Sports Historian: Job & Career Info

Sep 16, 2019

Sports historians study sports from a variety of different time periods and cultures in order to better understand how sports function in society. Most sports historians have a master's or Ph.D. in history. Their degrees may also include a specialization or focus on sports.

Essential Information

Sports history is a highly concentrated career with a somewhat limited focus, making it a rare but potentially lucrative career for sports enthusiasts. This profession generally requires a graduate degree for success, along with skills in speech, writing and research. Prospective sports historians typically receive a master's or Ph.D. in history, which often allows them to focus on sports-specific historical studies.

Required Education Master's or Ph.D. in history
Other Requirements Highly-developed writing skills, for composing scholarly articles or papers
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% (all historians)
Median Salary (2018)* $61,140 (all historians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sports Historian Career Overview

Sports historians examine sports in ancient and modern times to learn how sports relate to society and culture in different places and eras. They study both amateur and professional sports and may write articles for scholarly journals or mass audiences. Sports historians conduct extensive research into the origins of sports and use sports to examine differences in cultural, political and social attitudes.

Sports Historian Education Overview

Specific degree programs in sports history are extremely rare, but many who choose this career earn a degree in general history. Historians and other social scientists must usually achieve a graduate degree in order to work in the profession. While pursuing a master's degree or doctorate, students nearly always have the opportunity to specialize in an area of interest and engage in an individualized curriculum; as a result, while history majors are unlikely to find a sports concentration at the undergraduate level, they will often get the chance to focus on sports in graduate school. Topics of study typically begin with a general history of sports in America and may also include subjects such as substance abuse in sports, the history of the Olympics and detailed study of a specific sport.

Sports Historian Required Skills

Since a career in sports history usually involves writing scholarly papers or articles, aspirants to this profession must have highly-developed writing skills. Speech and oral communication can also be important. Sports historians must be trained in research techniques and analytical thinking and must possess a thorough grounding in their field of interest.

Career Outlook and Salary

Although sports history is a highly specialized field with limited career opportunities, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that jobs for historians in general would rise 6% from 2018 to 2028, which is an average increase when compared to all occupations within the nation. The BLS also cited $61,140 as the median annual salary for a historian in May 2018, with those in the bottom-paid 10% earning $29,270 annually and the top-paid 10% earning $110,670.

Sports historians need a love of sports, history and anthropology. They also need highly developed writing and communication abilities. They typically earn a master's degree or a Ph.D. with a focus on sports or sports history.

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