If you are fascinated by learning about the past and how it affects the future; if you love reading historical fiction or nonfiction for fun, you might consider studying history in the United States. As a history major, you will learn how to interpret objects and written documents from the past, and read the works of published historians and evaluate their ideas.
Is a Degree in History Right for You?
There are several traits that are conducive to studying history. For example, a penchant for learning languages is useful. Fluency in a foreign language is invaluable if you ever want to study a text or source written in that language. Studying a translation cannot compare to reading a text in its original language.
As a history major, you will need to be prepared to read—a lot. History classes often require students to read hundreds of pages—sometimes two or three books—a week. You will also need writing skills, as you will be writing numerous papers for all of your classes.
You should also be prepared to participate in class discussions. Many times, history classes are taught as seminars, and the professor will expect everyone to contribute to the discussion at hand. Make sure that you’ve read all the assignments before coming to class, and it might be a good idea to prepare one or two questions or opinions to bring up in class.
You may choose to spend a semester away from your campus in order to do your own research. You will need to use your research to form your own ideas and opinions. You should be able to take details from your reading and use them to form a “big picture” of the past.
If you are curious, organized, and a good reader and writer with a genuine interest in the past, you should be able to succeed as a history major.
Some of the courses you might expect to take as a history major include, but are not limited to:
- African-American and Jewish experience in America
- Ancient Greece
- Civil War and Reconstruction
- East Asian civilization
- Modern England
- Modern Latin America
- Pre-Colonial Africa
- Renaissance and Reformation
- Social history of early modern Europe
- U.S. Constitutional History
- U.S. Economic History
These classes will vary according to your concentration; you might choose to study US history, European history, medieval and Renaissance history, or any other location/time period that most interests you.
If you need additional funding to study history, explore financial resource options like scholarships and loans.
How to Choose a History Program
When choosing between colleges, there are several questions you need to ask yourself about each history program you consider. These questions include:
- Does the program offer courses on the area of history in which I am most interested in studying?
- Does the department mostly focus on traditional history, or is cultural history included as well?
- Is the library equipped with the academic journals and up-to-date multimedia resources (film, video, and photos) that I will need as a serious history major?
- Will there be opportunities for internships and research experience with a local historical society or museum?
Students who study history in the United States have nearly endless career options open to them. Some of these career options include:
- Archivists care for permanent records and historically valuable documents such as letters, diaries, clippings, legal documents, maps, films, videos, sound recordings, and other records. They may also take part in research activities based on archival materials.
- Curators run the educational, research, and public service activities of museums, zoos, and other institutions. They work closely with museum educators, zookeepers, publicists, and publishers to produce exhibits, special events, and publications.
- Elementary, middle, and high school teachers work in public or private schools, imparting knowledge to their students and trying to instill in them a love of learning.
- Historians collect and interpret materials from the past. They use these materials to answer questions about the importance of historical events, their causes, and their effects.
- Librarians help people find information in resources such as books, magazine, and the internet. They collect, catalog, and organize information.
These are just some of the countless careers that students who study history might choose to go into. Whatever your specific interests, you will be able to find a way to put your love of history to use.