Published Date

January 1, 2014

Resource Type

For Departments, Program of Study

AHA Topics

Academic Departmental Affairs, Teaching & Learning, The History Major, Undergraduate Education

This resource was developed as part of the AHA’s Tuning project.

By Daniel McInerney

Institution: Utah State University
Degree Name: Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in History
Location: Logan, UT
Year: 2014


Purpose of the Degree

As the American Historical Association notes, the study of History draws on an evolving set of rules and tools that allow us to interpret the past with clarity and rigor. Sound historical argument is based on primary-source evidence, sophisticated selection and analysis of information, an appreciation for shifting interpretive arguments, and a deliberative stance to explain change and continuity over time.

History is crucial to individual and social self-understanding, requiring effective communication to make the past accessible for multiple audiences. History is a profoundly public pursuit, essential to active, informed citizenship. And History is a craft with a set of professional ethics and standards that demand peer review, citation, and toleration for the provisional nature of knowledge.

Characteristics of the Program

Distinctive features of Utah State University’s History bachelor’s program:

  • an award-winning commitment to teaching and learning (in which, for example, all professors teach freshmen level survey courses)
  • faculty specialization in a wide range of fields including U.S., European, African, Environmental, Latin American, Classical, Religious, and Asian history
  • special programs in Classics and Religious Studies
  • an option to choose the “History Teaching Major”
  • home to 4 academic journals: The Western Historical Quarterly, PloutarchosMediterranean Studies, and the Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies
  • undergraduate internships
  • undergraduate teaching fellowships
  • research work in USU’s Special Collections

The Department’s programs not only provide specialized academic training. We also prepare students to work in a wide variety of fields, developing the ability to:

  • investigate problems
  • analyze information
  • identify reliable sources
  • contextualize complex questions
  • communicate conclusions in a clear and thoughtful manner

Such skills are in demand by employers in many areas. Our graduates manage multi-national companies and local businesses, serve in many public capacities (including Congress), run charitable organizations, administer university services, work in military intelligence, train as medical doctors, and teach history.

Career Pathways for the Graduate

Many students are preparing to teach in public schools and universities. Others find employment as “applied” historians. Some qualify to be curators and archivists in museums and libraries, classifying and preserving materials, setting up exhibits, and working with researchers. Others work as preservation historians for historical societies, collecting data and working to preserve historic sites.

Historians also work as editors and researchers in publishing or consult on sets and clothing in the making of films. Some work as biographers while others collect information on family lineage. History is an excellent major for students planning to work in international relations, journalism, or management. Students preparing for law school, advanced business degrees, and management or sales training also benefit from a history degree. History is also a good major for those preparing to work in the growing information management field.

Educational Style

Instead of a random (and often haphazard) collection of course work, History outlines a structured, sequenced curriculum for undergraduates:

  • Step 1 (in a student’s freshman and sophomore years) is a pre-major program in which History majors work through a series of foundational survey courses in U.S., Western, and World history – while also satisfying their General Education courses by choosing from a selected range of classes that develop the knowledge and skills closely linked with historical study.
  • Step 2 (in a student’s junior and senior years) takes students to more advanced and rigorous historical study focused on particular periods, societies, and themes.
  • Step 3 (in a student’s final semester) draws seniors into an intensive, semester-long research project working with primary sources to develop an original piece of historical scholarship.

The History Department draws on a range of “high-impact” teaching & learning practices that enhance student engagement and retention. Our faculty have developed survey courses for majors, writing-intensive classes, undergraduate research, global learning coursework, internships, and capstone projects.

Program Competencies and Outcomes

The History program develops three key areas of understanding and competency:

  • Historical Knowledge
    • Identify the key events which express/define change over time in a broad range of places and regions
      • Identify how change occurs over time
      • Explain historical continuity and change
      • Describe the influence of political ideologies, economic structures, social organization, cultural perceptions, and natural environments on events
      • Discuss the ways in which factors such as race, gender, class, ethnicity, region, and religion influence historical narratives
  • Historical Thinking
    • Recognize the past-ness of the past
      • Explain how people have existed, acted, and thought in the past
      • Explain what influence the past has on the present
    • Develop an international perspective on the past that addresses the cumulative effects of global exchange, engagement, and interdependence
      • Interpret the complexity and diversity of situations, events, and mentalities
      • Compare eras and regions in order to define enduring issues
    • Emphasize the complex and problematic nature of the historical record
      • Recognize a range of viewpoints
      • Compare competing historical narratives
      • Challenge arguments of historical inevitability
      • Analyze cause-and-effect relationships and multiple causation
  • Historical Skills
    • Develop skills in critical thinking and reading
      • Evaluate debates among historians
      • Differentiate between historical facts and historical interpretations
      • Assess the credibility of primary and secondary sources
    • Develop research skills
      • Formulate historical questions
      • Obtain historical data from a variety of sources
      • Identify gaps in available records
      • Recognize the discipline’s standards for accurate and ethical research
    • Develop the ability to construct reasonable historical arguments
      • Write a well-organized historical argument
      • Support an interpretation with historical evidence from a variety of primary and secondary sources