Frequently students assume that a degree in History is useful only for teaching. It is important that you know the many ways in which a History degree can be an excellent preparation for many other careers – careers running the gamut from business to law.
Essential Career Skills and the Study of History
A critical part of the Liberal Arts tradition, History has been important in higher education for hundreds of years. While its nature and methodology have changed over the centuries, its essential nature remains the same. The study of History provides important training in critical thinking, analysis, research and writing – skills that remain essential in today’s job market.
Given the speed with which technologies and concepts change, more and more organizations are interested in generalists who are open to training for the specific tasks they will do. Equally important, individuals trained in basic thinking, research and writing skills will be in a good position to change with the times.
The study of History is an excellent preparation for careers in business, communications, public affairs as well as teaching. The skills that the study of History inculcates include:
- the ability to analyze complex issues;
- the ability to analyze economic, social, political and cultural events and processes over time;
- the ability to link the very specific to broad trends;
- strong research skills using a range of methodologies and approaches and to apply these to events across time;
- the ability to discern patterns among masses of material/data;
- An understanding of global issues and the place of the U.S. within that larger context;
- Strong communication skills, both orally and in writing.
Careers Related to History
Certainly a large number of students who major in History/Social Studies go into teaching in public and independent middle and high schools. But many students who enjoy History do not have that interest, and it is important to realize that many, perhaps most, History majors do not enter the teaching profession. They use the skills acquired and knowledge gained for other occupations:
- many go into the study of law where they find their training in research and analysis to be very beneficial; others go into public history including work in museums, archives, and sites catering to the public’s increasing interest in the past. Students often work as interns as they prepare to enter these fields;
- others continue their education in areas such as historical preservation;
- still others use History as a stepping stone to a career in library work;
- still others seek career opportunities in public affairs.
Making Yourself Marketable
Take the time to plan your undergraduate education. Make time to talk to your academic advisor in the History department. We are anxious to help you plan your future. Think about complementing your History major with minors or certificate programs in other academic areas.
- If you are interested in a career in business, explore taking specific courses or the minor in business.
- If you have abilities in a foreign language, try to maintain or improve your fluency. If you are planning to attend graduate school in History, it is particularly important to continue to learn foreign languages.
In this age of computers and the Internet, it is important that you develop skills beyond word-processing. Explore databases and spreadsheets as well as homepage development. Some of these can be done within the department.
Take advantage of your years as an undergraduate to develop skills outside the classroom. CSU offers internships in a wide variety of fields. The History department also has an internship program involving opportunities both on and off campus. But do not forget to participate in the many extracurricular activities that exist. These often become important to potential employers – they demonstrate interest and commitment, ability to take responsibility, and to follow through on tasks. Working on one of the campus papers or one of the many service clubs or History’s Phi Alpha Theta honorary society are just a few examples from the many that could be cited.
What is important is to see your education as a complete package. Identify a goal and work toward it.