30 Reasons it’s Smart to Hire a History Student

When my co-op advisor asked how my current job relates to my History degree, I didn’t know what to tell her. Not because the job doesn’t relate to my studies–it does. Almost everything does, if you ask me. On the transferable skill side, there is just so, so much.

As I sit at the tail end of my History and Communications double major, resume full of business-friendly internships and experiences, I can’t help but notice how underrated the History half of my education seems to be. It has helped me thrive in so many work worlds–from the public service, to high tech marketing, to education and tourism. It’s time we stopped overlooking the History degree.

Here are 30 reasons why.

  1. History students are experts at tracking trends. They know how people, strategies, and time-stamped statistics work (or don’t work).
  2.  …and, yes, they know how to communicate that information back.
  3. When presented with a whole bunch of information, History students are trained to be able to quickly judge what is relevant, and why it is relevant.
  4. History students need to pick up on the jargon, locations, and terms associated with different historical periods and disciplines.  If there’s unique lingo, acronyms, or language that your team/organization uses, they will be quick to understand and adopt it.
  5. These kids know how to write.
  6. Oh, and they know how to summarize. Throw them a hodgepodge of random information, and they’ll turn it into a concise, focused, and coherent package (hey, maybe they’ll even make you a list! Eh? Eh?)
  7. They can recognize long term effects.
  8. …which means they can help develop long term solutions.
  9. And they’re aware that the world changes constantly, so those solutions (and their attitudes) will likely stay flexible.
  10. They recognize the need for a plan B (and C…and D…)
  11. History scholars tend to be naturally interested people. Interested people are the best employees.
  12. They know how to back up their points, and are champions of logical argumentation.
  13. They understand how individuals affect situations and organizations.
  14. They understand how the environment affects situations and organizations.
  15. They understand how internal culture affects situations and organizations.
  16. …basically, History students understand stuff. Or they can figure it out pretty quickly, after years of studying how things play out and why.
  17. Chances are they have an awareness of international relations and the history/culture of different countries. With our increasingly global economy, this shouldn’t be underestimated.
  18. They do their research.
  19. And they do that research well.  They know how to confirm data, to critically evaluate sources, and to filter out irrelevant information.
  20. History majors know how to make connections. They can learn how a system works (or how it doesn’t work) incredibly quickly.
  21. They are open to abstract thinking and ideas.
  22. These are critically thinking storytellers. They can make almost anything look and feel interesting.
  23. History degrees involve seminars and discussions, so a History student will have refined oral communication skills.
  24. History scholars genuinely enjoy learning, and they’re quick to do it. Throw them information, and they’ll catch it.
  25. They know how to use media and technology as a research and a communication tool.
  26. They work freakin’ hard. (I know multiple very smart people who tried taking a first year history class as a “bird course” and either dropped it or called me crying “What why is this is so hard?!”)
  27. They know what kind of innovative, thoughtful ideas have influenced the world in the past. This means that their ideas are usually pretty innovative and thoughtful.
  28. Most History students understand economics—they get how money works, moves, and influences things.
  29. They are trained on how to observe human behavior. Like, say, a client or customer’s behavior.
  30. They can organize ideas into tables and timelines like you would not believe.

Basically, studying History helps you develop key skills like critical thinking, communication, research, and writing.  History students can pick up on patterns and systems quickly, think in big picture/abstract ways…and still rock that always important attention to detail.

I’m biased, I’m biased, I’m biased (so biased, I said it three times). But, hey, at least I recognize that bias, and mention it when presenting a listed-out argument, right?

(History degree, yo.)

Had to. Okay. I'm done geeking out now.
Had to. Okay. I’m done now.

33 thoughts on “30 Reasons it’s Smart to Hire a History Student

  1. As a History major, on my way to graduating soon, this is a great list! History degrees don’t get the credit they deserve. Thanks!

  2. I graduated in 2012 with an MA in European history, and I am still basically unemployed. I teach as an adjunct professor for an online university, but I make about $4,000 a year doing that (no benefits). I love “doing” history for all of the reasons you mentioned here. Each of your points has crossed my mind when family, friends, and potential employers share with me that I’m basically useless with a history degree. This is a great blog with many fantastic points, and it reminds me why I was initially drawn to historical study. I wish more people recognized the value of professional historians.

    1. I think our field of study has a branding problem from years of “ivory tower” type thinking. A historian’s skillset and background is SO useful in countless environments! I would love to see perspectives change from students and employers alike.

  3. Preach!!!!

    This is an amazing list – thank you for vocalizing these points. No, my current job doesn’t have anything to do with the British Empire of the 18th century (my MA topic), but my transferable skills come in handy in my day to to day tasks around nursing policy.

    And an annecdote: I was in a 3rd year history class, and on the first day we introduced ourselves. Someone led with “I’m a 3rd year biology student, and I’m taking this class because it sounded interesting.” And we all laughed – it would be like a 3rd year history student taking a biology class “for fun.” History is just as much a science and defined decipline as biology – the arrogance of this kid to think he could walk in pick it up was ludacris. He must have figured that out himself, because once he saw the syllabus, he was never seen again.

  4. uI just want to mention that I have a great job and I have a BA and an MA in History. I am pursuing a PhD in Education Leadership (and history education is one of the emphases). I do teach as an adjunct instructor to make extra money, but my history degrees helped me get my current position. All hope isn’t lost. I do, however, hear how useless my college education is all the time when my degrees were likely more difficult and relevant to everyday life than many other degrees.

  5. I love this! I have a B.A. degree in History and a Master of Medieval Studies degree, plus two more years toward a Ph.D. that, alas, probably never will be achieved at my age. I have been a journalist, a civil rights investigator, and a teacher. All students should study and really learn History. It is invaluable! Thanks for posting!

  6. One thing History students are excellent at is catching potential gaffes in written and spoken work. They will recognize when a co-worker has tried to use a past event for context or effect, but has completely missed the boat in terms of when it happened, why it happened, etc. Having someone who understands history can prove an invaluable resource for avoiding embarrassing mistakes.

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