Is a History Degree Useless? (With Student Quotes)

History is the study of the past, so many people wonder – is a history degree useless?

In this article, I’ll take a look at whether or not it’s worth getting a history degree, some of the myths that people have about the history major, if history is a hard major and career opportunities with a history degree. 

I will also discuss what you can do to make your history degree more valuable.

So let’s get started!

History Books and Globe
History Books and Globe

What Is A History Major?

A general education major that prioritizes learning about the past is history. This might entail researching various historical eras, cultures, nations, etc.

A history major’s primary goal is to understand how civilization has evolved over time. It aids students in comprehending why current events are the way they are.

Is a History Degree Useless?

A history degree is not useless, but it also depends on what you want to learn and what your interests are. Majoring in history gives you an education that helps you think critically about the world around you. You’ll learn to analyze what’s happened in the past , and you’ll be able to apply those lessons to current events.

History is a liberal art major and it teaches students to think critically about the world around them. It helps students understand the past and present through a lens of perspective and context. Students learn to analyze information and draw conclusions based on evidence. Students also learn to solve problems and make decisions based on facts and logic.

Liberal arts degrees are designed to prepare students for life after college. These degrees teach students to become well-rounded individuals and to appreciate the world around them. They also help students develop critical thinking skills and communication abilities.

Studying other cultures will give you an opportunity to understand them better and appreciate their differences. You’ll also get a chance to see how others think and act differently than you do.

Studying the causes and effects of historical events gives you a deeper understanding of humanity. Knowing what happened before will help you adjust your perspective and make sense of current events. Reading about economics, military tactics, intellectual movements, ethical and moral issues, literature, language, art, and poetry will broaden your knowledge and appreciation of other cultures.

History majors often go on to pursue careers in law, politics, journalism, teaching, public policy, diplomacy, and international relations, and other professions that require an understanding of the past.

Liberal arts degrees and business degrees are common degrees that people think of as a useless degree. It’s not like a STEM major that will teach you technical skills, but rather it prepares you for life outside of school.

History in Italy
History in Italy

Why Get A History Degree?

There are lots of reasons to get a history degree. Here are some of the most popular reasons: 

  1. To Learn About The Past.
  2. To Understand How Society Changes Over Time.
  3. To Be Able To Think Critically About The World Around Them.
  4. To Develop Critical Thinking Skills And Communication Abilities.
  5. To Appreciate Other Cultures And Their Differences.
  6. To Become Well-Rounded Individuals Who Can Apply Lessons From The Past To Current Events.
  7. To Help You Adjust Your Perspective And Make Sense Of Current Events.
  8. To Have An Understanding Of Human Nature.
  9. To Gain Knowledge In Different Disciplines That May Lead To More Career Choices.

History is not just about studying past events. It also teaches us about ourselves and our society. History helps us understand why we act the way we do, what motivates us, and how we got here.

A liberal arts education prepares students for many types of jobs because it gives them an appreciation for all aspects of life. Students who study history become more well-rounded individuals and gain valuable skills that translate across many careers.

History Major Myths

There are a number of misconceptions and myths that people have about the history major. Let’s discuss these myths and misconceptions.

Myth 1: History Majors Are Not Employable

The truth is that history majors are just as employable as any other major. In fact, they are often better prepared for the workforce because they have learned to think critically and solve problems through analysis. They are also more likely than students who studied other subjects to pursue careers related to their field of study.

According to a study by the American Historical Association (AHA), only 2.21% of American adults over 25 who have a bachelor’s degree received theirs in History or US History. However, the unemployment rate of those history majors was 4.6%, which is lower than the national average of 7.7%. 

That shows that history majors aren’t always employed right out of college, they can be successful if they find a job that uses their skills.

Myth 2: A History Major Does Not Prepare You for Any Job

Many people are under the misconception that a history degree only prepares you for a job in academia and to teach others about history. But that’s actually not the case.

In the AHA study, they saw that many history majors found careers in a wide range of fields. Only 4.5% of history majors became college professors. 

Another career myth is that history majors work in museums, but in the study, only 0.5% actually became a museum professional. 

Here is a look at the career fields of history majors in the study: 

History Major and Future Careers
History Major and Future Careers – Data source: AHA Study

Over half of history majors went into non-history majors: 

  • 18% went into Education, Training, and Library fields.
  • 15% went into Management: Business Science, and Arts.
  • 11% went into the Legal field.
  • 10% went into Sales.

Another interesting statistic is that nearly half of undergraduate history majors will go on to graduate studies, but not usually in history. They will move into Law, Management, and Education. 

  • 28% will get a Master’s Degree. 
  • 14% will get a different Professsional Degree beyond Bachelor’s. 
  • 6% will get a Doctorate Degree. 

Myth 3: History Majors Are Underpaid

The myth here is skewed by the diversity of careers that history majors hold. The AHA study showed that many history majors end up working in business, law, teaching, and sales. These are all very lucrative professions, ranging from $60,000 to $100,000 per year.

