Published Date

October 21, 2018

Resource Type

AHA Resource, Booklet, Essay, For Departments, For Professional Development, For the Classroom

AHA Topics

Academic Departmental Affairs, Career Paths, Professional Life, Teaching & Learning, The History Major, Undergraduate Education

This essay is part of the AHA’s Career for History Majors Booklet.

By Sarah Olzawski

As a history major, you will develop and hone skills specific to the discipline during your years in college.

You already know that you will read a lot; you will also analyze, synthesize, and contextualize what you’ve read and thus become a writer with a special set of skills. Just as you deeply consider the sources you scour for your courses, you should also think about the habits of mind a history major develops. After college, you will need to make clear to interviewers the unique value you bring to their organizations. How you plan and think about your history education now can get you started on that path.


Aim for Depth and Breadth

Take at least two history courses that seem closely related to one another and take at least two history courses that cover eras and areas of the world about which you know very little. With these parameters in mind, you will be able to choose courses that will put the human experience in context. You’ll find connections where you didn’t expect them and see differences where others do not.

Embrace Quantitative Thinking

Take a statistics or a research methods course, even if it’s not required for your major or degree. Being a history major means you have a keen ability to wade through complex material, make sense of it, and build a narrative about it. Adding quantitative skills to those talents will allow you to strengthen your arguments with precise and enumerative evidence. In the workplace, knowing how to manage data and numbers while communicating the story or issues behind them will make you a valuable employee.

Practice History

Put down the books and step away from your papers. Seek out an experiential learning opportunity where you can practice history in your local community. Ask your adviser if any internships are available that could enhance your course of study. Look for experiences that may be lurking in other departments at your school. Investigate the collections and archives in local museums or libraries. Putting into practice what you’ve learned in your courses, in an environment where history is being lived and crafted, will help build real-world, transferable job skills.

Keeping these three goals in mind will make you a more well-rounded scholar with a vocabulary to describe how your history major prepared you to be a competitive candidate for a career in almost any field.

Sarah Olzawski is an academic counselor at the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences. She holds a bachelor of arts with distinction in history and a master of library and information studies from the University of Oklahoma.