Now that you’ve got your new degree in history and the days of research papers and studying for exams are behind you (or are they? More on that later…), it’s time to take a look at jobs for history graduates! Leaving the student life behind and entering the working world can be like running down the pitch and calling for the ball, but you’re blindfolded and wondering why no one is passing to you. Well, we’re here to take the blindfold off and show you five positions you may not have previously considered for history graduates. And while teaching is definitely a viable option, it’s not the only one out there for you. There’s plenty of paths and jobs for history graduates to pursue! There’s definitely one or two positions you’ll be surprised by.
First things first … the value of history graduates.
Graduating with a degree in the liberal arts is not as ‘worthless’ as your STEM friends would have you believe. There has always been a need for employees who can think critically and evaluate the relevance of critical information. Also, knowing how to conduct research and use secondary materials makes a difference. And, of course, being able to make connections with all the information that has been presented. All of these skills are typical qualities of history graduates. They’re also all characteristics found in the employees of the jobs we’ve selected for your consideration. So polish up that CV and get ready to start looking for a position as a…
Putting your degree to use as a heritage consultant is a great avenue for those with an interest in local history. Heritage is a field that deals with monuments, buildings, museums, and even landscapes that a town or city wants to manage and preserve. Having a history degree in this line of work has its obvious benefits; your ability to research, coupled with good written communication skills will be important aspects of your day to day activities. You might spend time going through local government records or manuscripts that deal with your site and its historic importance. Writing reports based on your research could be another common task. These go to city councils in order to petition for your sites historic status. You might even be hired by a company that is looking to document and understand their corporate history to help inform their current direction and how to better establish their brand. There are a lot of different organizations looking for heritage consultants. It’s all about finding a niche that interests you and your own specialisation.
As with most jobs, your salary is going to be based on your experience. You can expect to earn around £25,000 when you land your first position. But after a few years of experience it will be possible to earn somewhere closer to £35,000. The salary ceiling is definitely lower than other jobs on this list. However, you’ll definitely be dealing with history on a daily basis.
At first glance, history graduates wouldn’t seem to be in the right field for gaining entry into the legal world. However, when you consider that cases are built on legal precedent and that a great deal of research goes into each case, the overlap starts to become more apparent. While you’ll need a law degree to practice law in the UK, you don’t need one to be a legal secretary, or even to become a paralegal. You’ll have your share of secretarial work, from answering emails to scheduling client meetings, but you’ll also put your research and writing skills to use while helping to prepare documents from standard subpoenas and motions to court hearings and depositions. You’ll be indispensable for the lawyer, or lawyers, you’re assigned to. And with a wide range of tasks you’ll be able to keep yourself busy without having to worry about the monotony of a normal desk job.
The hardest part of breaking into this field is gaining the confidence of a firm willing to give you a shot. Once you do find your way in, you’ll be able to expect an annual salary of around £19,000. This will definitely grow over time with commensurate experience. Once you’ve established yourself and have learned the ropes, you can easily find firms that will pay £60,000 or more for your services.
From the reference department, to audio/visual, to the director’s chair, there are so many possible positions to consider when looking for jobs at a library. Some of the more specialised areas will require a library sciences degree. But getting a postgraduate qualification in Information Management would open up a lot of possibilities, too. This would only take you a year of full-time study, or two years of part-time study. This qualification would also open up jobs in information management that deal with verifying documents, overseeing public information, and document research; not very different from many of the positions found at libraries. There’s a lot of overlap here, and considering a postgraduate qualification after getting your undergraduate degree will make you a more competitive applicant. Definitely something to consider.
Salaries will vary greatly depending on the type of library you work at. Without any qualifications and working at a public library you can expect to earn £17,500. But after a few years of experience you’ll be somewhere closer to £30,000. University, government and law libraries will all pay slightly more, and the more qualifications and areas of expertise you have the more you can expect to be paid. Duh.
If you’ve been paying attention you’ve noticed that research is a recurring theme in all the jobs listed so far. If making your way through lists of sources and compiling relevant data is right up your alley, then becoming a research associate might be the job for you. Many positions require a Master’s degree or some level of postgraduate work in an area of specialisation. It’s possible to find positions that do not if you submit previous papers or relevant research work history. Most positions are offered at universities, museums or large research agencies that could focus on anything from assembling an exhibition to market analysis. Finding one with a focus on your historical interests could be a little tricky, but they’re definitely out there.
With an average salary of around £34,000 it’s not a bad gig to have while considering a graduate degree or while working on a PhD proposal. It’s possible to make a career out of being a research associate, but there isn’t much room for growth unless you break into management at a larger research firm. If you manage that a big six figure salary is not out of the question.
Perhaps the most obvious path for history graduates is in the field of education. Most teaching positions will require Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) to apply. However, it’s possible to find work at some independent schools and academies that do not. If you don’t have your QTS it’s still possible to start teaching while working towards certification. Also, decide if you’re more interested in primary school or secondary school teaching. Primary school history classes will be much broader and will most likely include aspects of geography and other humanities for young learners, while secondary school history classes will be more focused and allow more depth for older students. There’s also academia and the possibility of becoming an adjunct professor. These positions are highly competitive and require postgraduate degrees.
The salary range is dependent on many variables, such as years of teaching experience, location of the school, and position held, like being a Head Teacher. The minimum you can expect would be £22,917 and it tops out at £28,660 for starting teachers. However, after teaching for a while you can expect to earn as much as £47,000. It’s even possible to earn £116,000 in a leadership position in the highest bracket. And don’t forget about all that vacation time!
With all of that in mind…
Whichever path you decide to go down, there are plenty of options out there for liberal arts degree holders. Start thinking outside the box and market your skills and experience instead of the title of your degree. You might even be able to work your way into the tech sector if you play your cards right.