FAQ: Careers for Historians

Go to the OAH's Career Coach® page and check out "Job Opportunities and Statistics" for types of history careers and job market statistics. A more accurate assessment of each of these fields is available from the professional organizations which represent them. Also, check the OAH's Career Coach® "Online Resources" page for additional information pertaining to history careers and how to best prepare yourself to navigate the field. 

Besides taking plenty of history classes, it is crucial to have courses that develop writing ability. Also, any good college course that sharpens critical thinking skills, research abilities, or explores varied approaches to understanding society and culture, will help. Economics, literature, political science, art history, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, etc., - all of these are useful to those who study the past. Ultimately, a degree in history is required. At a minimum, a B.A. with a major in history, is necessary for most history-related jobs. A Master's degree in history is even better, though it is not necessary to have majored in history in college to get an M.A. in history. For example, you could major in anthropology, political science, or English, and still get into a history Masters program. Likewise, to get a Ph.D. in history, it is not necessary to have majored in history in college or have received an M.A. in history. Of course, the more history classes you take, the easier it will be to complete the work necessary to earn advanced degrees in history. While in college, an internship might help clarify your goals. Soon after college, perhaps during your first year or two of "real world" work experience, you can explore and decide what kind of historical work interests you most. Many people with history M.A.s become teachers or work in museums, libraries, historical societies, history consulting firms, etc. Most people with Ph.D.s in history become professors at four-year or two-year colleges or universities. In the past several years, however, more and more information has become available about careers for historians with B.A.s, M.A.s, and Ph.D.s outside of colleges and universities, in what is known as the realm of "public history," i.e., everything outside of academia.

A great place to begin exploring careers in history is the OAH's Career Coach® "Career Center" page where you can find current job listings. Another great place to explore is OAH's Career Coach® "Other Employment Resource Sites" page, where job seekes can find a list of several websites that provide opportunities and information on history careers. Another good website on careers or types of work that historians do is National Council on Public History. For interesting discussions on why people become historians and how they have shaped their careers, go to the National Humanites Alliance website.

An online search for "careers for history majors" will turn up links to college and university history departments that have compiled helpful information for current or prospective history students. These college/university history department websites typically have information about the coursework required for a history degree. While it varies from institution to institution, you can get a good idea of the general requirements and expectations involved for each undergraduate and/or gradute degree. 

That depends upon what type of historian you want to become. Do you want to practice public history? Do you want to teach history at the precollegiate, collegiate, or graduate level? Knowing what type of historian you want to become will help determine the required education you will need. Again, look at the OAH's Career Coach® page, the "Online Resources" page, and the "Useful Career Materials" page, amongst others on the OAH website, to explore and learn more about the profession.

A professional historian's main objective is to research, study, analyze, interpret, and document facts of past human history. There are many historians that prefer teaching others about history, being involved in the field in other areas than purely research. Like most branches of Social Sciences, there are several subcategories in which historians divide themselves. The most common division is to specialize on particular aspects, points of view, or periods of history. 

Historians follow a method of investigation that relies heavily on facts and historical records. They look for solid evidence and reliable sources, sometimes collaborating with professionals in other fields such as archeology, to explain how and why things happened and how past events have shaped, and continue to shape modern society. One of the key characteristics of a good historian is objectivity. Historians must maintain a level of total objectivity, refering to facts, avoiding opinions, or any form of bias.

New job postings can be found on the OAH Career Center by members and non-members alike. To sign in or sign up click here! The OAH Career Center is part of OAH's Career Coach® - Creating Opportunities for Advancing our Community of Historians! This online center was designed to help you, your students, or anyone with an advanced degree in American history, navigate today's job market. 

Posting your position on the OAH Career Center will allow you to target your audience quickly and cost-effectively. First employers much create an account and register. To post a job, click here and sign in to your employer page. We offer several different job posting packages, beginning at $250 for a 30 day listing. You may also choose to add on enhancements such as a "featured job" listing. Posting your job announcement takes only a few minutes on our secure website. Visit our job posting rates page to see a full list of packages and prices for job posts.

For any questions that were not addressed here, please send us an email at membership@oah.org, and we will do our utmost to answer you in a timely manner.