College Major Question

I think I’m probably going to get way more feedback than needed, but thats ok.

I’ll be going to college in about a year and a half (I’m currently tying up my junior year in high school,) and have been thinking alot about what I would like to major in. After next year, I’ll have taken all of the AP classes the school offers and (hopefully) recieved college credit for the majority. Out of all of the classes I’ve enrolled in, I find that I enjoy the history courses the most. History is also something I find easy to read, and I do so on a regular basis. Not really for recreational purposes, but when I have nothing to do and don’t feel like sleeping and stuff.

Anywayyyyy; If I decided to major in history of any sort, what kind of career opportunities would I have? I don’t want to be a teacher. Not because I wouldn’t enjoy it, but because they don’t make much (on average anyway.)

Oh, and does anyone have any reason as to why I shouldn’t major in history? I say history because I don’t know if I would want to study a certain area in peticular or the world in general.

With a degree in history and nothing else you will be prepares for exciting careers as a waiter, administrative assistant or a telemarketer. If you are lucky, determined and really good, a tour guide, fact checker, various posts in a museum or a historical society. I don’t know if any of those that pay vastly more than teacher though.

One reason not to major in it is there are not very many jobs. Once you leave out teaching the field is very small.

Just off the top of my head other places you could work would be a museum or historic site.

I like history myself but don’t see how I can make a living in that area.

I have a D.Phil (i.e., a doctorate) in Modern History from Oxford University.

I cannot get a job teaching history even at the small university where I work as a fundraising researcher, programmer, and part-time lecturer.

Any questions?

All of the history majors I know went into teaching. I suppose you could write history books or something, but I think most of those writers are also teaching in some capacity.

Unless you are going to grad school and trying for a law degree, History as a major is pretty much worthless unless you plan on teaching, and even then it isn’t worth much.

Of course, what your major is in really isn’t that important. Read any of the threads about whether or not Dopers are employed in their major field some time. The average is less than 50%.

As I expected. I pretty much knew this, but was hoping for some kind of ground breaking answer. Looks like I’ll be leaning back towards bio fields. Was worth a shot.

Keep in mind that, whether or not you major in history or even take a single college course, you can read as much history as you like. Lots of people, of all ages, have history as an interest or hobby that enriches their lives.

The important thing isn’t how much they make on average, but how much you in particular would make, and whether you could actually find a teaching job in the first place. These would depend on where you teach.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

You don’t have to decide now. When you first get to college, take a variety of courses, from a variety of instructors, and see what really fits you best.

What you major in doesn’t necessarily dictate your career. A history major could end up as a lawyer, a politician, a writer, a businessman, or assistant manager at McDonald’s.

There’s something to be said for majoring in something you really enjoy and don’t mind working hard at, even if it’s not something “useful.” Studying something you love and are good at, without worrying about what you’ll do for a living with it later, could work out beautifully or it could leave you high and dry—I’m sure you can find plenty of anecdotal evidence for both outcomes,.

Do you have any idea what sort of career you would like to pursue?

Seconded. Whether you define History as a social science or a liberal art, its primary advantage is to prepare you to either teach it to others, or to continue on with advanced studies.

On the other hand, my friends with degrees in history, political science, sociology, et al, are all gainfully employed – just not in those fields.


I have a degree in history* and I work in IT.

You could also get hired in a business management position.

The point of the degree is not to learn history, but to learn how to think, analyze, and communicate – all skills that are important to any job. You can get a job in any field that interests you (though you may need to gain experience or go for further training).

*And political science (dual major), with a master’s in English.

Right. Most employers only care that you got a degree. They couldn’t care less what it was for. Your degree itself won’t even say what it’s for.

I think that’s entirely dependent on the sort of job you’re looking at. In my fields (marketing and advertising), I don’t think the employers I’ve had would give a second look to a person with an unrelated degree, unless they had job experience in the field.

The conventional wisdom, a few decades ago, was that a liberal arts degree, in and of itself, opened the door for you, because it proved you had a well-rounded education. IME, that often isn’t the case any longer.

I think it’s been said before, but it truly depends.

You can’t get a job in engineering without a degree very closely related to the field of the job.

It’s hard to get a job in marketing without a degree at least somewhat related to the job.

You can easily get a job in education with a degree that has nothing to do with the job.

And all kinds of things in between.

Much like Chuck, I have a degree in history and did work in IT. Actually double major - history and anthropology. I am now a lawyer, IT stopped being fun when I reached the management level and left the tinker with stuff level.

The advantage to majoring in history, or related subjects, is that your classes will require you to think and form opinions about material. You then have to write those opinions out, backed by citations, and that is what your grades are based on. Writing skills developed in college will be invaluable later on in life.

As many have said, your major really does not dictate what you do after your undergraduate degree anyways. My sister-in-law has a useful degree in Art History, she is currently a freelance editor for a major textbook company working on reading and math programs. Her husband has journalism degree, not exactly a straight line to his current job as the director if a technology division with a very big corporation. A friend from high school majored in marine biology, she is currently a professor of urban planning. I could go on. Take classes that interest you, have fun, then worry about getting a job.

Everyone in my old* marketing department (large national retailer) had some randomly unrelated degree (including myself, I was a lead marketing copywriter with a major in archaeology and a minor in theater). We had anthropology, journalism, classics, history… pretty sure there weren’t any actual marketing or business majors.

Eventually I went into law.

OP, one thing I will say is don’t decide too soon. Try out different things that you’ve never been exposed to in high school, maybe there is something out there you never even considered studying, like ecology or architecture or comparative religion, who knows? In my college experience, the more “sure” you were of what you wanted to do when you started your studies, the more likely you were to withdraw from that program completely embittered.

*old = “ending in 2004”

To the OP, maybe you can do history as a minor and major in an area that’s more marketable in today’s tough economy. Or you can still major in history but take enough courses in some pre-professional program (like medicine, law, or business) so that you can apply to post-grad professional programs. You can still indulge in your love of history while working in another field that you like. Actually, I think you should consider holding off on a choice of major until you start taking some real college courses in various subject areas.

My vote would be to get a double degree - one major in something you find interesting, the other in something that makes moeny; and then see what happens.

Of course, if you are intellectually stimulated by something that also makes for a good career, then that’s great.

I would say that there are a few degrees that you can pretty well count on to get you moving toward an income: accounting, finance, engineering. There are others - but these work well because there are lots of the jobs in those fields and, by and large, they can’t be done by people without the correct degree.

Marketing will work if you don’t like numbers, I suppose.

I see nivlac beat me to making a similar comment… Anyway, I just thoguht I’d mention that I did an undergrad in Anthropology and then did sales for a few years, then went back to school to get my law degree and ended up doign a joint JD/MBA. I probably could have gotten where I am a little faster/better if I had done a useful undergard degree, although things worked out fine in the end. And having an anthro degree makes for a nice oddity.

list of famous people who majored in History

Yes, if you major in history then you too could win the olympics or be prince of England. :dubious: