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What Can You Do With A History Degree?

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What career prospects do history students have in store for them? The Guardian UK reports an 89.3% employment rate for history graduates.

But, entry positions may not have the salary you want. What if you waste years of your life studying for a low-return degree? With few career options to choose from?

The good news is, that getting a history degree can bring you to well-respected, high-paying professions. It’s actually one of the topics we cover in our summer courses in history.

What you need is the latest data to make educated decisions – which you’ll discover in this article. Keep reading.

What Is History?

History is the study of the past, coming from the Greek word “historia,” meaning “knowledge from inquiry.” It’s an academic discipline that uses narratives to describe and analyse events from the earliest human civilisations to the present era.

Persons who are experts in history are called “historians.” Historians (potentially you) use written documents, archaeological evidence, and oral traditions to reconstruct past events.

As you may imagine, historians often debate with each other. About what, you ask? They argue about which narrative best explains a particular event. Plus, determining which factor caused an incident to happen is a subject of significance.

If you were to ask a historian why studying history is crucial when “past is past,” what do you imagine they would say? What would you say? That is also a matter of constant discussion within the community.

Career Options For History Degree Graduates

History degree graduates generally choose two career options: directly and indirectly related. “Directly related” refers to career options where a history degree is most relevant. While “indirectly related” are career options where a history degree can be useful.

Career Options Directly Related To History Degree

Heritage Manager

Average Base Salary In The UK: £30,626 per year

A heritage manager preserves and manages a community’s heritage assets. What makes something a heritage asset, you ask? Excellent question! A heritage asset can refer to historic sites, landscapes, and ancient monuments valuable to culture. 

Heritage managers work with the local government and other stakeholders. The goal? To develop and apply policies and programs for the protection of historic assets. Ensuring the general public can continue enjoying their heritage for many years.

Archivist

Average Base Salary In The UK: £28,052 per year

Do you imagine papyrus scrolls when thinking of archivists? True, archivists preserve valuable historical records. Physical historical records were the norm before the age of the computer. Everything from film photos and tapes to ancient books (and yes, scrolls.)

Today, more and more digital forms are also preserved. Think audio recordings, digital photos, and videos. Who uses these materials? Researchers, academics, and historians use these for their purposes. Even the general public love to go over them to stimulate their curiosity.

Curator

Average Base Salary In The UK: £30,714 per year

What was the last museum you visited? Curators manage and protect the artefacts and works of art found in museums, exhibitions, and galleries. Did you know that curators go out on trips to scout and acquire objects of historical interest? They carry out background research to write accurate catalogues.

Helping the public appreciate these valuable pieces is also part of the job description. So if you’re a creative individual who loves to educate and engage, you’d be a fantastic curator!

Secondary School Teacher

Average Base Salary In The UK: £19,098 per year

A secondary school teacher teaches 11 to 18-year-old students. If you’re passionate about raising the next generation to know their history well, you’d love to become a teacher. Making lesson plans and assessing a student’s standing is part of a teacher’s routine.

Do you know that teachers need to stay updated with the latest developments in research and curriculum objectives? There’s room for constant growth in teaching!

History Buildings Inspector 

Average Base Salary In The UK: £33,844 per year

Have you ever gazed in admiration at a stately home? The United Kingdom has many of them! And each needs to be regularly inspected for safety. That’s where history building inspectors come in.

It’s the inspector’s job to protect buildings of important historical, artistic, and architectural value. They ensure that buildings are structurally sound and safe for the public. The promotion and conservation of the buildings are also within their jurisdiction. What are some of your favourite historic buildings?

Career Options Indirectly Related To A History Degree

Academic Librarian

Average Base Salary In The UK: £26,454 per year

What would a library look like without a librarian? Literally a mountain of books with no order whatsoever! Academic librarians make knowledge resources accessible by cataloguing. Because of a proper organisation system, you know how to find the book you’re looking for.

And when you can’t find it, you know who to look for! History graduates make amazing academic librarians because they know how to manage, organise, and care for documents. Plus, they excel at cataloguing – an essential librarian skill.

Archaeologist

Average Base Salary In The UK: £25,405 per year

An archaeologist studies the cultures of people from the past. How do they do that? By looking at artefacts, remains, and ruins left behind. You can compare it to piecing together a puzzle to form a picture of what life was like.

What happens once archaeologists find a historic or prehistoric object? They document, examine and preserve the remains. Many of the items in museums and heritage centres come from their efforts. Do you love the thrill of digging up historical treasures from the ground? You’d enjoy being an archaeologist!

Broadcast Journalist

Average Base Salary In The UK: £25,901

A broadcast journalist finds exciting stories to share with the public. What kinds of stories, you ask? The ones you watch in the evening news or read about in the newspaper. The key is to present stories in a captivating way.

