What can I do with a history degree?
The short answer is quite a lot. Unlike a professional school, which trains a student for a particular profession or vocation, a liberal arts degree in a field like history can help you prepare for a range of jobs because the skills one develops in history classes are widely applicable. Understanding of the past, awareness of the importance of culture and context, as well as an ability to sort through large amounts of information, draw relevant conclusions, and write or speak persuasively about one’s findings are all skills that prove valuable in a range of careers.
Some history majors continue to use their degree as educators, researchers, archivists, or public historians, but many more work in a variety of fields including law, government, nongovernmental organizations, business, or even medicine, with law and business as the two most common trajectories. The American Historical Association has compiled a useful list of careers pursued by history majors. Over time (a phrase history majors are apt to use!), graduates in history earn salaries in the higher end of those who pursued liberal arts degrees and tend to report in surveys that they are happy they majored in history.
A recent survey of History Department alumni uncovered unanimous agreement that training in history had been very useful in the "real world" of work, both because of the research and writing skills students had developed and because of the greater depth of understanding history had provided.
Some of them said:
- "It opened many avenues for further intellectual exploration—in politics, business, government, international relations, art, and culture."
- "Really, knowledge of history gives you such an advantage over historiophobes that you can run all over them in long-term business planning. Applies in U.S., Europe, Asia."
- "I believe my background in history gave me a broader perspective on events than my counterparts received in Journalism school. My history classes also encouraged a clean writing style suitable for the media and business - there's no room for flowery prose there." (from a journalist)
Department faculty and KU Career Services are happy to discuss career options with you, including potential internships. While the department has no designated internships, history majors have interned at institutions ranging from news outlets, including NPR, to museums and the National Archives in Kansas City.