‘What can I do with a degree in history?’ A question I am often asked by both prospective and current university students. The good news is that a history degree produces individuals who are well equipped with a multitude of skills able to enter a diverse range of careers. Post-history professional achievement is about a combination of factors, from degree classification and making informed career choices to a professional curriculum vitae detailing work experience, volunteering and participation in extracurricular activities.
The majority of employers featured in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers recruit from any degree discipline so your degree in history will create a variety of career opportunities for you. Moreover, the most recent graduate labour market survey illustrates the transferability of a history degree. History graduates were employed in a variety of industries including for example business, HR and finance, education, marketing, PR and sales, legal, social and welfare and the arts and creative sector.
It is not uncommon for students with a passion for the subject to start a degree in history, but with no definite career direction. This should not be a cause for concern because as you grow and develop during your time at university, careers directions often become more apparent. In making decisions it is critical to think about what your interests are, consider what you are good at, what you enjoy doing and find out what different careers actually involve. Careers consultants at university are well placed to provide support and guidance during your time as an undergraduate and beyond. In addition, aim to carry out research on specific roles and talk to the many employers who visit campuses about the varied job roles on offer.
Throughout your time on your history degree you will develop a range of transferable skills, which are highly valued by graduate employers. These typically include the following: excellent written and communication skills; ability to research and analyse large amounts of data; intellectual rigour and independence in presenting findings; ability to construct and communicate arguments; to work independently and as part of a team; to deliver work to agreed deadlines; capacity to solve problems, think creatively and approach problems with an open mind; knowledge and understanding of different factors that impact on individuals and groups in society.
If you would like to practically apply your history degree in your future career your skills and knowledge could be used, for example, to preserve information as an archivist; you could manage collections of historical artefacts as a museum curator; or you could advise on the preservation of historical buildings and areas as a conservation officer. The problem-solving and analytical skills typically developed on a history degree however are also relevant in just about any industry which has a focus on current society and future developments – particularly in the fields of business, politics, academia, culture and heritage. To demonstrate this, recent Warwick graduates have gone into a range of roles from those in the civil service, banking, finance, publishing, retail, accountancy and management consultancy to journalism, law, human resources, and education.
Taking part in extracurricular activities such as work experience, volunteering, sports and other initiatives during your degree studies will help to build your skill set, provide useful insights into careers as well as opportunities to build networks in specific occupational sectors. These activities combined with your degree will help to ensure you demonstrate to employers key competencies they are looking for.
Many universities offer students opportunities to meet and talk with employers from numerous different sectors including law, teaching, finance, not-for-profit and many more. This means you can find out about opportunities first-hand and determine whether they are potentially for you.
Furthermore, a significant number of history graduates choose to go on to further study. The What Do Graduates Do survey suggests that typical course choices include PhDs, PGCEs (teacher training) and Masters courses. Some decide to delve further into history and develop their expertise in themes they have found stimulating at degree level. Others find that history has provided them with a sound basis for entry to postgraduate professional qualifications in archive management, museum studies, marketing, human resources, law, journalism, PR, and accountancy to name but a few.
There is no definitive guide to careers for history graduates. The career prospects are as wide and varied as one can imagine whatever your interests, values and career aspirations – remember that a degree in history won’t hold you back.