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Career Opportunities for History Majors

History majors choose from among many options for their future, in addition to teaching in middle schools or high schools, working with the general public in public history positions , and pursuing graduate studies or attending law school. A variety of resources are available to help you with your career decision and job search. See below for the latest News concerning careers in History. Check out this list of famous History majors from all walks of life!

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One recent alumna in London to work on her Ph.D. in History

Careers in Business and Government

Because of the valuable training in critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills that History majors gain through their education, a great many of our graduates find employment in a range of non-historical business careers in book publishing, newspaper editing, technical writing, journalism (as both foreign and domestic correspondents), real estate appraisal, insurance underwriting, and market research, among other fields.

Matt Miller, WIU's Distinguished History Alum for 2008 and a successful corporate CEO, has commented that:

"I could not imagine a path that would have done more to prepare me for my future career in business. A liberal arts education, specifically in History at Western Illinois University, prepared me thoroughly to compete in the business world. At Western I learned to think critically, to adapt, and in short, to learn. Through this process the foundation was set for success throughout my career. . . . The world changes so quickly that it is virtually impossible to teach someone a skill that will still be in demand even five years after graduation, let alone twenty. However, if the foundation is set establishing the desire and ability to learn, adapt, and change, one graduates with the skills necessary to be successful in any endeavor they choose. My degree in History from WIU gave me that foundation."

Many government careers are open to History majors, including positions as Foreign Service officers in the State Department, intelligence analysts in the federal government, FBI agents, defense and prosecuting attorneys, judges, and Congressional aides.

The U.S. government maintains a website with information on all federal job openings . For history-related jobs with the National Park Service, the U.S. military, and other federal agencies, enter "historian" into the keyword box at their web site.

Teaching Careers

Many WIU History graduates have pursued careers in secondary school teaching, teaching History and related subjects at middle schools and high schools all over the nation. The Department's History -- Teacher Certification degree is specifically designed to prepare students to successfully pass the state's required Certification Exams and obtain teaching positions in secondary schools.

The Illinois State Board of Education maintains a web site with links to information on teaching opportunities in middle schools and high schools.

Tips and Advice for Those Seeking Teaching Positions

Additional print resources for those teaching history are available in the History Department Advisor's office (436 Morgan); a list is included on the History Department's Teacher Education page.

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Some hard-working History Graduate Assistants take a well-deserved lunch break

Careers in Public History

History alums have also found success in a variety of careers directly related to their History major in various kinds of public history, where they work to make history interesting and accessible to the general public. Some examples of such careers are archivists, research librarians, museum directors and curators, historic preservationists with state and local governments, book conservators, genealogical consultants, auction house specialists, resort consultants, tour guides, and National Park rangers. Cliff Haka, for example, a WIU History alum (1971) is Director of Libraries at Michigan State University; Henry Crawford, a 1983 WIU History alum, is Curator of the Texas Tech University Museum.

In addition, every Department in the federal government, as well as the Peace Corps and each branch of the military, employs historians. Also, many major corporations and labor unions (including, for example, Coca-Cola, John Deere, Anheiser Busch, and the AFL-CIO) employ historians, including in their coporate museums.

The National Council on Public History maintains a web site with information on a variety of careers for history students, as well as listings of specific job openings and internships in the area of public history.

The National Park Service (NPS) has a number of career and internship opportunities as Park Rangers available for History majors. Some are seasonal (summer) jobs or are internships specifically designed for college students . Students graduating with at least a 3.5 GPA are eligible for special preference under the NPS's "Outstanding Scholar" special hiring provision for career positions. See Dr. Boynton or Ralph Heissinger for further information.

The Museum Employment Resource Center maintains information on position openings in museums nationwide at its web site.

The Job Headquarters of the American Association of Museums also has information on job openings.

Visit the On-Line Career Center of the Society of American Archivists for help in obtaining archival positions.

