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Best Careers for Historians – Resources

More important than the title on your degree…

Ask yourself  “What skills have I gained?” and then focus on the skills you most want to use.

Historians have a wide range of transferable skills, 99% of which are marketable. The skills gained in the study of history are almost always more useful to non-academic employers than the disciplinary knowledge gained within the discipline.

If you can articulate the skills that most motivate you (often called your Strengths), you’ll be able to demonstrate your value to many employers (including those beyond traditional academe). Here are some examples, and following that list are some other resources that may open new avenues of career potential.

  • Capacity for solving problems and thinking objectively, yet creatively
  • Ability to grasp and explain various factors that may be affecting the actions of groups and/or individuals in complex social organizations
  • Research skills of many kinds, at multiple levels of detail, including the ability to find, investigate and asses the value of the material found, and also including the generation of ideas and formal argument, based on the evidence found and conclusions drawn
  • Organizational skills, supported by logic and internal coherence
  • Intellectual rigor in research, critical reasoning and analysis, extending into the ability to understand and analyze issues and events, and to explain how succeeding events have been affected
  • Communication, particularly the ability to explain complex ideas clearly, in both verbal and written format, also including the ability to communicate research findings clearly and persuasively
  • Ability to approach problems and issues with an open mind
  • Ability to work independently, to manage one’s time and projects, based on frequently changing priorities
  • Ability to work in groups, to engage in discussion of ideas, to negotiate, question and summarize the elements of emerging issues

Other resources and ideas

The Many Careers of History PhDs: A Study of Job Outcomes, Spring 2013 – A report to the American Historical Association (by Maren Wood and Robert B. Townsend)  Careers in and beyond the Professoriate   Evidence of Change in the Job Market   Field Specializations Mark Significant Differences   Key Differences between Programs   Patterns by Gender and by Mobility   Conclusion

Susan Basalla May interviews Abby Markoe, who left grad school to pursue a  career that began as a hobby/sport. (Note that Susan Basalla May is the author, with Maggie Debelius, of “‘So What Are You Going to Do With That?’: Finding Careers Outside Academia,” now in a revised and updated edition, University of Chicago Press.)

Fascinating article describes how a doctoral candidate’s research edges into the “digital humanities,” and how it can open up the traditional avenues of historical research. Kristina Neumann, a doctoral candidate in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Classics, says, “I’m trying to help historians think outside the box.” (She had created her own database from published excavation reports and lists of coin hoards, and imported it to Google Earth. The visual results are intellectually stunning.)

Dr. Robert F Pace, Prof of History, McMurry Univerisity, answers the ultimate question of “what can I do with a degree in history?” with the answer,” Anything you want.” He describes a sampling of possible opportunities and mentions some of the traits those employers want in their employees. Dr. Pace’s homepage

Extensive list of organizations that have indicated a general interest in recruiting students majoring in history. Also offers a list of job titles held by history grads, useful for generating ideas, and offers various other websites and lists of career-related information.

Includes some useful description of ways to relate history to other occupations and find combinations that might be of interest to individuals.

While aimed at undergrads, article has a listing of basic skills gained by studying history, and lists common career paths, as well as offering a list of famous Americans who have history degrees.

Here’s a series of articles, based on John Holland’s well-known Theory of Career Choice, which links Personality and Workplace Environment. Be sure to continue your reading on this site, which helps you to identify your career skills and better articulate them.


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