What caused the fall of the Roman Empire? Why do the majority of historians consider President John F. Kennedy’s presidency an ineffective one? If you wonder about the answers to these questions and others, you may want to consider pursuing a degree in history. People who study history study change, answering questions about why and how it occurs, as well as how individuals or groups react to it. According to the popular idiom, “history repeats itself,” so studying history is not just a study of a bygone era. It is also a study of the present, current events, and the ways in which past events may affect future outcomes. History majors study patterns, rather than simply memorizing dates, and they look for clues in a variety of sources. As a history major, you may analyze everything from letters exchanged between world leaders during World War I to AIDS awareness posters produced in the 1980s.
History students master critical analysis skills, interpreting texts from a variety of sources. They may offer critiques on works written by different scholars, or compare and contrast different accounts. They develop effective writing skills by precisely and articulately communicating their ideas in essays. They also hone their research skills, incorporating information from a number of texts into coherent and thoughtful analyses. History majors often enjoy examining the reasons beneath issues, and they learn skills that are fundamental to many fields.
Classes and Assignments of a History Major
A history class can focus on a topic as specific as the Civil Rights movement or as broad as ‘The History of the Middle East.’ While topics are diverse, most history classes will entail a significant amount of reading, which can be up to 100 pages per week. Professors may try to include both primary and secondary sources in their reading requirements. Classes will often incorporate discussion sections, during which students must share ideas and questions based on the reading.
Students will be required to write essays and take in-class exams that may include essays, short answers, and identification; multiple-choice questions are typically a rare occurrence on history exams. Instead, history professors usually encourage analysis and interpretation in responses. Students must be able to think creatively about their arguments and support these with evidence based on the texts.
Degree Levels for a History Major
- Associate. Online associate history degrees lay the foundation for further study in history or a related field. Students develop reading and writing skills while learning about various geographical places and periods. However, an associate degree in history is considered an initial step toward a bachelor’s degree. Employers may be wary of hiring those with only an associate degree in history and no further educational plans.
- Bachelor’s. Online bachelors history degrees offer students a strong foundation in reading, writing, and communicating on several historical topics. Students take classes on the history of various geographical regions and periods. Often, history programs will require students to select a concentration, such as English/European history or Asian history.
- Master’s. Some online masters history degrees require a certain amount of credit, while others emphasize research. Course work may include classes in political history, social and cultural history, history of gender and sexuality, or African American culture and history. A final research project or paper is often required before students graduate from the program. Most master’s programs in history will also require students to select a concentration, such as contemporary America or African studies.
- Doctoral. A Ph.D. in history allows students to pursue specialized study. Students may pursue careers in academia, as well as opportunities as researchers, analysts, and writers. Students must propose an individual research project and write a dissertation. They may also present their work at conferences and in various scholarly publications. Specific requirements will vary by program. Interdisciplinary programs and combined degrees may also be available, such as a Ph.D. in history and Renaissance studies.
A Future as a History Major
Graduates with a degree in history can pursue jobs that utilize their skills as a writer, researcher, and critical thinker. They can go for a career in a wide range of fields. Only a small percentage of history majors actually go on to become historians. Instead, the liberal arts degree lends itself to postgraduate studies in law and even business. Students may also become librarians, writers, archivists, and researchers. Many go on to become educators at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels. Since career paths vary greatly, so do salaries. A graduate in history’s earnings will vary not only based on the field they choose, but also their skills, experience, and employer.