However, there are still some history majors who choose to enter the academic and public service fields. The median pay of these jobs is around $45,000 to $47,000. 

History Major and Highest Degrees
History Major and Highest Degrees

The wide ranging careers and salary ranges are why there’s this misconception about history majors often being underpaid. 

Is History a Hard Major?

For some people, a major in history can be challenging, but not for everyone. The degree of difficulty is determined by the student’s effort and amount of time invested. There is a lot of reading, writing, research, and thinking required for the history major program. This makes it one among the more difficult majors to finish if you don’t enjoy reading and writing a lot.

History majors are renowned for their perseverance and tenacity. You will see benefits if you are prepared to put in the time and effort.

History is ideal for you if you like reading about various cultures and civilizations. There are many fascinating historical facts that you may not be aware of. Technically speaking, history is not a difficult subject, but there is still a lot of reading and writing necessary. Additionally, you’ll need to conduct a ton of research

Students majoring in history should have solid reading and writing foundations. Moreover, they must to be knowledgeable about fundamental mathematical ideas including fractions, decimals, percentages, and ratios. A history major should feel at ease with data and statistics.

Finally, history majors should have strong analytical and problem-solving skills. You need to be able to evaluate historical facts and make judgments based on your findings if you want to be a successful historian.

Is a Masters in History Useless?

If you intend to teach or work in academia, a master’s in history is useful. It is helpful for individuals who want to work as teachers or historians. If you’re looking for a job that doesn’t include history, a master’s degree is pointless.

In general, a master’s degree is worth more than a bachelor’s degree, but historically, the difference isn’t all that great.

Most people shouldn’t anticipate their professional chances to be significantly improved by a master’s in history.

Finding employment after graduation is a common objective for students. Others must hold a master’s degree before submitting a Ph.D. application. A master’s or doctoral degree is required for students who want to teach at the university or college level.

Jamie Lee, a Harvard University graduate with a master’s degree in history, mentioned that she interned at a museum while still a student. She obtained a master’s degree in history because the bulk of museum roles call for it.

Is History Just Memorization?

History is more than memorization. History is about perspective, insight, and analysis, not just memorization. You should also provide evidence to back up your opinions. At the high school level, you may be familiar with memorization and rote learning, but you’ll need to provide unique insights and analyses.

In college, you will be expected not just to memorize information, but also to analyze it and apply it to real life situations. You must understand the material and be able to explain it to others. Your professors may expect you to write essays and research papers.

History in Rome, Italy
History in Rome, Italy

What are Good Careers For People With a History Major?

History majors can get a bad reputation and are often misunderstood, because there’s not clear career path for them. The most common misconception is that a history major will become a history teacher, but that’s not the case. 

Here are some examples of good career options for people with a history degree:

Journalist – Journalism requires a lot of research and writing. Journalists need to be able to communicate complex ideas clearly. Read more about Whether a Journalism Degree is Useless.

Public Relations – Public relations involves communicating messages to an audience. PR professionals are often involved in marketing campaigns and advertising.

Marketing – Marketing is all about selling products and services. This includes everything from direct mail to social media marketing.

Historian – Historians study past events and use them to learn about the present day. Historians can focus on any topic they choose.

Teacher – Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers available. Teachers help children develop into successful adults.

Archivist – Archivists preserve records and documents from the past. Some archivists specialize in particular areas such as art, music, or literature.

Librarian – Librarians organize books and other materials so people can find what they need. They also maintain collections of rare books and manuscripts.

Writer – Writers create stories and articles using historical facts. Many writers have written novels, short stories, and nonfiction books.

Lawyers – Lawyers represent clients in court cases. They also draft contracts and negotiate settlements.

Political Scientist – Political scientists study politics and government. They look at how political systems work and how policies affect society.

Military Historian – Military historians study military history and the causes and effects of wars. They may write about battles, leaders, weapons, and strategies used during conflicts.

Business Analyst – Business analysts are responsible for analyzing business processes and recommending improvements. They may recommend changes to software programs or new technologies.

Is a History Degree Useless? Final Thoughts

All in all, a history degree is not useless. It teaches you about the world around you and gives you a foundation for future success. There are a number of jobs that you can apply to with your improved communication skills and analytical thinking.

Studying history will give you an appreciation for the past, and help you understand why things happen. You’ll also gain the skills required to succeed in any job, whether it involves working with numbers, technology, or people. History helps you understand human nature, and gives you the opportunity to see what motivates people to act the way they do.

Learn more about these other subjects and majors: 

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Written by:

Amy Clark
I’m currently at Harvard Medical School. My undergrad was at Stanford University, majoring in Biology. My career goal as a Pre-med student is to become a cardiac surgeon. I’m passionate about working with people — I have a knack for providing the right treatment at the right time. Fun fact, I’m the one that brought everyone together. I met Chris at Stanford and Amy at Harvard! So glad I’m on this journey with them!

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