Why do history graduates make good broadcast journalists? Because while historians construct a narrative from the past, journalists do the same in the present. Both know how to understand how people react in a given setting (context).

Civil Service Administrator

Average Base Salary In The UK: £22,467 per year

Civil service administrators put in place government policy. They carry out several roles to the public. From diplomacy and defence to infrastructure and education. Some civil service administrators establish connections with people. While others make reports and do research for policymaking. Which would you prefer?

History graduates can be fantastic civil service administrators because they understand culture and context. Both of these are vital in diplomacy and policymaking. Because if you don’t know who you’re serving, how can you be efficient?

Solicitor

Average Base Salary In The UK: £45,032 per year 

A solicitor is a specific type of lawyer. Their job? To provide legal support and advice on personal and commercial issues. They also represent the client in court. Solicitors specialise in various fields, including human rights, immigration, and property. 

Do you know why having a history degree is good for law? Because knowing how the law came into place is an advantage. Also, historians are excellent at understanding cause and effect. Helping them understand a person’s situation well enough to advise them what to do. 

Median Salary Of Undergraduates With A History Degree

Are you wondering what the median salary of 

  • full-time graduates 
  • who hold first degree qualifications 
  • then got a full-time job in the UK
  • with a history degree? 

According to Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) 2021:

High-Skilled Graduates: £24,500

Medium-Skilled Graduates: £19,500

Low-Skilled Graduates: £18,00

You can expect a salary within this scope with entry-level positions. However, if you want a high salary, it’s best to gain more work experience to climb the ranks. Or enrol in further study.

Who Are The Typical Employers Of History Graduates?

  • Museums, libraries, and heritage centres
  • Archive and records offices
  • Law firms
  • Schools and universities
  • Television and radio stations
  • Publishing companies
  • Government agencies

Skills For Your Curriculum Vitae (CV)

The skills you will develop from studying history will determine your career path. Here are some of them: 

  • Conduct detailed research – important in research-heavy fields (e.g. law and policy-making)
  • Communication – explain your findings so everyone can understand
  • Argumentation – the skill of building and presenting arguments
  • Objective thinking – how can you approach a problem from a new perspective? 
  • Critical reasoning – uses facts, observations, and arguments to form a judgment
  • Cross-referencing – studying different sources to come up with the best explanation
  • Contextualization – interpreting events within proper contexts
  • Drawing conclusions – making conclusions from statistical research and chain of events

Where To Get Work Experience

If you want to increase your value in the workplace, you need to get work experience. The key is to determine what career you’re aiming for. Do you want to be a history buildings inspector? Try volunteering at organisations that specialise in preserving historic buildings. 

What if you want to be a lawyer? Then getting an internship with a law firm will prove helpful. Research what companies are open for interns and apply. 

What if you’re unsure what career path you want to take? Volunteer anyway. Having first-hand experience of what a job feels like will help you make better decisions. 

Here’s a pro tip: the process of applying, reaching out, and getting work experience builds your network. The more people you build relationships with, the more opportunities will open up to you. 

Where Do History Graduates Go?

Where do history graduates go right after graduation? Here are useful data from two of the best universities for history UK

In Oxford:

  • 40% study Master’s 
  • 30% complete a professional qualification (e.g.  law, accountancy, or medicine)

In Cambridge:

  • 33% study Master’s
  • 10% completed a professional qualification for law (as solicitors and barristers)
  • 6% became teachers
  • 4% worked in public service (mostly in Civil Service)

Which path would you choose? 

Further Study

Did you notice how most history graduates enrol in further study in the previous section? That’s because having a postgraduate degree gives you access to careers with higher salaries. What’s more, you’ll also be more in demand as you climb the education ladder.

Also, do you know that specialising in Law is common for history graduates? Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be a year or two behind law students. But if you enjoy studying history, the delay is worth it!

Famous People With History Degree

Looking for inspiration? Here are some of the famous people you may know. What you may not have known – is that they have a history degree!

Prince Charles

Did you know that Prince Charles is the first monarch to have a university degree? He started studying Archaeology and Anthropology. But he later switched to history. In 1970, he graduated with a 2:2 degree.

Jonathan Stephen Ross OBE 

Guess who made Jonathan Stephen Ross an OBE? OBE means the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.” Prince Charles. For what? For Jonathan’s outstanding contributions to broadcasting. By the way, he graduated with a history degree in Modern European History in London

Sir Howard Stringer

Sir Howard Stringer made history as the first non-Japanese CEO and President of Sony Corporation. He is a Welsh businessman who graduated with a degree in Modern History in Oxford in 1964.

Al Murray 

Al Murray is a famous comedian, especially for his stand up persona “The Pub Landlord.” Guess where he got his history degree? At the University of Oxford. It’s where he performed with the “Oxford Revue” – the elite comedy group. So it’s easy to see where he honed his comedy skills!

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