The ultimate 2024 history career guide

Are you passionate about all things history, but unsure of what your future will hold after you graduate? Are you looking for a degree that will give you the freedom to choose any path? Finding the right degree that will prepare you for your dream career can be daunting, and can leave you with conflicting thoughts. Do you choose a subject you love, or do you go for the safe option? The truth is, if you're passionate about history, the rest doesn't matter. Choosing to study history will give you the freedom to enjoy learning more about the topics you love, whilst developing an incredibly broad skill set that can be applied to any industry when you graduate.

Essex history graduates are heritage managers, conservation officers, and curators, but they also work in advertising, publishing, and media. One graduate went on to work at a Premier League Football Club, and another is an editor for Sky News. Their jobs may be wildly different, but the one thing they have in common? They all studied History at Essex.

Whatever it is about the past that intrigues you, and whichever industry you take your next steps into, one thing is for certain, the future of our world absolutely relies on people like you studying its history. To top it off, at Essex, you'll be surrounded by a supportive, encouraging, and active school that will help you plan a future that you're excited about.

This ultimate career guide is covering what careers you can go into the history sector, from traditional roles to applying your skills in different industries, to finding work and increasing your earning potential.

1. Is a history degree worth it?

As a history graduate, you will find your skills, knowledge, and ability to approach situations with an analytical and humanist mind is highly sought after by employers looking to withstand the challenges of our society that are prevalent today, and which lie ahead.

Employers in a wide range of industries will value a graduate with a history degree. Science and engineering companies, governments, international organisations, education sectors and even the media industry among many others are in demand of historians, as your knowledge in past events and ability to bring a humanist approach is fundamental in helping influence change in our society both today, tomorrow and in months and years to come.

Whether that's by utilising your knowledge in past pandemics to inform modern science and medicine, your understanding of past social injustices to influence current policy in governments, or your ability to recognise past human rights tragedies to educate charities, international corporations and media companies. Those who study a degree in history will continue to be highly valued across all sectors and industries worldwide, as the skills you'll develop will enable you to successfully transition into a wide range of potential career paths.

A history degree gives you the following skills:

  • the ability to evaluate evidence, analyse sources and write persuasive arguments. This could be the foundation of a career in law and politics or historical research
  • provide a commitment to research and investigation. These are ideal qualities for future journalists and roles in academia
  • to think critically and predict outcomes. These skills are invaluable for roles within the government, and non-governmental organisations, and historical consulting
  • showcase a broad cultural knowledge combined with an attention to detail. These skills are a very desirable attribute for careers in publishing, the media and in cultural heritage management
  • absorb, analyse and assess a wide variety of information and viewpoints. These are essential skills for working in international organisations, museums, archival work, and heritage organisations
  • express your findings in oral and written form. These are invaluable skills for those interested in a career in translation, charities, and historical education
  • the ability to analyse information and communicate your ideas clearly. These are excellent qualities for those interested in writing, researching, filmmaking, leadership positions, and historical consultancy
  • the skill to understand foreign cultures and new ideas, and grasp new systems quickly. This could be the start of a career in the public sector, Civil Service, or in cultural diplomacy
  • strong problem solving, data analysis and quantitative skills. These are skills which are essential for a career as an economist, a chartered accountant, or within the financial sector

 

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2. What careers can I go into with a history degree?

A degree in history could take you into heritage management, museum curation, teaching and education, social work, private and public sectors and the Civil Service. A history degree can also prepare you for a career in film and media, journalism, law and human rights, finance, governmental organisations and international corporations.

Here are 15 traditional roles suitable for history graduates in 2024:

