>History Department, Shepherd University

Is History The Right Major For Me?

History may appeal to you because it is both timeless and timely - timeless because serious examination of the past illuminates the agelessness and universality of the human dilemma, and timely because the skills and knowledge gained through historical studies prepare us to face intelligently the challenges of the 21st century.

Historians ask questions of the past. Such as:

¤ Why did Roman civilization fail?
¤ Was the Norman conquest a tragedy or triumph for England?
¤ How did the Industrial Revolution affect the role of women in society?
¤ Did the North win the Civil War simply because it had superior resources?
¤ Do the ruins of Great Zimbabwe represent a great lost civilization in southern Africa?
¤ Did Stalin betray the Bolshevik Revolution or was he the personification of its ideals?
¤ Were America's pioneer industrialists "robber barons" or "captains of industry"?
¤ Did the Jim Crow system of segregation grow naturally from slavery or was it a consequence of post Civil War era laws?
¤ How did the Cold War end?

. . . If this kind of intellectual curiosity appeals to you, history might be the right major for you!

What Can I Do With A Major in History?

You probably want to know what careers historical studies might prepare you for. The short answer is that history prepares you for any field which seeks broadly-educated individuals who can read and analyze disparate data and report their findings clearly. Some more specific ideas about history-related careers follow:

Maybe your goal is to teach history in high school or junior high school. The appropriate major for that career is secondary social studies comprehensive degree. Majors in social studies take many history courses as well as other courses in the social sciences and education. Those who look to post-secondary teaching will need at least a master's degree beyond the B.S. in social studies or B.A. in history, An M.A. or M.A.T. may qualify you for community college teaching. Generally, to teach in a four-year college or university requires a doctorate degree.

If you do not want to teach but would like a history-related career, you might investigate several possibilities which fall under the general heading of public history. National and state parks employ historians as interpreters and preservationists. State and local history societies employ a variety of specialists including administrators, researchers, preservationists, and archivists. The history B.A. is also a good background for museum work or positions in historic preservation. Additional specialized training may be required for careers in these fields.

Is history the right major if you want to be a lawyer? Traditionally, students interested in law school tended to choose history as an undergraduate major. Today, because law schools recommend no particular major, pre-law students pursue a wide variety of majors. History remains a good foundation for a profession that relies heavily on precedent. Many of our graduates go to law school.

The skills of analysis and interpretation emphasized in history are applicable to various forms of communication including print and broadcast journalism.

Historical studies can help prepare you for a business career. Many businesses today are internationally oriented. They need people with a broad understanding of other cultures. A history major combined with study abroad, work in economics, and strong language skills could prepare you for a role in today's international marketplace. Businesses with a regional or national focus also seek employees who can think and write.

Many history graduates find opportunities for employment in government. Government at all levels - state, local, and federal - hires broadly-educated college graduates for many positions without any specific requirement as to major. History is especially useful as preparation for the Foreign Service exams, which could lead to a diplomatic career. The government hires many archivists, and some agencies hire historians to oversee their historical collections.

Because most all religions have deep historic roots, history has long been recognized as a logical major for students bound for theological seminary.