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    History Major Overview

    By Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: July 9th, 2024
    History Major Overview

    Ever wondered how coffee accelerated the Age of Enlightenment? What about the impact of World War II on modern America? If you’re intrigued by these kinds of questions, then a history major could be right for you. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about majoring in history. We’ll discuss what it is, common coursework, career possibilities, and more. 

    What is a history major?

    History majors learn how to critically examine the past. They study how the various economic, social, political, and religious forces have transformed the world over time. They explore topics ranging from art and architecture to war and political tactics, asking questions like “why did this happen, how did it affect the world, and what can we learn from it?” 

    Through historical investigation, history majors learn how to connect the dots between the past, present, and future. They gain valuable skills that extend beyond the field of history, including analytical writing, problem solving, foreign language, and research. Ultimately, history majors gain a nuanced understanding of societies and cultures. 

    Also read: What are the humanities?

    Coursework to expect

    History majors take courses covering a variety of time periods and regions. Topics range from modern-day America to ancient Europe. Because history is such a vast field, degree requirements are flexible and allow students to learn about time periods that interest them. At a minimum, though, students are usually required to take courses related to the United States and Europe. From there, students can choose to explore the history of other places such as Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Most students also have to take a research methods class to learn how to interact with primary sources and analyze historical writings.

    Below are some potential courses you may encounter as a history major:

    • The World in the 20th Century
    • Modern Africa
    • China: Empire and Revolution, 1800-Present
    • History of Ancient Greece
    • Fascism and Propaganda
    • Millennial Generation in the U.S.
    • Themes in Caribbean History
    • LGBTQ History in the United States
    • U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1865
    • Colonial Latin America 

    Also see: How to pick a major

    Opportunities after graduation

    Unlike some other majors, there’s no clear and obvious career track for graduating history majors. But that’s just because there’s so many paths you can take with a history degree. For now, here’s just a few career options related to the field of history:

    • Librarian
    • Museum curator 
    • Archivist
    • Journalist
    • Lawyer
    • Teacher or professor
    • Historian

    Jobs you can get with a history degree

    Just because you major in history doesn’t mean you have to become a historian. While that’s certainly an option, there’s a range of other career options that extend beyond the field of history. Below are some popular career choices for history majors, along with median annual salaries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    1. Librarian

    Librarians help patrons find books and other resources, conduct research, and set up systems for cataloging and shelving books. They’re typically employed by local governments, universities, and K-12 schools. 

    2022 Median Pay: $61.660 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 3% (As fast as average) 

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    2. Archivists and Curators

    Archivists catalog and preserve historically valuable documents, while curators oversee collections of historical items. They typically work for institutions such as museums, governments, and colleges. Job responsibilities include setting up exhibits and providing educational services to the public. 

    2022 Median Pay: $53,420 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 10% (Much faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    3. Journalist 

    Journalists research and write news stories for television, newspapers, radio, and websites. They keep the public informed on important local, national, and international stories. Reporters often have certain beats such as local news, sports, business, or pop culture. 

    2022 Median Pay: $55,960 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): -3% (Decline)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Also see: Top journalism scholarships

    4. Lawyer

    Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. Most lawyers work in private and corporate legal offices, while some work for federal, state, and local governments. 

    2022 Median Pay: $135,740 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 8% (Faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Also read: Top law school scholarships

    5. History Professor

    Professors teach history at the college/university level. In addition to their teaching responsibilities, many professors conduct research on the side. It’s common for history professors to specialize in a particular era or region. 

    2022 Median Pay: $80,840 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 8% (Faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    6. Historian

    Historians research and write about the past by analyzing historical documents. They may engage the public through educational programs, write reports or books, archive materials for museums, or provide advice on preservation issues. They typically work for governments, museums, historical societies, research organizations, and nonprofits. 

    2022 Median Pay: $64,540 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 3% (As fast as average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Also read: What is the starting salary out of college?

    How do I know if this major is right for me? 

    If you’re considering a major in history, ask yourself the following questions: 

    1. Are you curious about the past and how it influences the present?
    2. Do you enjoy learning about different cultures and societies?
    3. Do you value research and investigation? 
    4. Are you passionate about crafting arguments and defending your point of view?

    If you answered yes to most of these questions, then a history major could be right for you!

    See also: Top Scholarships for History Majors

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    Frequently asked questions about being a history major

    Are degrees in history worth it?

    It really depends on the person and what they plan to do with a history degree. If one works in a museum as a lifetime career, the pay might not be what one hoped for over a lifetime. That being said, some people have a passion for certain fields, so who can say what is worth. Some students choose to double major or minor in history so that they graduate with another skill set that can be more immediately applied.

    Is history a good pre-law major?

    While there are no set majors for law school, history is a popular major. The American Bar Association recommends that students major in an area of study that genuinely interests them. 

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