History classes at university level are often a fascinating and exciting revelation after the typically watered-down (and sometimes inaccurate) curriculum presented in primary and secondary schools. Learning every detail about your country's past, as well as other cultures, quickly fills up four years of intensive research, study, and oh-so-many papers.
Despite your enthusiasm and hard work, however, it may not be immediately apparent at graduation what to do with a history degree. So, if you’ve chosen a history major without fully considering what options this would open up for you, you’ve come to the right place! Here we uncover the 12 most popular history-related careers.
Average salary: $61,140 / £30,000
For many history majors, the ideal job after graduation will utilise every facet of their education. Historians research topics extensively, collecting data and verifying facts from numerous sources including books, letters, interviews, personal diaries, government records, archival photos and more. They analyse these materials and share their significance with the world via presentations, exhibits, and publications.
Historians often choose a specific area of study, like a region, time period, or event, and complete a master's degree with a focus on that speciality. They can be independent experts who provide their expertise to a variety of organisations or take a position as an in-house historian for a community, business, government, university, non-profit, or other entity.
Average salary: $59,050 / £30,250
Forget the image of librarians sitting quietly and reading, only stopping to shush patrons who make noise. Modern libraries are often lively with group discussions, tutoring, book readings, children's interactive play areas, and even coffee shops. There's a wide array of technology available for you to assist students, teachers, and community residents with their research and study, from archaic microfilm up to archival photos on the internet.
There are busy jobs in university and law libraries, or for careers catering to your introverted side, look for smaller, private, museum, or historical society libraries. For the highest paying research-related jobs, an accredited library science programme is suggested in the UK, or a master's in library science in the US.
3. Secondary School Teacher
Average salary: $60,320 / £42,363
In 1905, philosopher George Santayana wrote 'those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it'. If you want to use your history degree to teach the next generation about important people, eras, wars, philosophical shifts and societal changes, and put it in a useful context for them, then working as a history teacher in a secondary school could be a rewarding job for you.
While your historical knowledge is valuable in this career, a teaching job also requires good interpersonal communication, organisational and planning skills, flexibility, and an ability to maintain order in a positive learning environment.
Average salary: $62,410 / £28,500
Archaeology is the perfect pursuit for those interested in delving into the tangible aspects of history. While only a small percentage of archaeologists discover a lost city or a secret Egyptian tomb, you still might get the opportunity to sift through historical artefacts on smaller sites, often in your home country.
Archaeologists also preserve historical sites and educate visitors, evaluate and carbon-date items for museums, and analyse data and records for details and patterns in the history of a particular region and culture.
If this is the path for you, you'll need to pursue a masters in archaeology for higher-level positions. If you are just leaving school, you might consider a gap year for travel and volunteer for field work to be certain you enjoy the painstaking, detailed work required for archaeology.
Average salary: $48,400 / £40,000
Many libraries and museum jobs include an archival role, but there are also specific positions in a variety of institutions solely focused on the preservation of historical documents and objects. Archivists also catalogue these items and use specialised equipment to scan, photograph and record delicate materials in modern digital form for longevity and wider distribution. They may also appraise materials, and assist with exhibitions.
The UK requires a postgraduate qualification approved by the Archives and Records Association in addition to your history degree. While in the US, a master's in history or library science will help secure an archival position. Volunteer work or internships are recommended.
6. Museum Curator
Average salary: $48,400 / £40,000
If you're looking for a history-related career that combines your knowledge, organisational abilities, creativity and people skills, you'll love a job as a museum curator. You'll get to select and acquire items for the museum's collection, decide how they are displayed, oversee their preservation, and give tours and presentations for the museum. You'll also work on publicity and fundraising.
Your bachelor's in history will help you get an assistant and technician jobs, acquiring the work experience needed for a museum curator position. Depending on the type of museum you want to work for, a relevant post-graduate degree like art history or anthropology is often required.
7. Solicitor / Lawyer
Average salary: $120,910 / £62,500
Did you love arguing for your country's policies and laws in a Model United Nations event, or defending your interpretation of a medieval text for a class presentation? If so, your history major provides an excellent background for a career in law. Along with developing excellent research, analysis and communication skills, your knowledge of the history of governments, laws, political movements, and culture will assist your understanding for arguments, and provide context to complex cases.
Legal systems vary by country, and you'll need to comply with your government's requirements for qualification before becoming a lawyer. In the UK, solicitors typically work more closely with clients, and barristers present on their behalf in court, with the latter commanding much higher salaries.
8. College Professor / Higher Education Lecturer
Average salary: $78,470 / £44,250
You can pass your knowledge on to older students, helping shape their views of the world before they set off onto their own careers, by teaching at a university. The hours may be longer and the workload more complex than teaching at a lower level, but the reward is lecturing to more students who are interested in the material. Particularly at larger universities, you'll also have more colleagues in your field that you can converse and collaborate with.
Along with your history degree, institutions will be looking for someone with a PhD and relevant teaching experience as a graduate assistant. Once you get a position, you'll also be encouraged to further your knowledge of your favourite historical subjects and publish scholarly works based on your research.
9. Historic Building Inspector
Average salary: $59,700 / £41,000
If you're not sure what to do with a history degree that doesn't require a lot of time spent behind a desk, consider a job as a historic building inspector. You'll utilise knowledge of architectural styles and colours throughout history, as well as vintage building techniques and materials that also meet current safety standards. You'll get to inspect historic buildings and advise on restoration, alterations, and meeting guidelines set forth by historical associations and the government.
Work experience in construction, as well as coursework in areas like structural engineering and architecture, can assist in getting permanent paid positions with contractors, local authorities, and educational institutions. Freelance work for individuals, communities and organisations is another option.
10. Broadcast Journalist
Average salary: $43,490 / £46,500
A history degree provides a solid foundation for many different fields, and your search for the perfect career may take you in some unexpected directions. Your affinity for research, analysis, and putting events into historical context make you an excellent candidate for broadcast journalism. You'll pursue news and human interest stories and write scripts for TV, radio, or Internet streams. You'll attend press conferences, interview interesting people, and present completed stories or breaking news on air.
Internships and internet gigs can help you work your way up to major broadcast roles. In the UK, you can also look into advanced degrees in journalism accredited by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council.
Average salary: $48,400 / £42,000
If you want to work towards preserving history, you could consider becoming a conservator. In this role you'll be responsible for checking the condition of museum objects, preventing further deterioration, and restoring items as accurately to their original state as possible. You'll also conduct studies and keep records on how to display historical materials in the optimum light and temperature levels to minimise ageing, discolouration, and other damage.
Attention to detail is a vital skill for a conservator role. Internships are the best way to get hands-on experience and training, and advanced degrees in a relevant speciality like art history are often required in the US.
12. Event Planner
Average salary: $49,370 / £48,500
As you consider what to do with a history degree, it can be fun to thoroughly explore all the professions that are related to your studies and skills. Event planning may not seem an obvious choice at first, but the position can be adapted to your interests. Historical properties, including both buildings and grounds, often host organisation meetings, weddings, charity auctions and other events.
Whether working for clients hoping to book a historical location, or planning for the site itself, you can use your degree and research skills to create period-specific events, or simply honour the site's legacy while being careful to preserve original materials and furnishings.
Whether you're shifting career paths, or deciding on your next step after graduation, you should now be aware that many of the most rewarding and lucrative jobs in the history field require additional education and certification.
What are your plans for your history degree? Join the discussion in the comments and let us know!
Salary information is based on data compiled and published by various sources, including the National Careers Service and the Bureau of Labour Statistics.