If you’ve read some of my recent blog posts, you’ll know that I’m in my final year of a history degree and looking for a graduate job in PR (or similar). To my surprise, however, some people have reacted slightly confused or shocked after hearing this. It seems that there is an expectation that history students will all become history teachers, museum curators, or go into something heritage-related. I can assure you that these, although definitely relevant aspirations, are not the only careers us history students can have.
Studying history at university actually helps you develop a multitude of transferable skills. Ah, yes, you’ve probably heard of those. Firstly, all our essays and presentations definitely aid our communication skills – both verbal and written. Effective communication is important in most jobs, especially in ‘Public Relations’, which is where I want to be heading.
Furthermore, analytical skills are developed significantly when reading history because we constantly need to weigh up different evidence in order to create arguments. We also learn to work independently and conduct our own research; our dissertation in final year is a great example of a time where we have minimal assistance to create a unique, 10,000 word essay. As well as independent working and using our initiative, we have group projects where teamwork is mandatory to achieve high grades. History students must additionally be careful not to generalise; we must consider situations within their historical context, thus improving our skills of empathy. We have the chance to look at more sources (correct me if I’m wrong) than any other discipline, so we must learn to prioritise the key information, proving very useful when using archives and online bibliographies. And that’s just a handful of the skills that history students will develop.
So, in the knowledge that history degrees can equip graduates with an impressive skill set, you may ask, where can they go with this? Well, I have heard that it doesn’t matter what your degree is in, as long as you have one. However, I suspect this is not quite accurate, because I doubt I’d make a very good engineer. After a quick browse on the internet, I’ve found that history grads can easily go on to be academic librarians, broadcast journalists, Civil Service administrators, editorial assistants, solicitors, politician’s assistants, and more – so it’s pretty varied.
Finally, if these career options don’t convince you that history degrees have many career avenues, then consider this: Prince Charles, Jonathan Ross, George W. Bush, Edward Norton and Gordon Brown all have some variation of a history degree. So really, if you have a history degree, you can become a famous politician, actor, author, television or radio presenter, or even a prince.*
*or maybe not.