What Do You Do with a History Degree?

History majors aren't limited in their career opportunities. Many careers within almost all sectors are looking for talented individuals who have the critical thinking and comprehension skills that come from those studying history. In fact, many well-known personalities started their careers after studying history in college – from politicians like John F. Kennedy, Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich, to journalists Wolf Blitzer and Chris Berman, to business people Carly Fiorina and Lee Iacocca, to entertainers Steve Carell, Jimmy Buffett and Conan O'Brien.

The private sector offers many opportunities for students with a history or liberal arts background. Listed are numerous, but by no means exhaustive, examples of the types of businesses and industries which rely on employees who can research, document, analyze, synthesize, and communicate effectively.

Marketing and Advertising, Publishing, Public Relations

  • Researching and analyzing public trends
  • Presenting clients’ activities based on historical interpretation
  • Managing company archives
  • Writing historical material for organizational promotional purposes


  • Producing historical financial, economic, and political risk analyses
  • Managing archives
  • Researching policy issues
  • Writing and teaching staff corporate history
  • Exhibiting historical displays


  • Researching and evaluating case histories
  • Preparing studies of policy matters
  • Performing legislative analysis
  • Managing company archives

Investment Services

  • Managing archives and records
  • Performing research and analysis for companies that specialize in the purchasing, issuing, and selling of corporate equity (such as brokerage firms and investment banking houses)


  • Researching public and private archives and records collections
  • Collecting oral history for depositions
  • Developing support material from historical evidence

Mineral Extraction Industries

  • Analyzing political risk and key political figures with reference to economic implications for business
  • Researching claims and geographical and land use history


  • Analyzing markets, finances, economics, and political risk over time
  • Training staff in corporate history and foreign cultures through diversity and multiculturalism workshops
  • Collecting and documenting oral histories for organizational diagnosis
  • Managing company archives
  • Writing a history of the business or organization
  • Curating exhibits of archival materials and memorabilia


  • Reviewing local issues and concerns
  • Making policy and management studies
  • Providing information services
  • Performing historical analysis
  • Managing archives


  • Researching and writing historical documentaries and narratives
  • Analyzing public trends over time
  • Providing information and archival services to motion picture firms, networks, cable television companies, and record and tape industries


  • Searching and researching historical records
  • Interviewing with oral history techniques
  • Writing and editing for newspapers, news, trade, and professional (scholarly) journals, historical and popular periodicals and magazines, textbooks, and books

Industries in general

  • Researching
  • Performing analysis studies
  • Writing public relations and educational materials
  • Writing corporate communications
  • Documenting organizational history
  • Managing archives and information retrieval services


The government is one of the largest employers of students with training and degrees in history and related fields.

Executive Branch

  • In Cabinet-level departments (The Department of State, Department of the Interior, National Park Service, etc.) and in independent organizations within the federal government (The National Endowment for the Humanities, Smithsonian Institution, etc.):
    • Studying current issues studies
    • Analyzing policy performance, long-range trends, etc.
    • Preserving and organizing institutional records
    • Editing of public records and documents

Legislative Branch

  • In the historical offices of state legislatures, the Senate and the United States House of Representatives:
    • Performing staff and committee investigations
    • Publishing bibliographic material
    • Serving on study commissions
    • Providing research assistance where needed

Judicial Branch

  • In the United States Supreme Court Curator's Office and various historical offices, projects, and regulatory agencies:
    • Collecting and preserving records
    • Analyzing policy
    • Providing research where needed
    • Writing reports and various office correspondence, etc.

Military Services

  • Managing the museums and archival and records centers for the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and National Guard
  • Lecturing on specific issues
  • Prepare institutional histories, etc.

The Foreign Service

  • Duties include researching and writing on the diplomatic, economic, political, social, and cultural history of various areas. A test is required for entrance and placement analysis.

Civil Service

  • Duties depend on the type of location placement is granted. A test is required for entrance and placement analysis.

National Archives and Records Service

  • Duties include:
    • Managing archives, manuscripts, and records
    • Microfilming of collection items

Other Opportunities

  • The public sector offers many other possibilities, such as:
    • Working in libraries, historic sites, museums, community history education centers, etc
    • Working in areas of policy history, oral history, public administration, cultural resource management, genealogy and family history, public works, land-use management, urban history and development, demographic history, environmental history, archeological projects, etc.
    • Working in local, state-wide, and national historical societies


In addition to appointments within the United States government, the non-profit sector (organizations with 501 (c) 3 status) offers a wide array of professional positions in research, administration, education, and exhibition design. Many historians work in fundraising for these organizations.

History majors in particular are well-suited for appointments within the following institutions:

  • Historical commissions, associations, and societies
  • Scholarly and professional associations
  • Galleries and museums
  • Colleges and universities
  • Research foundations and institutional "think tanks"
  • Service institutions (agencies, foundations, etc.)
  • Other philanthropic organizations which provide educational, social, and cultural services to the public)


If teaching and/or original research are what you would like to do, appointments can be found in:

  • Public and private elementary and secondary schools as teachers
  • Community colleges as instructors
  • Undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities as faculty members


If you have the entrepreneurial spirit and wish to get involved with a small firm or start one of your own, there are several fields where a history major background and intellectual orientation will be effective.

Consulting: Cultural Resources

  • Preservation and cultural resource management policy
  • Researching and preparing cultural resource statements for environmental impact reports
  • Identifying and evaluating historic structures and other cultural resources
  • Selecting structures for legal protection
  • Preparing and teaching preservation education programs

Genealogical Services

  • Searching for, researching, and preparing reports on family and community histories
  • Preservation/Restoration Services
  • Working in firms offering historic preservation/restoration services
  • Rehabilitating historically accurate buildings and artifacts
  • Providing information services on the field
  • Researching preservation law and tax benefits


  • Preparing histories, etc.
  • Searching and researching public and private records
  • Performing legal and policy research service
  • Interviewing and transcribing for oral histories
  • Historical editing and indexing

Writing (as professional writers, editors, journalists)

  • Author your own historical books, pamphlets, articles, and research papers, Freelance