What Can You Do with a History Degree?

Sep 17, 2019

A degree in history is generally an undergraduate or graduate major. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Earning a bachelor's or master's degree can open up career options like history teacher and museum curator. These professions require extensive knowledge of history.

Essential Information

Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in history have numerous career options from which to choose. Many of these involve working for museums or in academic environments. Some job titles for history majors include history teacher, historical conservator or museum curator. Some of these positions may require earning a master's or doctoral degree in education, history or related areas, such as art history. Read on to learn about job duties and career outlook for all three professions.

Career Historical Conservator Museum Curator Postsecondary History Teacher
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Master's or doctoral Master's or doctoral
Projected Job Growth* (2018-2028) 9% 10% 6%
Median Salary* (2018) $43,020 $53,780 $74,590

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

History Teacher

The BLS reports that need for elementary, middle school and high school teachers could grow about 3-4% from 2018 to 2028, which is below average for all occupations. The BLS also reports that post-secondary education employment is expected to increase by 11% due to an expected increase in college and university enrollment between 2018 and 2028. Employment of history professors is projected at 6% (average), with greater increases seen in post-secondary employment at large.

Historical Conservator

Historical conservators are responsible for the maintenance and preservation of historical objects and artifacts like books, art, clothing, human remains and religious or political documents. Conservators conduct extensive historical research to determine the exact physical or chemical makeup of historical objects; this often involves x-rays, microscopic examination or other laboratory testing. After this testing is complete, they can make educated decisions on the proper method of conservation.

In addition to historical preservation, conservators are also responsible for restoring objects damaged by time, natural wear and tear or acts of historical violence. This entails many of the same methods as the conservation process described above.

According to the BLS, a master's degree in conservation is the preferred educational level for conservators. Because such programs are not widely available, students may pursue graduate degrees in related fields, according to the BLS. A graduate degree in history can be a good substitute for a conservation degree. This is particularly true if students take numerous humanities courses or declare concentrations in the exact area of historical conservation in which they plan to specialize, such as architecture, theology or art.

Career Outlook

Most conservators are employed by museums; however, some work on a freelance basis, completing short or long-term projects for historical, cultural or religious organizations. The BLS predicted above average job growth of about 8% for conservators between the years of 2018 and 2028. The BLS reports that many organizations employing conservators are publicly funded and thus impacted by economic downturns and corresponding budget cuts. However, continued interest in cultural activities provides a stable outlook for these professionals.

Museum Curator

Also often known as museum directors, museum curators develop and oversee museums' day-to-day operations. Their job duties include arranging displays, acquiring new objects for display, securing guest speakers or exhibits, planning special events and soliciting funding or charitable contributions.

Curators also usually supervise the documentation, inventory and security of all objects already being displayed in the museum. Although they often delegate these tasks to hired security guards or other staff members, final responsibility for the safety and maintenance of museum goods rests with curators. Depending on the size of a museum and scope of the types of objects it houses, curators may be responsible for supervising assistants, technicians, publicists or other staff members.

Career Outlook

According to BLS, a master's or doctoral degree is typically required in order to work as a museum curator. The BLS reports that graduate degrees in history can serve as sufficient preparation, particularly for curators working at museums specifically devoted to history. They further advise that for museums of other types, such as art or science, some sort of graduate-level education in those areas can be helpful. In addition to museums, similar departments of universities, private historical trusts or government organizations may employ curators. The BLS anticipated an 10% increase in curator jobs from 2018 to 2028.

A history degree may help procure you a position in a variety of fields, some of which you might not immediately expect. If you have a passion for history and want to make it a part of your daily life then pursuing a degree in history may be a great choice for you.

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