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What Can I Do with a Master’s in History?

A man studying for his master's in history in college library

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.

A master's in history allows you to deepen your knowledge of the people, places and events of the past and make meaningful connections to what's happening today.

Whether you're interested in ancient history or the causes and implications of the Civil War, a graduate degree in history can prepare you for careers in which you can share your understanding and interpretations of the past with others.

Master's in History Jobs

Looking to advance your career? There are many opportunities available for history majors, but a master's in history prepare you to become a teacher, historian, archivist, political scientist - or even an archaeologist. In addition, it builds a solid foundation for further study in law or education, according to the American Historical Association.

Here are a few popular careers:

  • Teacher - If you've ever wanted to teach at the community college level or university level, a master's degree in history can help pave the way. Strong knowledge of a particular historical period - such as American, European or even military history - along with good critical thinking, speaking, interpersonal and writing skills helps you conduct original research and guide your students, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although some institutions require a doctorate or other terminal degree, many do hire lecturers or adjunct teachers with master's degrees. In 2017, post-secondary teachers earned a median salary of $76,000 per year, according to BLS.
  • Historian - Historians write, preserve and interpret history in several professions. BLS reports that most historians work in museums, government agencies, libraries and historical societies. However, you can also expect to find work at research organizations or in consulting firms. The analytical and research skills you learn in your graduate program prepare you for historian jobs, and internships and knowledge of a foreign language can further enhance your employability. For example, interning in a museum might give you more experience interpreting artifacts and creating exhibits, BLS reports. The median annual wage for historians was $59,120 in 2017, according to BLS.
  • Archivists, Curators and Museum Workers - Do you have an interest in organizing and interpreting historical documents? Archivists review, process, catalog and preserve records and historically valuable documents, according to BLS. They oversee art and history collections and may conduct public outreach for an organization or university. At a museum, you could expect to prepare and restore objects and documents in specific collections and exhibits. Archivists, curators and museum workers earned an annual median salary of $47,360 in 2017, according to BLS.
  • Political Scientist - Are you someone who enjoys discussing politics at the dinner table? In a political science career, you can expect to study the origin, development and operation of political systems in the United States or abroad. Other duties include researching political ideas and analyzing governments, political policies and trends, according to BLS. A master's degree in history provides you the skills you need to analyze historical documents and government policies. In addition to looking at past policy, political scientists forecast economic, policy and social trends and test political theories. The median annual wage for political scientists was $115,110 in 2017, according to the BLS.
  • Archaeologist - Interested in working at historical sites, analyzing ancient artifacts and filling in gaps in history? Archaeologists review, analyze and preserve evidence of human activity from the past. Tools, pottery, artwork and building ruins are some of the things you would study as an archaeologist to make inferences about the history, customs and culture of people in earlier time periods, according to BLS. They also oversee and protect archaeological sites, such as national parks or historical sites. A master's degree program develops your field research skills and strengthens your knowledge in a specialized area, although you may also need to complete an archaeology "field school" and additional specialized training, according to the Society for American Archaeology. The median annual wage for anthropologists and archaeologists was $62,280, according to BLS.

How to Get a Master's Degree in History

Because a graduate degree in history is versatile and not tied to any one career path, you can pursue a variety of jobs in the public, nonprofit and private sectors, according to U.S. News and World Report. No matter what period or region you choose to study, you'll gain the tools and knowledge you need to analyze the past to determine why leaders, governments or cultures evolved in a specific way.

In today's history graduate programs, you focus less on memorizing dates and facts. For example, students enrolled in the online master's in history program at Southern New Hampshire University analyze historical data, hone their research skills, and create their own documents. Whether you want to specialize and develop expertise in a niche time period, or develop skills to help you land a management role; a graduate degree in history sharpens your research, writing and critical thinking skills. Advanced study in history also prepares you to enter the growing field of public history, or "history beyond the walls of the classroom," where you can bring historical artifacts and documents to life in various community settings, including museums and historical sites, according to the National Council on Public History.

The best history graduate programs incorporate new technology into their programs, ensuring that you are able to access information and present your research on the web and in other digital formats. That's why coursework often requires tapping into high-tech programs to conduct research, digitize records, and catalog artifacts. In fact, many world heritage sites have been re-created by historians, thanks to technologies such as 3-D digitization, projection, and printing, according to a commentary in Fortune.

With a graduate degree in history, you'll be well equipped to apply your research and understanding of the past in a rewarding career that allows you to share your passion in a variety of ways.

Krysten Godfrey Maddocks '11 is a writer and marketing/communication professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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