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Is a History Degree Worth It?

Because everything has some sort of history associated with it, be it time period, person or invention, a history degree can prepare you for a multitude of careers based on your interests.
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Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

It's often said that understanding history is the key to not repeating it. Historian Dr. Matthew Schandler, disagrees. An adjunct faculty member and academic partner with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), Schandler feels that that old adage is too simplistic.

According to Schandler, understanding history provides perspective and ultimately helps us better understand the present. “(History) helps one discern fact from fiction, truth from lies,” he said.

Dr. Matthew Schandler, an adjunct instructor of history and academic partner at SNHU.On the more practical side, having a degree in history can help you get and stay employed. A highly versatile degree, studying history can certainly prepare you for a career as a professor or secondary education teacher. But, as Schandler pointed out, “Historians can (actually) study anything they wish.”

The study of history involves the intersection between ancient civilizations and modern societies. While core classes focus on humanity and human society, you'll be able to customize your degree with a variety of concentrations and electives.

Sociology, psychology and political science are related fields that can broaden your studies. Art history, writing and graphic design can lend themselves well to round out a history degree as well.

Adding a complementary minor in an area such as marketing or project management could provide even more opportunities for you to broaden your education and build the foundation for a satisfying career.

Is History a Hard Major?

Any degree program can be challenging, and history is no different. If you’re learning what you love, though, the challenge can be enjoyable.

An icon of an open bookIt’s important to note that with history, you need to be prepared to do a lot of reading. “If someone wishes to pursue the history degree, they must find reading compelling,” Schandler said.

You must be able to process significant amounts of information quickly and accurately as well as have strong digital literacy skills. This is because historians may work on digital literacy projects and conduct research using massive amounts of primary and secondary sources. These sources can include books, articles, documentaries or even video games, according to Schandler.

Even with new artificial intelligence tools able to summarize large documents, historians must be able to process and synthesize significant amounts of information quickly and accurately. "There are new ways to (convey) history to different audiences that go (beyond) 'just writing,'" Schandler said.

Choosing a Concentration

An icon of a pencil.History involves studying the events and ideas of the past. A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in History involves completing general education courses as well as courses designed for study of the events and ideas of the past. Undergraduate coursework may include courses in United States history, world civilizations and history research. The major is designed to help provide a broad understanding of history as a field.

Once your core general education and history requirements are complete, many schools allow you to choose a concentration to focus your learning. Some examples of such concentrations are:

  • American History – where you may study environmental history or African-American history, or complete coursework in the Civil War and Restoration eras. A concentration in American history can be good preparation for a career in museum science or archival work.

  • European History – where the focus is typically on ancient Greece and Rome, but could continue up to and include World War II. This concentration may offer courses in political science as well.

  • Middle Eastern History – this concentration examines the political and religious matters of Islam and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Journalism and communications are good options for career paths with this degree focus.

  • Military History – the evolution of warfare, past and present, are the focus here. While this concentration is available to anyone, nearly 45% of the students in SNHU's military history concentration are military-affiliated.

Schandler said that no matter which concentration you choose, the skills, methodologies and complex synthesis of information from disparate sources that historians must master can be challenging. “The historian must be willing to truly apply themselves (to be successful),” he said.

And while the realities of graduate school in history can seem intimidating, Schandler said that rigor and intensity are important parts of earning the degree. For Schandler, history allows for learning about all sorts of topics, an aspect of the field he really enjoys.

Find Your Program

Is History a Respected Major?

An icon of a graduation cap.Everything has some sort of history associated with it, be it time period, person or invention. “The amazing part of about pursuing a degree in history relates precisely to this potential,” Schandler said. Given the various backgrounds, interests and specialties available in the study of history, a historian can essentially be trained for a career in virtually any area.

The transferable skills and versatility of studying history make the field a great launchpad for a multitude of careers. Historians are trained to write clearly and conduct research to provide evidence, Schandler said. This skill makes historians experts at crafting an argument, a skill set respected in virtually any field. 

What Skills are Necessary to Be Successful as a Historian?

In addition to an affinity for reading and synthesizing information, there are several skills that Schandler feels are critical for historians to be successful. They include:

  • Focus – Schandler considers the ability to concentrate a vital quality to have as a history major.

  • Interest in the present as well as the past – While an interest in the past may be obvious, history majors can benefit from an active interest in the present as well. Keeping up to date with global events can help broaden and enrich study of the past.

  • Investigative curiosity – When studying history, you’ll not only need to investigate sources, you’ll benefit from enjoying the research process.

  • Literacy – Much of your work will involve writing about your findings and ideas. To do this effectively, you’ll need to structure your thoughts in a way that flows. You also need to be comfortable working with large volumes of information in many different formats.

  • Numeracy – While the study of history involves competence in reading and literacy, an aptitude for working with numbers and data is also necessary. In fact, being able to work with numbers is a prerequisite skill for certain subfields of history, according to Schandler.


Are History Majors in Demand?

Because of the broad foundation of the history undergraduate degree, job opportunities for history majors exist across a variety of disciplines. In addition to more traditional jobs for historians, such as teaching, new types of jobs emerge all the time.

“There are amazing applications for the history major to work in creative industries like documentary filmmaking and practical ones such as secondary education,” Schandler said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 65% of those with a history degree worked in one of these occupation groups, as of 2021.* Those groups are:

  • Business and Financial Operations – With a bachelor’s degree in history, you could go on to work as a budget analyst, human resources specialist or logistician. Loan officer or underwriter roles are also good opportunities for history majors. As of May 2023, the median salary across jobs in this area was $79,050, according to BLS.*

  • Educational Instruction and Library Occupations – Roles in this field include archivists, teachers and museum workers. The median annual salary for workers in this group, according to BLS, was $59,940 in 2023, which was higher than the median annual salary for workers across all professions.*

  • Legal Occupations – Mediators, court reporters and paralegals are a few of the opportunities available in this field that don’t require a graduate degree. The median salary across this field as of May 2023, according to BLS, was $99,220.*

  • Management – There are many types of management, including facilities management, human resources management and computer and information systems management, to name a few. These occupations require the writing, critical thinking and ability to synthesize large amounts of data that are part of studying history. The median annual salary for jobs in this category, according to BLS, was $116,880 in May 2023.*

  • Sales Engineers - There are many opportunities to apply a history degree in a sales field, given the high level of transferable skills between the two. Sales engineers, in particular, sell technical or scientific products to businesses. Preparing presentations and writing marketing materials are just two ways a historian could apply their skills in this field. According to BLS, the median salary for this role in May 2023 was $116,950.*

The Life of a History Major

Currently, Schandler is applying the skills he gained earning a history degree to his role as an instructor of political science. He loves how a holistic understanding of the past enables him to feel less uncertain about the present.

With a degree in history, you can study what you love and then apply that knowledge to the career field of your choice. You'll be able to use your skills as a historian to better understand the past and help build a rewarding career in the present.

Discover more about SNHU's online history degree: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you'll learn and how to request information about the program.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.


A former higher education administrator, Dr. Marie Morganelli is a career educator and writer. She has taught and tutored composition, literature, and writing at all levels from middle school through graduate school. With two graduate degrees in English language and literature, her focus — whether teaching or writing — is in helping to raise the voices of others through the power of storytelling. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.