  1. Museum Curator or Archivist: Curators are responsible for acquiring, preserving, and displaying historical artefacts and artworks in museums. Archivists manage and preserve documents and records, ensuring their accessibility for research purposes.
  2. Historical Consultant: Work as a consultant for historical accuracy in various industries such as film, television, gaming, or publishing. You can provide expertise on historical events, costumes, settings, and language.
  3. Historical Researcher: Conduct research for academic institutions, historical societies, government agencies, or private organisations. Research topics could include genealogy, local history, cultural heritage, or specific historical events.
  4. Historical Writer or Author: Write books, articles, or blogs on historical topics. You can explore non-fiction writing, biographies, historical fiction, or contribute to history magazines and websites.
  5. Tour Guide or Heritage Interpreter: Lead historical tours at museums, historic sites, or heritage destinations. Use your knowledge to educate visitors about the significance and context of historical landmarks.
  6. Education and Outreach Coordinator: Develop educational programmes, workshops, and outreach initiatives for museums, libraries, or cultural institutions. Engage with schools, community groups, and the public to promote historical understanding and appreciation.
  7. Historical Preservation Specialist: Work in historic preservation organisations to conserve and protect historical buildings, landmarks, and cultural sites. This may involve restoration projects, architectural surveys, or advocacy for heritage conservation.
  8. Historical Consultant for Legal Cases: Provide historical expertise for legal cases involving property disputes, land claims, or cultural heritage issues. Your research and analysis can contribute to legal arguments and decision-making processes.
  9. Digital Historian or Content Creator: Create digital content such as podcasts, videos, or online courses on historical topics. Utilise social media platforms and digital tools to share historical narratives and engage with a wider audience.
  10. Historical Event Planning: Organise historical-themed events, reenactments, or living history experiences. Collaborate with event management companies, historical societies, or tourism agencies to create immersive experiences for participants.
  11. Genealogist or Family Historian: Assist individuals or families in tracing their ancestry and uncovering their family history. Offer genealogical research services, compile family trees, and provide insights into personal heritage.
  12. Historical Artifact Appraiser or Dealer: Specialise in appraising, buying, or selling historical artefacts, antiques, or collectibles. This may involve working with auction houses, antique shops, or online marketplaces.
  13. Historical Graphic Designer or Illustrator: Use your artistic skills to create visual representations of historical events, maps, diagrams, or illustrations for publications, exhibitions, or educational materials.
  14. Historical Podcast Host or Presenter: Host a podcast series focusing on historical topics, events, or figures. You can interview experts, share narratives, and engage with listeners interested in history.
  15. Freelance Historian: Offer your services as a freelance historian, providing research, writing, or consulting expertise on a project basis. This could include commissioned articles, research reports, or historical consultancy work for businesses or organisations. 

3. Alternative roles and industries where you can apply your skills

History graduates possess a diverse skill set that can be applied to various sectors beyond traditional historical roles. Here are some alternative sectors where you might find other opportunities:

Here are 8 alternative sectors you can consider a career in:

  1. Government and Public Service: History graduates can find roles in government agencies, think tanks, or policy research organisations. You may work in areas such as public policy analysis, diplomacy, cultural heritage preservation, or archival management.
  2. Media and Journalism: History graduates can pursue careers in journalism, broadcasting, or documentary filmmaking. You can apply their research and communication skills to roles as reporters, editors, producers, or historical consultants for media organisations.
  3. Business and Marketing: History graduates bring valuable research, writing, and analytical skills to the business world. You may work in market research, content development, corporate communications, or historical branding roles within industries such as advertising, public relations, or content marketing.
  4. Library and Information Science: History graduates with an interest in archival management, information organisation, or digital preservation may pursue careers in libraries, archives, or information management organisations. You can work as librarians, archivists, digital asset managers, or metadata specialists.
  5. Heritage and Tourism: History graduates can work in heritage organisations, cultural institutions, or tourism agencies, promoting historical sites, museums, or heritage destinations. You may specialise in heritage interpretation, tour guiding, cultural resource management, or museum curation.
  6. Nonprofit and Advocacy: History graduates passionate about social justice, human rights, or environmental issues can find roles in nonprofit organisations, advocacy groups, or community development initiatives. You may work in areas such as fundraising, grant writing, programme development, or historical research for advocacy purposes.
  7. Technology and Digital Humanities: History graduates interested in technology and digital innovation can explore careers in digital humanities, digital archives, or cultural heritage digitization projects. You may work as digital historians, digital curators, or project managers for digital preservation initiatives.
  8. Law: History graduates often possess strong research, analytical, and critical thinking skills, making them well-suited for roles in the legal sector. You may work as paralegals, legal researchers, or pursue further education to become lawyers specialising in areas like international law or intellectual property law. You might need to consider further education to pursue a professional legal route. Our LLB Law (Senior Status) degree would be the ideal course to make that transition.

4. How will a history degree help you in a challenging jobs market?

Whilst science, technology and medicine continue to develop our world at a rapidly fast pace, we will also continue to experience threats such as climate change, war crimes, global pandemics and race, gender and social inequalities. In order for us to react to these issues and be able to shape the future needs of society, we need highly skilled and knowledgeable historians who can help to interpret and analyse patterns and outcomes of our past. As developing threats continue to affect sectors worldwide including health and social care, film and television, education, international corporations and human rights organisations around the globe, today’s students of history will play an integral role in overcoming these challenges and cultivating future change.

During your time at Essex, you will have the opportunity to study a variety of areas, from African-American slavery, to Stalin’s Russia, from witchcraft in Germany to the history of disease, and from revolutions in China to mass immigration and the role of women in Early Modern England. Our degrees are interdisciplinary, so if you are interested in other subjects, you could also choose to combine your degree in history with subjects including criminology, economics, literature, sociology, film studies, and human rights.

Whichever history degree you choose, you will develop unique strengths in learning how to grapple with complex moral issues, the ability to think critically and to understand the complexities and intricacies of humanity. These are all skills which are essential for helping to deal with contemporary global issues at local, national, and international levels, and will, therefore, be highly impressive, and valuable, to potential employers.

