Welcome to the Historical Studies Careers web page! The information below is intended to give you some preliminary advice and web links on how to choose and pursue a particular career. Having a firm career path in mind will put wind in your sails and give you something to strive for, a goal to motivate your approach to your studies. A career that fits you just right will give you a great sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment, as well as the satisfaction in helping others.
There are four parts to these pages:
TIPS FOR STUDENTS ON CAREER-PLANNING
ARTICLES ON THE VALUE OF A HISTORY DEGREE
1. CAREER PATHS
Where a Historical Studies degree can lead to:
The Obvious Routes
i) University history professor
This requires a doctorate in History, which is usually preceded by a one or two-year Masters degree. For information on graduate history programs in Canada, see the file:
There are a number of educational institutions between universities and community colleges where history is taught (e.g., the CEGEP system in Québec; note that some of these schools require a very strong command of French). Make sure that you have a Plan B if the academic career does not materialize. See, for example, the article in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
What Doors Does a Ph.D. in History Open? (October 30, 2012)
ii) Public historian/archivist/museum curator/librarian
There are dedicated programs to Museum Studies and Library Science across Canada.
See the Museums Association of Canada website for materials on Museum Studies programs in Canada:
See the Canadian Library Association website for materials on Library Science programs in Canada:
Archival studies programs tend to be part of Faculties of Library and Information Science. However, you can visit the website of the Association of Canadian Archivists:
iii) High school history teacher
The high school curriculum in Newfoundland has changed in that a number of history courses have been combined with other social studies topics. You would need a B.A. history degree as well as an education degree in teaching at the high school level. Many teachers also go on to do a masters degree in education.
For Education programs at MUN at the St. John's campus, see:
iv) Primary/Elementary school teacher
Of course, you would not be teaching specifically history to these pupils, but a history degree will certainly help in your preparation for such a role. In addition to your B.A. in history, you would need a degree in primary/elementary education. Many teachers also go on to do a masters degree in education.
For Education programs at MUN at the St. John's campus, see:
After the B.A. history degree, you will need a degree in journalism, which runs between 1-2 years, at the bachelors or masters level. For a listing of journalism programs in Canada, see
See, for example, the following websites:
Department of Justice, Federal Government
Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
The Less Obvious Routes
(these routes usually require qualifying courses at the undergraduate level)
i) Public administration
After the B.A. in history, you would need a graduate degree in such subjects as public policy, public administration, or international relations.
ii) Social work
iv) the RCMP
v) Independent author/self-employed
Community College Options
The vast community college network in Canada has a host of programs that may be of interest to students with a B.A. in Historical Studies. For example, Algonquin College in Ottawa has a program in Applied Records Management and Applied Museum Studies:
The combination of the skills acquired from the B.A. with the skills and training acquired from a community college program could be a very effective combination for a number of potential career paths.
Some community college programs are designed for those students who already have a university degree or college diploma. See, for example, the post-diploma program in journalism at the College of the North Atlantic:
For a list of programs at the College of the North Atlantic, see:
II. TIPS FOR STUDENTS ON CAREER-PLANNING
1. Start researching career paths as early in your BA as you can
It is always good to have a sense of purpose and an idea of where your B.A. could take you. Having some idea of a career direction will help you choose the right courses during your undergraduate degree and will be a strong wind in your sails. Often, the process of choosing a career path requires a kind of deep introspection.
2. Think deeply about what kind of career or vocation you would like to pursue
Choose a career path that you're passionate about. It can take some time to find the right one. What do you really like to do and can you find a career that incorporates that? What do you like most about university? What are your favourite courses? Do you want a career that requires a great deal of travel? Do you want a career with more flexible work hours? Do you want a career that will stimulate you intellectually?
Memorial University has access to a wonderful website called Career Cruising to help you make a decision:
To acquire access to the application, contact:
3. Do your best in your undergraduate courses, especially your history courses.
A strong GPA opens more doors. A lousy GPA closes them. There is of course more to doing a B.A. than getting a 3.2 cumulative GPA, but if you feel that, for example, you would like to pursue an academic career in history, you will need a minimum of a A- average in order to secure entrance to a graduate school and to gain funding. In graduate school, students often work on research in the summer and thus do not have time to have a full-time job as they did during the B.A. Gaining graduate funding thus becomes important in order to avoid incurring heavy student loans.
