Guide to Historical Careers

In all cases, students will dramatically improve their chances of gaining employment if they have participated in at least one internship in their chosen field.

Teaching
An large percentage of teachers have undergraduate backgrounds in history, which has traditionally been considered the ideal major for those wishing to enter the classroom as a profession. College-level teaching almost always requires a doctorate and is currently a highly competitive field (see the section of this website on Graduate Education for more information). A bachelor's degree in history is usually sufficient for K-12 teachers, although those hoping to teach at the advanced high school level may find a master's degree beneficial.

Museums, Libraries, Archives, Curatorial and Preservation Work
Overwhelmingly dominated by historians, these professions are obvious choices for undergraduates who study history. The United States has dozens of such institutions on almost every topic imaginable. Entry-level positions are often available for those who hold bachelor's degrees in history but graduate work (either in history, archeology, or library studies) may prove essential to advancement in these fields.

Environmental History
An abundance of federal legislation regarding pollution has opened up lots of career possibilities for historians, particularly after the passage of Superfund legislation which made corporate polluters responsible for cleaning up any environmental hazards they create. Both private and government employers now hire historians to investigate the environmental history of various properties and businesses to help determine the exact nature of environmental damage down to sites and who is responsible for the clean-up. Most of this work is done on a contractual basis and historians' findings are often used as supporting material in legal battles, meaning that this branch of historical work is the most lucrative. Advanced historical and environmental studies are usually essential to success in this field.

Institutional History
All levels of government and hundreds of corporate employers maintain historical divisions, and the trend appears to be growing. These historians may be responsible for archiving an organization's records, creating and maintaining museums, extensive public relations work, and are sometimes consulted in helping executives make current policy decisions that take into account an institution's past. More and more, private businesses are beginning to recognize the role their company has played in American history and their products' contributions to Americana. For example, Wells Fargo has a large staff of historians who maintain the company's museum in San Francisco, contribute to advertising campaigns, and research the organization's substantially role in exploring and settling the American West. The Coca-Cola Company employs historians in a similar role, and hundreds of companies have already done the same or are in the process of creating such programs at their institutions. Historians working for large companies are usually well compensated and often a bachelor's degree is sufficient to gain entry-level positions with many organizations. (web sites for companies)

Likewise, local, state, and federal governments have all long recognized the value of historical knowledge in both commemorating their efforts and making crucial policy decisions. Almost every major department of the federal government has a staff of historians, with some of the largest groups working for the State Department and the various branches of the military. Some of these historians are consulted at very high levels; for example, the Joint Chiefs of Staff regularly receive reports from a historian assigned to investigate any topic they deem necessary. Government historians, particularly at the federal level, are classified as civil servants and therefore are paid accordingly and have access to the government's extensive benefits program. (web sites)

Editorial Work
Graduates with history or English degrees have traditionally dominated the editorial world, but in general historians are preferred for their general knowledge, as long as their writing skills are sound. Publishing companies of all types routinely employ historians to assist in producing all kinds of material, including electronic publications. Unless in a highly specialized field, editors usually do not require more than a bachelor's degree, particularly at the entry-level. Such positions are almost always poorly paid but can lead to more lucrative work through advancement.

Documentary Filmmaking
With the rise of cable television in the 1990s, the demand for documentary films has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. Dozens of cable networks, in addition to PBS, fill their programming schedules with documentaries on a huge array of topics. A bachelor's degree in history combined with a brief post-graduate program in filmmaking offer students the best opportunity to enter this field, which can prove remarkably lucrative.


Professional Web Sites

The following web sites present information on a variety of fields associated with history. As the department collects more information, it will post more links on this page.

American Society of Indexers: http://www.asindexing.org/site/

Northeast Document Conservation Center: http://www.nedcc.org/

Library of Congress Preservation Office: http://www.loc.gov/preserv/


Advanced Degrees and Certificates

The following web sites display information concerning advanced degrees and certificates related to public history. As the department collects more information, it will post more links on this page.

The Smithsonian Institution presents information here concerning museum studies: http://museumstudies.si.edu/

Harvard University has an extension program that awards certificates in Museum Studies:
http://extension.dce.harvard.edu/cms/

The University of New Hampshire allows students to specialize in Museum Studies as they prepare a Masters in History: http://www.unh.edu/history/museums.htm

Saint Anselm College, a Benedictine, Catholic, Liberal Arts College
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Copyrighted by the History Department, Saint Anselm College, 2006.