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WIU History Alum Major John Nawoichyk (right) with Katie Couric in Riyadh

Graduate Studies and Law School

Majoring in History prepares students for a wide variety of graduate studies. A number of our recent alums have gone on to pursue graduate degrees (at WIU and elsewhere), in History, Political Science, Historical Geography, Historical Sociology, Archeology, Kinesiology, Library Science, and College Student Personnel Administration, while others have graduated from a variety of law schools and seminaries.

A recent national study of law school admissions commissioned by Chicago State University found that History was the second most common undergraduate major of applicants to U.S. law schools. The study reports that 79 percent of History majors applying to law schools were admitted, compared to 77 percent of English majors, 73 percent of Political Science majors, 67 percent of Sociology majors, and 56 percent of Criminal Justice majors.

Information on the WIU History Department's Graduate Program and Pre-Law major is available elsewhere on our web site.

Exploring Career Options for History Majors

The web site of the American Historical Association (AHA) also includes information on job options for History majors.

Careers for Students of History by Constance Schultz, et. al., has much useful information on career possibilities.

What Can I Do With a History Major? by Prof. Catherine Lavender, provides additional food for thought for History majors.

History: What Can I Do With This Degree? , prepared by the University of Tennssee at Knoxville, include lots of ideas about the many career options available to History graduates.

Careers for Students of History gives an overview of the many options available to those with a degree in History.

"What Can I Do With a Major in . . . History?" (hosted by Hofstra University) has many suggestions and links of interest.

"Career Information for History Majors" (hosted by the City University of New York's College of Staten Island) includes links to a wide variety of career exploration and job location resources for History majors.

"Why Study History," an article by Peter Stearns that is available on the AHA website, includes food for thought when putting your resume together.

Applying History connects the study of history and historians’ methods to nonacademic careers in private enterprise and public service.

Business & History provides information on using your History degree to pursue career opportunities in the business world.

History & the U.S. Army explains the many ways in which historians serve their nation through the armed forces.

Value History! provides additional information on how the study of History enhances your personal life, guides your civic/public life, and strengthens your professional life.

In History as a Literary Art , historian Samuel Eliot Morison champions clarity, vigor, and objectivity in historical writing, as he offers advice on making history – and writing – come alive -- in a 1946 essay that is itself a historical document reflective of the historical context within which it was written.

For additional ideas on career opportunities for History majors, see the following print resources, available for browsing in the History Advisor's office ( Ralph Heissinger , 436 Morgan Hall) or the Graduate Director's office ( Dr. Jelatis , 450 Morgan Hall):

Camenson, Blythe. McGraw-Hill's Careers for History Buffs. 3d ed. NY: McGraw-Hill, 2009. [436 Morgan]

Dunham, Sarah, Lisa Vollmer, and the Staff of the Princeton Review. What to do with your History or Political Science Degree. NY: Random House, 2007. [436 Morgan]

Facts on File. Top Careers for History Graduates. New York: Checkmark Books, 2004. [436 Morgan]

Get Into Graduate School: A Strategic Approach for Master's and Doctoral Candidates, 3d ed. NY: Kaplan Publishing, 2008. [436 Morgan and 203E Morgan]

Lambert, Stephen and Julie DeGalan. Great Jobs for History Majors. 3d ed. NY: McGraw-Hill, 2008. [436 Morgan]

Peter, Robert L. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or Ph.D. NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. [436 Morgan and 203E Morgan]

Schulz, Constance, Page Putnam Miller, Aaron Marrs, and Kevin Allen. Careers for Students of History. New York: American Historical Association and National Council for Public History, 2002. [436 Morgan]

For Further Information:  WIU's Career Services Office

WIU Career Services offers information on job opportunities, as well as resume writing, job search strategies, and interviewing techniques. Using your WIU student ID number, you can register on the e-recruiting site used to match university students statewide with employers around the nation. Or sign into the Vault , using your ECOM user name and password, to access an on-line library full of information about employers and career opportunities. Remember, it's never too early in your college career to visit one of the Career Fairs sponsored regularly by Career Services.

History Careers in the News