Moreover, it is only through working hard in your courses that you will acquire the skills necessary for the next stages on your career path.
4. Study career trends
Career trends and projections can be difficult to determine, but it might be worth looking at the projections that have been made for the career field that interests you. Be circumspect of the data, though, and the website. It is best to rely on data published in the last ten years. The website Historians.org tends to have good data on this, although the data is usually restricted to the American context:
5. Consult career profiles
On university department webpages, you can acquire a good sense of the kind of work that a professor does.
6. Consult the career diversity web pages of the American Historical Association website as well as the website of the Canadian Historical Association.
7. Consult Job Ad sites
In order to acquire an idea of what is involved in a particular career, try consulting job ads for current positions. Here are some examples:
i) Academic Job Postings
Postings for tenure-stream appointments tend to appear in the fall, although one sees a few in the early winter as well.
H-Net Job Guide
8. Start looking into post-BA programs sometime in the winter semester of third year or in the summer.
It might be a good idea to contact the graduate coordinator of the program if you have more questions. You also could look into funding opportunities (e.g. through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.)
When applying to a graduate history program, be sure to start the application process well in advance. In addition to choosing several universities to apply to, it would be important to find a research supervisor in the area that you would like work in. It would be important to contact such a supervisor before you submit the application. You will need to write a brief research proposal outlining the research that you would like to focus on; such a proposal should be as detailed and precise as you can make it (referring to particular sources, historiographical debates, how your research will contribute to the field, and so on). You could even share your research proposal with the potential research supervisor.
The School of Graduates Studies has some advice in this regard:
For programs in history in Canada, see:
9. Have a degree audit done in the third year (e.g. the winter semester)
This will help you ensure that you are on track to graduate when you would like to graduate. There would still be time to pick up any required courses if need. The audit can be requested through the Registrar's Office.
10. Interview people working in particular career fields that interest you.
This endeavour can be conducted in person or by phone. This would be a good activity to undertake during the spring after finishing the third year of your program. Don't forget to send the interviewee(s) a thank-you letter afterwards.
A general tip:
Be ready to be persistent and flexible.
Most of the career paths listed above require a second degree or diploma after your B.A. An academic career will require both a Masters degree and a Ph.D. degree. You also might need to do a few one-year contracts in different localities before landing a permanent position, but this is not such a bad thing because it will help you build up experience in different institutions and a more refined knowledge of the career that you have chosen. Admittedly, the first few years of a career will involve a great deal of work, but the end result will give you a profound sense of personal fulfillment.
III. CAMPUS RESOURCES
GoEngagement Office: Careers
Every Tuesdays from 11:30a.m.-12:30p.m., the Engagement Office offers presentations on various aspects of career planning (e.g., career profiles, preparing a CV or cover letter, and so on).
The Access Mentoring program
Grenfell has a very effective mentoring program to match interested students with professionals working in a particular field:
IV. ARTICLES ON THE VALUE OF A HISTORY DEGREE
Connecting the Dots: Why a History Degree is Useful in the Business World. Christopher Brooks, Perspectives,
The magazine of the American Historical Association, Feb. 1, 2015
"Why Major in History?" Katharine Brooks, Ed.D,
Psychology Today, August 5, 2012
- Op-Ed: History isn't a 'useless' major. It teaches critical thinking, something America needs plenty more of. James Grossman,
Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2016
Famous people with History degrees:
Conan O'Brien (comedian/writer)
Julia Child (chef)
Larry David (comedian/writer)
Katharine Hepburn (actor)
John Lithgow (actor)
Art Garfunkel (singer/songwriter)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (U.S. President)
Woodrow Wilson (U.S. President)
John F. Kennedy (U.S. President)
W.E.B. DuBois (co-founder of the NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister)
Sonia Sotomayor (U.S. Supreme Court Justice)