What Can I Do With A History Degree?

After high school, the only debate for me was do I focus on English literature or history. I am not sure what sparked my initial interest. I liked my upper school history teachers; I was well read and had a great interest in looking at the problems of vice, poverty, class, race, and gender; my friend Karlyn Hunter introduced me to a few great books on the topic of race while in high school. In the end, teaching history was my call. I often hear that people decide to teach because they cannot do anything else. This is a wholly inaccurate statement. Better yet, my first job offer was from a publishing firm in Seattle. History teaches one to ponder in an intellectual yet pragmatic way. Those of us who are students of history tend to be good writers, analytical thinkers, synthesizers, and well read. I have seen a number of my favorite (yes I do have them) students study history. I see myself in the realm of teacher and historian. I am very active in the academic community; I enjoy research and writing; I also find pleasure doing archival work, presenting a paper or concept at a conference, traveling,  or just wondering through the stacks of some library.

Because I am an active teacher scholar, I do believe that my students benefit a great deal. As they might contend, I do get on stage when talking about how a recent research project relates to what we are reading in class. Often times, my research interest drives what we read and how we read it. But for others, teaching and academic life does not  bring them pleasure when it comes to history. Still, I always encourage students to study what they love. Here is a great link on alternative fields for those who want to study history, but do not want to teach or do academic research.

Read Here.


15 thoughts on “What Can I Do With A History Degree?

  1. That’s a really great link…I will be sure to save that for future use. For some reason I assumed that you were a political science major, but I was obviously incorrect.

  2. I did take a number of political science courses, but I am a history student. I do have much interest in politics — though much of it is international and not domestic. This is a shock to many. Actually, it was Mark Elrold’s international relations course that fueled my interest in European history. Odd I know. Yes, I think that link is a very good one. But I see you doing what I do if not far more. You are much smarter than me at this stuff when I was your age.

  3. Same here Mr. Carson. It was a high school teacher that turned me on to history. Today, it seems that only the History Channel can do that for many. I am not sure that is a true love for history. Ok, correction here: It is not a true love for being a student of history.

  4. I’ve always loved every history class I’ve taken, but the field I would like to go into is medicine. I thought about medical research, but I like people too much to have to sit in a lab all day.

    btw I love the history channel (The military history channel is really great too)

  5. I also firmly believe the love of history can be fostered by travel. As a History teacher myself, I am constantly encouraging my students to get out of our little bubble and experience the rest of the world. After been given the opportunity to travel rather extensively throughout Asia and Europe, I feel I can offer a glimpse to our students about the challenges that face others around the world. It is through my trips abroad that my love of history was first sparked. I also feel that historians CAN be more open minded. We can evaluate and investigate motives and ideas, and hopefully look at both sides of any situation. We also ask our students offer up a position and support it. So often students and individuals do not know how to stand behind an idea and defend it with facts and information. This ability is very useful in the world today.

  6. Give it up for PBS!

    Carson wrote: “I often hear that people decide to teach because they cannot do anything else. This is a wholly inaccurate statement. ”

    I agree. While the Woody Allen line, “Those who can’t do, teach. And those that can’t teach teach gym,” is funny (especially since I coach), it is only a joke. The truth is that academics is a profession all its own. Skilled teachers do a remarkable service to society. Imagine our society without them!

  7. My students do travel quite a bit. Many of them travel with their families during the summer. I don’t know if I would say they were motivated as such by what they see or experience, but instead I think there is an aspect of appreciation of the US after traveling outside of the country. I was motivated to study history as a result of an amazing distinguished professor that I was taught by at the University of Arkansas. I liked history before college though, as a result of traveling through Europe and then going on a mission trip to the new Russia in summer of 1992, I was able to see amazing sights and it make history come to life for me. Yet, when I was able to visit with Russian students my age that had just lived through the fall of communism, that was when history became more than dates and places. It was a story with real people that impact their lives. After that I was hooked !

  8. I haven’t done much traveling outside of the good ol’ US of A, but Russia sounds like it will have to go on my list of things to do before I die.

  9. That was a great link Carson, thanks for telling me. I hope to get the book soon, haha. With a major/minor combination of history/European studies/political science, do you have any specific careers that come to mind at the moment? I’m still thinking of possibilities but so far I can’t seem to find the ideal job.

  10. Whenever someone asks what I’m going to do with a history degree or questions why I’m not in some vocational major, I politely point out to them that a lot of lower-class, uneducated people wonder such things. Then I explain the difference between college and trade school. I use small words and speak very slowly.

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