How to Major in History

If you have a love for reading, a curiosity about other cultures, and an interest in better understanding who we are and how we got here, consider majoring in history. Majoring in this subject will make you more knowledgeable about both past and present while arming you with valuable learning and working skills. Read on to find out more on what you can expect as a History Major

How to Major in History

The history major is an excellent course of study if you’re the type who enjoys solving mysteries, drawing connections, and recognizing patterns in human behavior. History also provides an excellent window into many other disciplines, serving as a pathway into understanding the evolution of scientific inquiry, the emergence of important philosophical movements, breakthroughs in civic governance and so much more. History is all–encompassing.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in History

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Or read on to find out what you can expect as a history major.

5 Reasons to Major in History

1.History majors learn how to conduct research.

As a student of history, you’re always on a fact-finding mission--searching for information, connecting dots, and evaluating the meaning of your findings. And because history is all about the search for truth, you must not only find, but also verify that information. As a history major, you will learn how to conduct research, how to cite your sources, and how to report on your findings. These are essential skills for finding and verifying information in life and work.

2.History majors are part of an international community.

We are increasingly part of a global community. Technology and commerce have removed barriers to engagement, but we still have much to learn about one another. Majoring in history gives you the opportunity to study other cultures. Learning more about the past helps you better understand life in the present day. With that understanding will come a greater appreciation for the many cultures that make up our single global community.

3.History majors are better prepared for broad cultural shifts.

When dramatic events like wars, natural disasters, and pandemics alter our way of life, the changes can be shocking and difficult to navigate. But those with a deeper understanding of history recognize the patterns that have played out across generations. History majors often have a better sense of preparedness for such events, and a willingness to adapt as changes inevitably occur.

4.History majors learn to collaborate.

The study of history is not a solitary act. As a student of history, you stand on the shoulders of the writers and historians who came before you, you enjoy the guidance of professors with a profound understanding of our past, and you work closely with classmates who share your inquisitive nature. This collaborative atmosphere is tremendous training for the cooperative nature of the modern workplace.

5.History majors are influential.

The way we read and interpret history has a direct consequence on our everyday lives, from the way it informs behavior and policy to the way we preserve traditions and practice rituals.This means that those who tell history have enormous influence over the present day. Today, top influencers in history are exploring the connections between the environment and folk traditions; the scope of human history through a macro-historical lens, what historian David Christian calls “Big History,” and much more.

Find out who the Most Influential People are in History today!

What Kinds of History Degrees Are There?

History is inherently multidisciplinary, serving as a portal into any number of subject areas. Most of our academic traditions have their own historical narrative to tell. You may have the ability to pursue a history degree in a highly specialized area, especially as you advance to higher degree levels.

  • Associate in History: This two-year degree provides a basic foundation in the history discipline, including introductory courses on both American and world history and opportunities to sharpen your writing skills. However, most careers in the field of history require a bachelor’s degree. The associate’s degree is an affordable way to get a head start on your way to a four-year degree.
  • Bachelor of History: This four-year degree is the basic threshold for many working opportunities in the field of history, including becoming a public school history teacher, historian, journalist, or an employee of a federal agency.
  • Master of History: Because history is an essentially academic field, you’ll have more opportunities when you earn an advanced degree. Greater credentials lead to greater prestige and authority in the field of history, and therefore, greater opportunities for career advancement. Earning this two-year degree can significantly improve your career and publishing prospects as a scholar of history.
  • PhD in History: This terminal degree will require three to five years for completion. The highest academic decoration for history scholars, a PhD will qualify you to teach as a professor at the university level as well as conduct and publish peer-reviewed historical research.

*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

What Are Some Popular History Concentrations?

Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, the following are among the most popular history concentrations:

  • American History
  • European History
  • History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
  • Public/Applied History and Archival Administration
  • Asian History
  • Canadian History
  • Military History

What Courses Will I Take as a History Major?

Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a history major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as Eastern Civilization and American History. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses that most interest you. As a history major, you’ll have the chance to build a course of education around the periods, places, and topics that most interest you.

Common history courses include:

  • State, Society and the Individual in the Non-western World
  • Rome to Renaissance: Introduction to the Middle Ages
  • Conflict and Identity in Modern Europe
  • Ancient Greek History
  • Intro to East Asian Civilization
  • Early Russian History
  • Political History of Contemporary Africa
  • Colonial Cities of the Americas

What Can I Do With a Major in History?

History majors not only qualify for highly specialized roles in education, publishing and academia, but majoring in history will provide you with a number of valuable workplace skills. As such, your History major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a major in history? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!

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Check out the Most Influential Schools in History and get started on your path to a history degree.

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