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Difference Between Historian & Sociologist

Historians and sociologists both examine the broad topic of society; however, their specific areas of focus differ. A look at expected job growth, educational requirements, and duties of these careers will help you determine which is the best one for you.

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Comparing Historians to Sociologists

Historians focus on what they can learn from the past, while sociologists focus on what they can learn from the present. Similarities and other differences are outlined below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Historian Master's Degree $55,110 2%
Sociologist Master's Degree $79,750 -1%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Historians vs. Sociologists

Both of these professions involve studying a society and its people. Careers as either a historian or sociologist require excellent communication and analytical skills. Historians look back at what has already transpired, while sociologists study the here and now. Both fields involve research resulting in various types of publications.

Historian

As a historian, you will utilize historical documents and references to examine the past and share relevant findings. Historians can work in a variety of settings ranging from government agencies and research companies to museums and historical societies. In this career, you may specialize in researching a particular historical period. Job responsibilities include investigating the past through the use of books or artifacts, ascertaining the legitimacy and relevance of these references, and preserving them if they have historical significance. This career requires a master's degree; however, you will need a doctoral degree for some positions.

Job responsibilities of a historian include:

  • Creating and implementing awareness and educational programs for the public
  • Ensuring historical materials are properly preserved in sites such as museums or historical centers
  • Serving as a resource on various historical subjects and the art of preservation
  • Publishing literature in scholarly journals and other academic materials

Sociologist

Sociologists utilize observation of individuals, groups, and cultural or social institutions as a way to better understand human social behavior. As a sociologist, you will develop theories and conduct experiments to test the validity of your theories, gather and analyze data from these experiments and observations or interviews, and present your findings in the form of published articles or presentations. You will be able to choose from a wide variety of specialties in this career, including health, racial and ethnic issues, families, or poverty. Sociologists primarily work in research and development in the social sciences or humanities fields, but may also work for educational institutions or government agencies. You will need a master's degree to work as a sociologist, with the option to pursue a doctoral degree if you are interested in becoming a postsecondary teacher of sociology.

Job responsibilities of a sociologist include:

  • Observing and interpreting people's behavior through the lens of economic, social, and political factors
  • Researching and understanding how particular groups form and operate
  • Working with colleagues to inform government agencies of relevant findings
  • Utilizing qualitative and quantitative data to further their understanding of society

Related Careers

If you would like to become a historian, you could consider a job as an archivist, since both careers involve working with historical documents. Those interested in a position as a sociologist may be interested in a job as an anthropologist, as both jobs involve the study of how society develops.

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