 

5. How you can you earn money within the history sector?

There are numerous ways to earn money within the history sector, leveraging your passion for the past into a rewarding career. Here are some avenues you can explore:

1. Freelance

History graduates can pursue freelance opportunities in various sectors such as writing, editing, publishing, journalism, content creation, or digital humanities. You can work on a freelance basis for multiple clients simultaneously, offering  your expertise and services on flexible terms. You can also set your own fees, giving you excellent opportunities to leverage your own earning potential.

2. Employed Positions

History graduates can work as full-time employees for various organisations such as museums, educational institutions, government agencies, libraries, archives, or corporate firms. You might hold positions such as a historian, educators, researcher, archivist, or analyst.

3. Remote work

History graduates can leverage remote work opportunities, especially in fields such as digital humanities, online education, content creation, or archival management. Remote work allows graduates to work from any location with internet access, offering flexibility and autonomy in their professional lives.

4. Academia

  • Teaching Positions: History graduates can pursue careers as educators, teaching at primary, secondary, or all levels. You can work as a professor, lecturer, or teaching assistant in colleges, universities, or educational institutions.
  • Research Positions: History graduates can secure research positions within academic institutions, research organisations, or think tanks. You might work as a research assistant, research fellow, or postdoctoral researcher, conducting historical research, publishing scholarly articles, or contributing to academic projects.
  • Administrative Roles: History graduates can take on administrative roles within academic departments, libraries, or research centers. You might work as a departmental administrator, academic advisor, programme coordinator, or library specialist, supporting the day-to-day operations of academic institutions.
  • Grants and Fellowships: History graduates can apply for grants, fellowships, or scholarships to fund their research, studies, or academic projects. These funding opportunities may be offered by government agencies, private foundations, or academic institutions to support research endeavors in various historical fields. (You can see this in action by browsing all the research that happens across Essex. Equally you could take a look at our history academic staff profiles and explore the incredible historical research they carry out and how they are contributing to society).
  • Publishing and Editing: History graduates can pursue careers in academic publishing or editing, working for academic journals, publishing houses, or scholarly presses. You may work as an editor, proofreader, or manuscript reviewer, contributing to the publication and dissemination of historical scholarship.
  • Consulting and Expert Services: History graduates with expertise in specific historical subjects may offer consulting or expert services to academic institutions, museums, government agencies, or legal entities. You may provide historical analysis, research support, or expert testimony on historical matters.
  • Conferences and Workshops: History graduates can participate in academic conferences, workshops, or symposiums as presenters, panelists, or organizers. These events provide opportunities to share research findings, network with peers, and showcase expertise in historical subjects.
  • Professional Associations: History graduates can join professional associations or societies related to their field of study. These organisations may offer networking opportunities, professional development resources, and funding opportunities for research or academic projects.
  • Teaching and Research Assistantships: History graduates enrolled in graduate programs may secure teaching or research assistantships, which provide stipends, tuition waivers, or other financial support in exchange for assisting faculty members with teaching or research responsibilities.
  • Public History Initiatives: History graduates interested in public history can engage in community-based projects, public outreach initiatives, or historical preservation efforts. You might collaborate with museums, historical societies, or cultural institutions to promote historical awareness and preservation in local communities. As an Essex history student, you'll have access to opportunities within our Centre for Public History.

4. Entrepreneurship

History graduates with entrepreneurial spirit can start their own businesses or ventures related to historical research, education, heritage tourism, publishing, or digital humanities. You can develop innovative products, services, or platforms catering to historical enthusiasts, students, researchers, or the general public.

If starting your own business is something you aspire to do, we're proud of our commitment to supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups at Essex. On our Colchester campus, you'll find the Innovation Centre, Essex startups, Angels at Essex, and Clickcrowdfunding, our very own fundraising platform. 

Side note: If you're interested in becoming a historical writer, you can find more ways of earning money in the creative writing ultimate career guide.

 

Read the creative writing ultimate career guide

The takeaway

Picture this: diving into history every day, surrounded by tales of triumph, intrigue, and the twists of fate that shaped our world. A history degree isn't just about memorizing dates; it's about uncovering the stories that define us and understanding how they still resonate today. It's like being a detective, piecing together clues from the past to make sense of the present. But it's not just about digging up old dirt; it's about honing skills that are crucial in any field – like critical thinking, research, and storytelling. Whether you're into politics, culture, or just love a good story, studying history opens up a world of possibilities. From shaping policy to preserving heritage, there's no limit to where it can take you. So, if you're curious, passionate, and ready to explore, a history degree might just be your ticket to an exciting journey of discovery and impact.

History degrees at Essex are based within the School of Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies.

 

Browse our history degrees