Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

What Careers Are Possible With A History Degree?

The study of history should provide you with a sense of the world, its changes over time, the diverse forces at work upon its inhabitants, and some of the directions that it has taken and is taking. You should be more sophisticated and cosmopolitan as well as better focused. An ability to think, talk, and write in an analytical, organized, clear, and convincing way about the large and the small are important abilities that you will have developed through your studies.

These qualities of mind and performance are highly desirable in all forms of private and public employment and should help you adapt to various kinds of employment or individual enterprise in the course of your life. However, a liberal arts degree is not job training; the content of your education should enrich your life in a multitude of ways that may have little to do directly with your employment.

With education costs rising every year, students are assessing their undergraduate education with an eye toward future "value". Many apparently feel that their potential will be enhanced by a narrowly focused education, in business for example, but this is not necessarily the best strategy in an ever-changing job market. Experts agree that a solid foundation in basic skills gives individuals the flexibility to adapt to new jobs and responsibilities.

A major in history develops communication (oral and written), research, and analytic skills that are in great demand in business, government, and other fields. According to business leaders and educators, the liberal arts degree, with a major in history, is just as sure a path to success as any alternative. Large corporations are looking for individuals who are both creative and analytical for their management programs. A spokesperson for the Bell System maintains that "employees with liberal arts majors have shown stronger management skills and have advanced further than those with other college majors." Procter and Gamble also prefers liberal arts recruits: "It doesn't matter whether they studied philosophy or British history as long as they have gained some understanding of what the world is all about." A recent report from General Motors says that "GM values a broad based education that cultivates creative, analytical and communication skills and encourages self-motivation, persistence and self-discipline." A few years ago, a survey of the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies showed that a substantial majority of these top executives had liberal arts degrees and that history was the most frequent major.

Moreover, the traditional markets for history majors should not be overlooked; new teaching jobs open up every year, as well as positions in publishing, archives, museums, and heritage tourism.

For those people who are thinking in terms of graduate school, history is also a most suitable major. Graduate programs in history welcome undergraduate majors, and our majors who have chosen this route have been accepted by some of the finest schools in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain. Law schools are also very receptive to history majors since law, after all, is historical in nature.

In short, both graduate schools and business want well-rounded individuals who have been taught, as William Bennett, chairman of the pharmaceuticals firm Schering-Plough, asserts, "how to think, not what to think". Whatever students may be planning or considering, the historians at Thompson Rivers University are more than willing to talk things over with them.