fast-as-average 6% employment growth from 2014-2024. For middle school teachers, it was $55,860 with 6% employment growth, and for secondary school teachers, the figures were $57,200 and 6% growth in job opportunities.

If you want to be employed as a professor at a 4-year university, you'll need to advance your education with a doctoral degree, the highest academic credential attainable. Typically, you'll want to earn your doctoral degree in history. Some programs focus on general history, while others focus on a specialized area of history, such as a specific time period or culture. You could begin your career as an instructor, assistant professor, or associate professor, possibly in a tenure-track position. As a tenured professor, you could teach controversial subjects that non-tenured professors don't have the privilege or freedom to teach. According to the BLS, in 2015 the median annual wage of post-secondary history teachers was $69,400, and jobs were expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 10% from 2014-2024 for all college teachers.

Career and Certification Options in Historic Preservation

Museum curators and archivists collect historical pieces and primary sources for future generations to learn from and enjoy. Both of these careers would allow you to preserve and possibly repair damaged documents and historical items. As a curator, you could acquire original artifacts that are limited and highly sought. You'd be responsible for cataloging and authenticating artifacts, films, photographs, and documents. You could also create community outreach programs for schools and museums, demonstrating the importance of historical documentation, while also integrating advancing technologies.

The BLS reports that the median annual salary of archivists in May 2015 was $50,250, while the figure for curators was $51,520. Job growth for archivists, curators, and museum workers as a group was projected to be 7% from 2014-2024; for archivists alone, the number was 7%, both of which represent an average growth rate. If you want to work as an archivist or curator, it's preferable if you have a graduate degree in history. A master's degree and one year of experience qualifies you to take the Archival Certification Examination, offered by the Academy of Certified Archivists, and leading to the Certified Archivist designation (www.certifiedarchivists.org).

Careers in Historical Research

Historians are social scientists who research the past and organize themes and trends to better understand cultures and people. You could choose a particular person, place, period, or culture to research. You can anticipate spending large amounts of time in museums, universities and archives, studying existing original materials from that time period. You could use films, photographs, letters, journals, articles, affidavits, and government documents to conduct your research.

You could have your research findings published in books, industry publications, and scholarly journals. You could also work with colleges, research institutions, governments, and museums. The BLS reported that the employment growth for historians will be a slower-than-average 2% from 2014-2024, with a 2015 median annual salary of $55,800.

What Are Some Related Career Options?

The logical career advancement for most teachers, including history teachers, is to become a school administrator or principal. For college professors, they will want to become tenured. Similar to how museum workers present artifacts and information on history, librarians catalog books and reference materials for public use, hoping to enrich the lives of those who take advantage of their services. An anthropologist or archaeologist has similar duties to a historian, researching and investigating ancient cultures and life that no longer exists in the modern era. Anthropologists emphasize the evolution of human culture and society, while archaeologists specialize in the recovery and preservation of historical objects or sites.

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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