Graduates with history degrees most often find work in these industries

Written by: Halle Young

It is well-documented that students who pursue STEM majors often have more ease transitioning into high-paying jobs after graduation than students who study humanities. Accordingly, the number of humanities degrees conferred annually has decreased, as health and STEM program enrollment grows.

But don’t discount the value of a humanities and liberal arts education. Humanities programs, like history, yield students who excel in critical thinking, persuasive writing, analytical thinking, complex communication, and quick comprehension. For students who see the merits of pursuing a history degree in college, it is worth knowing the employment landscape that may follow graduation.

According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, which pulls from a 2018 study, bachelor’s degree holders in history earned on average $45,100 annually, roughly $5,000 dollars less than the median earnings of all bachelor’s degree holders. History degrees only represent about 1% of all bachelor’s degrees earned in the 2017-2018 academic year.

Citing 2019 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Best Universities examined the most popular job industries for college graduates with history degrees. Read on to see where history majors are most likely to find employment.

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Bar chart showing industries where history majors most often work, with education and libraries representing 19% of industries where history majors go.
Source: Best Universities

Most popular industries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top areas in which history majors find employment are educational instruction and library occupations. This field includes professions such as teachers, archivists and curators, librarians and media specialists, and special education professionals. The 2021 median ranges for these roles span $29,360 for teacher assistants to $79,640 for college instructors and professors. These occupations all lend themselves well to a history background, relying on skills like being organized and communicating complex information for public consumption. 

Legal occupations and management careers are also popular options for history graduates, demanding high-level writing skills and ethical thinking. While most legal occupations require advanced degrees to obtain the higher salary that comes with them, management occupations offer a median annual wage of $102,450 with a bachelor’s degree level education.

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Data reporting by Emma Rubin. Story editing by Jeff Inglis. Copy editing by Tim Bruns.

Guide to History Major Jobs

Pursue Exciting Careers with a History Degree

Earning a history degree provides graduates with transferable skills for diverse careers. Studying the past builds abilities like research, writing, analysis, and contextual thinking.

Why Study History?

A history degree prepares students for careers in education, law, journalism, business, and more. Graduates focus on time periods or topics matching passions and goals to build expertise. Developing research, writing, and language skills leads to success.

Career Outlook for Historians

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that historians earned about $72,900 in May 2022. Jobs spanned government, research firms, schools, museums, and libraries. However, with only 4% projected growth, history careers remain competitive. Pursuing advanced degrees and specializations is key.

History Major Career Options

Many historians work outside academics using transferable skills:

  • Law: Historical context aids legal analysis and interpreting laws.
  • Journalism: Communication skills allow reporting current events through a historical lens.
  • Government: Historians contribute through analysis, archiving, and project management.
  • Education: K-12 educators teach specialized subjects like social studies.
  • Research: Museum curators, archivists, and historians rely on subject matter expertise.
  • Business: Analytical abilities help with marketing campaigns and strategic planning.

Advancing a History Career

Master’s degrees, doctorates, and credentials like Certified Interpretive Guide boost careers by showing commitment.

Transitioning to a History Career

Leveraging transferable research, communication, and analytical skills enables changing to history. Further education builds subject knowledge.

Diverse Settings for Historians

Historians find roles in government, research companies, schools, museums, and more. Their expertise preserves and interprets the past.

A history degree provides transferable skills and knowledge for exciting, rewarding careers. With dedication, history majors gain versatility across many professional fields.

Recent Data on Historian Employment and Wages 2022

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics provides comprehensive data on the occupational employment and wage statistics for historians.

According to May 2022 BLS data, historians play a crucial role in researching, analyzing, recording, and interpreting the past through various sources such as government records, newspapers, photographs, interviews, films, and manuscripts.

This analysis sheds light on various aspects of historians’ employment and wages, as well as the industries and geographical areas where historians are employed.

National Estimates for Historians:

  • Employment: 3,120
  • Mean Hourly Wage: $35.05
  • Mean Annual Wage: $72,900

Percentile Wage Estimates for Historians:

  • 10th Percentile: $17.92 (Hourly) / $37,280 (Annual)
  • 25th Percentile: $22.74 (Hourly) / $47,290 (Annual)
  • 50th Percentile (Median): $31.03 (Hourly) / $64,540 (Annual)
  • 75th Percentile: $44.88 (Hourly) / $93,340 (Annual)
  • 90th Percentile: $59.26 (Hourly) / $123,260 (Annual)

Industries employing historians and their wage distribution

Top Industries for Historians (Employment and Mean Wage):

  • Federal Executive Branch: 710 jobs, Mean Wage $51.36 per hour / $106,830 per year
  • Local Government (excluding schools and hospitals): 600 jobs, Mean Wage $24.11 per hour / $50,150 per year
  • State Government (excluding schools and hospitals): 480 jobs, Mean Wage $27.94 per hour / $58,100 per year
  • Scientific Research and Development Services: 430 jobs, Mean Wage $32.44 per hour / $67,470 per year
  • Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions: 130 jobs, Mean Wage $26.95 per hour / $56,060 per year

Top Paying Industries for Historians (Annual Mean Wage):

  • Social Advocacy Organizations: Mean Wage $115,110 per year
  • Federal Executive Branch: Mean Wage $106,830 per year
  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services: Mean Wage $90,150 per year
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services: Mean Wage $74,680 per year
  • Scientific Research and Development Services: Mean Wage $67,470 per year

Geographical distribution of historian employment and wages

States with Highest Employment:

  • New York: 480 jobs, Mean Wage $23.49 per hour / $48,860 per year
  • Virginia: 240 jobs, Mean Wage $40.61 per hour / $84,470 per year
  • District of Columbia: 230 jobs, Mean Wage $51.75 per hour / $107,650 per year
  • California: 230 jobs, Mean Wage $46.85 per hour / $97,440 per year
  • North Carolina: 120 jobs, Mean Wage $40.71 per hour / $84,690 per year

Top Paying States:

  • Connecticut: Mean Wage $57.21 per hour / $119,000 per year
  • District of Columbia: Mean Wage $51.75 per hour / $107,650 per year
  • Maryland: Mean Wage $49.14 per hour / $102,210 per year
  • California: Mean Wage $46.85 per hour / $97,440 per year
  • Colorado: Mean Wage $42.03 per hour / $87,410 per year

Metropolitan Areas with Highest Employment:

  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: 390 jobs, Mean Wage $50.19 per hour / $104,400 per year
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: 210 jobs, Mean Wage $31.00 per hour / $64,470 per year
  • Jackson, MS: 100 jobs, Mean Wage $19.00 per hour / $39,510 per year
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: 60 jobs, Mean Wage $56.33 per hour / $117,160 per year
  • Rochester, NY: 60 jobs, Mean Wage $19.24 per hour / $40,020 per year

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas:

  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: Mean Wage $56.33 per hour / $117,160 per year
  • Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT: Mean Wage $55.84 per hour / $116,150 per year
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: Mean Wage $50.19 per hour / $104,400 per year
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: Mean Wage $42.67 per hour / $88,740 per year
  • Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO: Mean Wage $42.20 per hour / $87,770 per year

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