Why choose a major in history?
An undergraduate focus in history – either minor or major – prepares students to take on a wide variety of pursuits and equips them with the skills essential to success in many fields. In addition to graduate school in history, the major provides a solid foundation for law school, museum and historic preservation studies, and education programs. History majors make excellent educators, politicians, foreign service officers, editors and journalists, just to name a few of the fields history majors can enter.
Through history, students learn:
- Communication – Oral and Written Skills
- Research and Critical Thinking
- Global Awareness and Cultural Sensitivity
- Project Development and Goal-Oriented Tasking
What can I do with a degree in history?
A degree in history opens many doors to students and establishes a foundation for a wide variety of future prospects.
“…there will always be opportunities for those who can apply the lessons of the past to the problems of the present.”
Journalist Graham Snowdon makes a compelling case for the utility of a history degree, so don’t just take our word for it!
However, there are many fields history majors enter once they have completed their B.A. Here are a few examples:
- Lawyers and Paralegals
- Litigation Support and Research
Education and Research
- Elementary School
- Secondary School
- Post-secondary Education
- Reference Librarian
- Writers, Journalists
- Documentary Film-makers and Editors
- Historic Sites and Museums
- Historic Preservation and Records Management
- National Parks Service
- Archival Staff and Directors
- Archival Acquisitions and Processing
Business and Industry
- Corporate Historian
- Business Administrator
- Human Resource Manager
- Operations Research
- Public Relations
Government and Public Sector
- Legislative Staff
- Senator, Congress Person
- Foundation and Non-profit
Want to be a successful businessperson?
According to A.G. Lafley, Former Procter & Gamble chairman and CEO with more than 30 years experience at Fortune 500 firms, you should:
“Pursue a liberal arts education. For most people, it's the best foundation for a successful career. . . The candidates who were the most attractive manager prospects were those with a well-exercised mind, leadership potential, and the passion to make a difference. These success factors . . . are best developed by taking courses in the liberal arts. . . The formula for businesses trying to compete in today's economy is simple: hire employees with the mental agility, leadership and passion to navigate constant change -- in other words, hire those who are liberally educated.”
Want to become financially accomplished?
A recent study found that history majors found significant financial success in the business world. According to Robert Townsend in “New Report Finds U.S. History Majors Highest Earners in Humanities,” your best bet to economic achievement might lie with a degree in history:
“Looking at the median salary for everyone aged 18 to 64 years old with an undergraduate degree . . . history majors do the best in the humanities, and better than students in a majority of the other fields. . . . a substantial number of history students went into business—one in five said they were in management positions, for instance, and over 15 percent in sales.” (Townsend)
Can I still go to medical school with a degree in history?
YES! In fact, more and more medical schools are looking for students with diverse backgrounds. Consider the following quotes from Sarah Kliff’s “Well-Rounded Docs” article in Newsweek:
“Historians are supposed to integrate information with the big picture . . . which will hopefully be useful as a physician.” -- Ryan Jacobson, history major, University of Illinois medical school.
“More humanities students have been applying in recent years, and medical schools like them. . . . The schools are looking for a kind of compassion and potential doctoring ability. This makes many social-science and humanities students particularly well qualified.” Gwen Garrison, vice president for medical-school services and studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges
“It doesn’t make you a better doctor to know how fast a mass falls from a tree. . . . They’ve got to be happy and have a life outside of medicine, otherwise they’ll get overwhelmed. We need whole people.” Gail Morrison, Admissions Director, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (Kliff notes that 40 percent of the students that University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine accepts to its medical school now come from non-science backgrounds.)
“Humanities students also fare better on the MCAT, the standardized test for medical-school admissions. Among the 2006 applicants to medical school, humanities majors outscored biology majors in all categories.”
“Medical schools have really been looking for that scholar-physician. . . . We’re living in an increasingly complex world, and the liberal arts give you the skills to understand that better.” Michael Sciola, advisor to premed students at Wesleyan University
Moreover, the New York Times reported that according to one Mt. Sinai study, “the humanities students made more sensitive doctors.”
"History has thrust something upon me from which I cannot turn away." – Martin Luther King Jr.