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Career and Salary Info for a Masters Degree in History

A master's degree in history typically covers a specific historical era, archival studies or museum studies. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for master's of history graduates.

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Receiving a master's degree in history prepares graduates for careers in academia, usually in a museum or archival setting. Master's degrees in history often specialize in a specific time and/or place in history. This specialization usually dictates the nature of the work, such as a curator for a specific portion of a museum collection.

Essential Information

A master's degree in history is well suited for students who are good at social sciences and writing. There are various programs offered in this degree, such as archival studies, art history, archaeology, and museum studies. Coursework in these programs can prepare the student for a career in archiving, museum curating or historical research. Getting a job in these fields can be highly competitive due to the number of applicants, and the salary is varied.

Career Archivist Curator Historian
Required Education Master's degree Master's degree Master's degree or doctoral degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 7%* 8%* 2%*
Average Salary (2015) $53,880* $56,990* $61,120*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Options

Students with a master's degree in history have many occupations available to them, including working as an archivist, curator or historian. These careers typically deal with organizing and collecting historical research for purposes including providing historical data for commercial or educational use.

Archivist

Students interested in this a career as an archivist can look for a university that offers an archival studies program as part of a master's degree in history. Instead of focusing on a specific historical era, archival coursework covers the fundamentals of the practice and theory of archival studies. After attaining the basics, classes covering the history of archiving and recording are offered along with advanced archival appraisal.

Career Information

Archivists handle records and documents that have been deemed historically important or valuable. By familiarizing themselves with different formats, archivists properly care for historical information in paper formats like letters and documents as well as more advanced formats like films, videos, recordings and photographs. The purpose of this maintenance is to make sure these documents survive over time and can be easily retrieved when needed. Additionally, archivists create copies of these historical documents for use so the originals don't have to be endangered needlessly.

Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), archivists in general had an average yearly salary of $53,880 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Archivists employed with colleges or universities earn an average annual income of $54,420 and an hourly pay of $26.16. Additionally, museums and other historical sites tend to offer lower pay with the hourly salary being $21.73 and the yearly being $45,210. The federal executive branch offers higher paying positions for archivists, with $83,030 annually and $39.92 hourly.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • American History
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  • Cultural Resource Management
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  • Historic Preservation
  • History of Science and Technology
  • Holocaust Studies
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • Museum Studies
  • Public History and Archival Administration

Curator

Curators interested in working in art museums can earn a specialization or degree in art history. Those who want to work with fossils or buried artifacts can focus on archaeology.

Students can also pursue a museum studies focus in a master's degree program in history. Coursework for this program covers the basics like the function, history and purpose of museums in the modern world and throughout history. Advanced courses then cover curator duties like exhibition, administration, museum education, fund raising and collections management. Additionally, an internship with a museum is required at most schools along with the completion of a graduate portfolio.

Career Information

While curators perform similar duties as archivists, curators typically handle relics with historical importance. Curators can work in zoos, museums, nature centers, historical sites and botanical gardens or other nature sites. When items are needed for a collection, a curator handles the purchasing, selling, loaning or exchanging of objects with other curators or sellers. In some cases, raising funds or handling promotions are done by curators. Additionally, any educational or research projects with a collection of items is overseen by the curator in charge.

Salary Information

The BLS noted that curators earned an average annual income of $56,990 in May 2015. The federal executive branch offers curators better paying positions. Curators employed by them earned an hourly salary of $38.82 and a yearly income of $80,740. Curators with local governments typically made $26.58 an hour, while those with state governments earned $26.65. Museums curators earn an average annual salary of $54,600, while college curators averaged $59,870 per year (www.bls.gov).

Historian

Besides taking courses that cover their chosen historical field, all historians must complete graduate-level courses. Coursework for aspiring historians varies based on the chosen historical field of study, but covers most major and minor historical events for that subject.

Career Information

Historians are social scientists that help analyze, interpret and study major historical events in the past. The research performed by historians comes from many sources, including newspapers, historical records, periodicals, books, photographs, manuscripts and government records. The purpose of this research varies depending on the industry. Clients may hire historians to perform private research or trace family lines. Governments may hire historians to provide an analysis of past events for them. Others may work with museums, preserving and studying precious historical artifact and relaying information on them to visitors.

Salary Information

In May of 2015, the average annual income for historians was $61,120. Historians in the top ten percent earned $101,880 or more per year, while those in the lowest ten percent made $27,920 or less each year (www.bls.gov).

A master's degree in history can prepare one for a career as a historian or work in a museum. Analytical and technical skills may also be useful, especially for curators who must determine the origins and context of museum collections. The average salaries of these professionals range from roughly $45,000 to $65,000, depending on the field and employer.

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