You've just spent four years mired in the intricacies of the Civil War. You wrapped up your thesis on late imperial China. You're feeling pretty good about your history degree--until someone asks just what exactly you're going to do with it.
It's an intimidating question when you've got nothing more practical than "The History of Islamic Arts in Spain" under your belt. But don't think for a minute that history grads are relegated to dusty museum basements, middle school teaching staffs, and meager salaries. An online education or on-campus degree in history can actually open doors to some of the highest paying jobs in the country.
Why a History Degree Is Worth It
Sure, your buddies might have graduated with more tangible-sounding skills in engineering or accounting, but history majors walk away with the ability to think and analyze across disciplines, a skill that's vital to any position, according to history professor Catherine Lavender from The College of Staten Island of The City University of New York. Lavender argues that history majors learn to "think about a problem in a multitude of ways, to analyze it using multiple tools, and to provide solutions which draw from different traditions of thought," which means they're positioned to become key players in a multitude of career settings.
What's more, the latest salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that some of the most lucrative career options out there happen to be well suited for someone who graduated from a history degree program. So when the American Historical Association (AHA) tells history majors that the world is their oyster--you better believe it.
Top 5 Highest-Earning Careers For History Majors:
With a mean salary of $167,280 a year, CEOs earn most out of all the occupations surveyed by the BLS. But don't go running for a business degree just yet.
Historians are experts at tracking trends, a critical skill for someone in corporate or financial planning. Liberal arts degree holders often also develop a "capacity for innovation and for judgment" that Wesleyan University President Michael Roth says allows for risk analysis that is "intelligent and sometimes courageous." Sounds like a recipe for business success.
The second highest paying job on the BLS list at $129,020 mean per year, law is actually a widely popular route for those who have graduated from a history degree program.
Granted, you'll need to complete law school to get there, but history majors have already been primed in the logical argumentation, research, writing, and analytical skills needed for the practice of law. As Professor Lavender notes, "historians and lawyers often do roughly the same thing--they argue persuasively using historical data to support their arguments."
3. Communications/Marketing Manager
"Historians have to learn how to write narratives that others can follow," says the history department website at Stanford University, much like journalists, press officers and advertising executives.
So history majors that can write persuasively have an edge in the world of communications, making them prime candidates for high-paying roles such as Marketing Manager ($120,070 mean annual salary) or PR Manager ($101,850 annual mean).
4. Political Scientist
Political Scientists make a surprising $101,050 mean annual salary according to the BLS. They're the think-tank researchers, legislators and policy analysts of the world, suggesting solutions to social, business, and governmental problems.
So with rigorous training in writing and analysis, not to mention an excellent grasp of historical events to provide decision-making context, a history major can be especially equipped to work in the poli-sci world. As Roth puts it, history students develop the ability to continue learning "so that they become agents of change--not victims of it."
Okay, so education might seem like the obvious route for any graduate of a history degree program. But it can also be a lucrative route. Those willing to put additional time and funds into a graduate degree can find work as a postsecondary education administrator, which pays a mean salary of $95,340 a year.
But history educators aren't only found in schools. History grads can flex their teaching skills at other educational institutions, including historic sites and museums. Or what about that next blockbuster historical drama on HBO? Even directors and filmakers can essentially be historical educators--or they'll need to hire one for fact checking!
And these are just the top five careers for history majors! Don't let the nay-sayers get you down; there's plenty of money to be made with a degree in history.