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History People! Help!

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by mattsk42, Oct 24, 2005.

  1. mattsk42

    mattsk42 Supporting Member

    I'm thinking of going into history major, but I need to convince my parents, etc. on why it would be good. OTHER than "I like it". Can someone give me some good points?

    What about jobs, salary, job location?

  2. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    Um, I have two degrees in history (BA & MA), so I may be of some assistance. Or I may not. Alas, my journey through the land of Clio has not been a smooth one. To hear my tale is to take a cautious approach to your choice.

    The one thing that most graduate programs in history avoid like the black plague is any vocational advice. Are there opportunities in history? Yes. Are they easily found, acquired, or do they pay well? No. What I found out is that history majors do one of five things:

    1. Compose brilliant interpretations and insight into the past, become a spokesman for an entire generation of people, win Pulitzers by the dozen, become a national treasure.

    2. Teach

    3. Go to law school

    4. Sell things

    5. Starve

    Well, I tried. I really did. Nobody paid me any attention. I am not beloved. I did original scholarship. I worked with a well-known staff at a national historic site. I spoke at conferences. I found out one empirical truth: chicks don't dig historians. Chicks like bass players.

    I chose to teach. Ooof! The one thing all teaching credential programs in California avoid like the black plague is that there is little demand for teachers in the social sciences in K-12 or the community colleges. Your mileage may vary. It helps to know someone. Or be the right color. Or not have a penis. No, it's cool, I can live in the Bay Area and earn about $30,000 a year. Marry rich. Otherwise your house will have detacheable wheels.

    I should have gone to law school. I should NOT have chosen a career in music instead. Oh, well, I'm on TB now just rattling off the wisdom, aren't I?

    Most of the history majors I know sell things. Computers are popular, so are cars. Historians make great waiters. They are fun as clowns at birthday parties.

    When you have a history degree on your resume, you may as well erase it and write, "It will take entirely too much energy to even think of how I could be of any use to your company." I send them out like Christmas cards. Funny, none ever come back.

    Be smart. Get a business degree with a history minor. Business history is awesome. Companies are like great armies. Lots of fun. Just get the major in a business discipline.

    O.k., I have passed my cynical phase and may actually have some useful suggestions. History itself will make you a better communicator. And yes the benefits of a liberal education will make you a much more well-rounded person intellectually. Liberal education models were designed to combat the limited scope of elective systems prevalent in American colleges in the last half of the 19th century(and still present in many Ivy League Universities). But history itself has little opoortunity unless you are going to write and research. A couple of avenues to explore would be:

    1. Again, history as a tool in business archiving and records management. Most businesses get to the point of needing an archivist

    2. Museum studies. Get some gallery training (art department)and, if possible, some experience with collections management, preservation, and accession. Try the anthro department for that.

    More later


  3. Knavery

    Knavery Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2004
    Westminster, CO
    I would think that a person gets a history major for the same reason one gets a writing degree--for the simple love of it. Just get one in something you enjoy. I can tell you that just having a degree, any degree, will get you in most doors. However, making a life related to your degree is always harder unless it's something that's marketable.

    I decided to finish off my professional writing degree, and should have it by next year? Why did I choose it? I love writing, and would like to make a living at it. Will I ever be successful at making a living at it? Who the hell knows. But one thing is for sure--I'll have the skills to do it. That's one thing to think about.
  4. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    Tell your parents you're also thinking about a music degree. They will start liking the history degree a lot more.

    I'm a history major, specializing in African History, so I really don't plan on using my degree. Well at least its free.

    History majors develope a lot of skills that are great for law degrees (reading tons of dense material, analyzing documents, reading tons, interpreting documents, reading tons, etc.) History courses at WWU (the only university I can really speak for) are some of the most time consuming. Most history majors here don't take more than 1 or 2 History courses in a quarter. I've had weeks where I've had 700-800 pages of reading of dense material, so I wouldn't recommend history as an easy degree.
  5. The biggest mistake that I find with post-secondary education today is the short-sightedness of the degree programs. Originally, there were technical and liberal arts educational opportunities. Liberal arts education does not mean "liberal" politics; it means an education in language, literature, mathematics, history, economics, social sciences, etc. A technical education is one in engineering, medicine, accounting, finance, plumbing, mechanics, etc. Fifty years ago, you went to college for a liberal arts education and you went to a technical school for a technical education. I have a degree from the University of Virginia in social anthropology (liberal arts), but I use that background every day in analyzing business,social and personal issues. My wife has an engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines (technical education) and she uses it for business only.

    Today, there are very few English and history graduates and a plethora of business graduates who can't read, write or speak effectively, who don't know that an angle of 60 degrees represents 1/6 of a circle, who don't know that the anti-bacterial dishwashing detergents that have flooded the markets in the past 5 years are dangerous to septic systems and promote the development of stronger and more dangerous bacteria and who don't know that the course of US involvement in Iraq has achieved the vast majority of the previously unrealized goals of the revolutionary government of Iran.

    If you are going into a technical field, fine. Get a technical certificate, diploma, degree, etc. These are intense and limited to their field. I have several of those. One of my kids is making $150,000 per year based on his technical education as a diesel mechanic. Another has no education beyond 10th grade and flips burgers for McDonald's or Burger King, when he can find work. The third has a bachelor's degree in marketing and has been very dissatisfied with 5 years of high level international marketing experience and is planning to enter grad school in January to pursue a PhD in Classics, even more remote than history. While I use my technical education in financial analysis and emergency medicine on the job, I use my background in history, philosophy, social sciences, physical sciences, English, foreign languages and math on the job and personally.

    The point behind a liberal arts education is not to prepare you to enter a specific profession, but to provide a background in thinking and analyzing a broad range of significant issues that you will need to cope with during the next 50 years. The fact that I can develop a discounted cash flow analysis for a 10 year project or analyze the printout of a cardiac monitor is useless for thinking about whether I should support pre-school education for my children and grandchildren or whether the US government should support malaria eradication programs in West Africa.

    Technical education is for developing job specific skills. A degree in history, social studies, philosophy, or English is for developing the ability to think about a wide range of issues and problems and to communicate those thoughts. If you and your parents believe that you have all the educational background that you need to be able to analyze problems and communicate your thoughts, then it is time to purxue a technical education. If your goal for a post-secondary education is to make money, then pursue a technical education. If your goal for a post-secondary education is to learn more about the world and be able to analyze the issues that will confront you and your children over the next fifty years, then a liberal arts education is the route to take. You can always pursue technical education afterwards, like I did.
  6. The Eristic

    The Eristic Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2005
    Cartersville, GA

    I used to be a History major with a specialization in Mesopotamia. I do computer stuff now.
  7. Think about a realistic job with a History major.

    About the coolest job I could imagine would be making stuff for the History/Discovery/Learning/Military Channel. Or I knew of a guy who was a historian for a major corporation- depending on the company that would be way cool. Running Harley-Davidsons' Archives...
  8. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I have a BA in history. Fortunately it turns out that I'm rather well suited to teaching (I really didn't plan this out at all). I took history because I liked it, it sounded interesting to me. Now I'll be off to teachers college come January. I'd say go for it, like others have said a liberal arts education is good experience that will help every day. You'll have the tools to think critically in any situation from work to merely reading the weekend paper. You will probably need to do some more subsequent education (teachers college, maybe law school if you like that sort of thing, or you could study design or engineering, who knows) but you will be very well-rounded with this kind of an education.