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What Can You Do With a PhD in History?

The study of history includes all cultures and time periods. What you can do with a PhD in History is really only limited by the geographic location or time period you study. This article will look at several career choices for individuals with a PhD in history.

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History PhD programs require students to conduct extensive research in their area of interest and teach classes. This experience provides graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue leadership roles in academia and historic preservation, among other areas.

Job Options for History PhD Graduates

Job Title Average Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
History Professor $82,900 10%
Postsecondary Education Administrator $107,670 10%
Museum Curator $58,830 14%
Historian $64,220 6%
Author $72,120 8%
Archivist $55,470 14%

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • American History
  • Ancient Studies
  • Asian History
  • Classical Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies
  • Cultural Resource Management
  • European History
  • Historic Preservation
  • History of Science and Technology
  • Holocaust Studies
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • Museum Studies
  • Public History and Archival Administration

Career Descriptions for History PhD Graduates

History Professor

As an history professor, you'll teach the next generation of historians and history enthusiasts. You'll likely focus on the same area of study as you did in your history PhD program, such as American history or world history, and teach classes focusing on these or other more specialized topics, like Egyptian history, British history, Japanese history, 1920s America, or the Tudor reign. As a college professor, you'll create lesson plans to improve students' knowledge and skills in the history field. Many colleges allow tenured professors to take sabbaticals to further their education or position in the field.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Earning a PhD can prepare you for the research and problem-solving aspects of working in administration and is often a requirement for positions as a dean or provost. Depending on the university you work for, as a dean you may be in charge of an entire college, such as a college of liberal arts. As a provost, you'll help the president make decisions regarding the school, its students, and its staff. You may be on the tenure committee or you may oversee the research that a school does. It is important to note that while deans and provosts often have similar job duties, the dean is typically involved in the academic side of the college, while the provost heads the faculty and staff (including deans).

Museum Curator

As a museum curator, you'll be in a managerial role at a museum. These professionals are also referred to as museum directors. Depending on the size and type of museum, you may be the head of the museum or you may only head up a department (such as Egyptology for a history museum). You will likely be in charge of acquiring and categorizing items for your exhibits. You'll also likely represent a museum at public events or when speaking with the media. Since these positions are often very competitive, having an advanced degree could give you an edge over the competition. With a PhD in History, you'll be able to perform research and publish in history journals, which can help with advancement.

Historian

As a historian, you'll gather historical information and trace history and lineages. You may be tasked with writing books or digging through very old documents and oral stories to find the information you need to complete a research project. Historians are also often the ones charged with writing reports about the significance of historic buildings and lands. With a PhD in history, you'll have the research background to better complete these projects. Also, many federal government and academic positions require a PhD. You may choose to study a specific region, era, or culture in your PhD program.

Author

Whether you wish to be a nonfiction history writer or a fiction writer, authors spend a lot of time researching their subject. If you should choose to write historical fiction, a history PhD program can give you a great understanding of the way cultures work and the time periods you want to write about. For nonfiction writers, a knowledge of history is even more important. You'll have the expertise needed to locate the necessary documents for sourcing and accurately write about the topic you select.

Archivist

An archivist and a curator have a lot in common. However, rather than working with artifacts, you'll work with documents, maps, and other historical records. As an archivist, you may work at a variety of historical sites and education centers, such as historical societies, universities, and libraries. You will likely authenticate documents and letters. Along with this, you may preserve or restore the documents for future generations. You will also organize these documents and set up rules for the handling of materials by the public. A PhD in history can give you the education needed to properly research and authenticate documents. It could also help you qualify for advanced positions in this field.

As you can see, there are many career options for individuals with a PhD in history. Having a PhD can set you up for more research positions and leadership positions than you might be eligible for with an undergraduate degree or a master's degree.

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