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Historian: Employment Info & Requirements

Mar 15, 2019

Historians study the events, ideas, institutions, and individuals of the past to unearth information, answer questions, and uncover patterns that provide a historical context for understanding modern issues. Learn about the education requirements, salary, and job outlook to see if you want to pursue this career.

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Career Definition of an Historian

Historians research, analyze, and interpret the past using all information available to them. Because the field of history is so vast, most specialize in particular time periods, countries, or regions, with many choosing to concentrate on sub-specialties such as the history of women, the history of science, or the history of farming. Historians are most commonly associated with the teaching profession. Seventy percent of all historians are employed by colleges and universities, according to the American Historical Association (www.historians.org). They may work in elementary or high school education, or serve as museum curators or archivists. A small minority work in government, nonprofit, or private sector positions.

Field of Education History as well as studies in the culture and language of your chosen specialty
Job Skills Enjoy sharing history with passion and objectivity, along with an aptitude for logical and methodical thinking
Median Salary (2017) $59,120 per year for all historians*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 6% job growth for all historians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Although 'historian' can be used to describe both amateur and professional historians, it is reserved more recently for those who have acquired graduate degrees, according to the American Historical Association (www.historians.org). A bachelor's degree or lower may get you a job in historical research, although advancement opportunities will be severely limited. In addition to history, it's also important to take courses in the language and literature of your chosen specialty in order to immerse yourself in the subject. Classes in statistics are also very helpful since historians deal with large data sets, from both the past and present.

Skills Required

A love of history and the desire to share it with others are the most important characteristics a historian can possess. Perseverance and passion are necessary to excel as an historian. Additionally, an ability to think logically and methodically along with objectivity and an open mind are essential to arriving at new ways of seeing old happenings.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected opportunities for historians to grow slower than average, at a rate of 6% between 2016 and 2026. In May 2017, historians had median annual earnings of about $59,120 a year, per the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

More career choices similar to that of historians include:

Archivist

These professionals research, edit, appraise, and maintain historical documents and records. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is usually required, in fields such as library science or history. Faster-than-average employment expansion of 14% was projected for these jobs from 2016-2026 by the BLS. In 2017, archivists earned an annual median salary of $51,760, according to the BLS.

Anthropologist and Archaeologist

At least a master's degree is required for most positions. These professionals study the development of humans through examining languages, remains, and cultures. Slower-than-average job expansion of 4% was predicted by the BLS for the 2016-2026 decade. In 2017, a median annual wage of $62,280 was reported by the BLS.

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