CAREERS WITH A HISTORY DEGREE

 

Poor Neville [Chamberlain] will come badly out of history. I know, I will write that history.

Churchill

INTRODUCTION

This section has been written for undergraduate and postgraduate students of History and related subjects at the University of Kent. It attempts to give a brief answer to the question: "What can I do with my degree?".

Although your main interest may be in how to make the best use of your degree subject, there are many issues which are common to all undergraduates and postgraduates planning their careers. Some of these are covered in our Choosing a Career pages which will also help you to assess your strengths, weaknesses, interests, abilities and skills in order to relate career options to what you want from your career.

WHAT SKILLS HAVE I GAINED ON MY COURSE?

A degree in history provides graduates with a wide range of transferable skills, which are important in many career fields. Understanding and analysis of issues and events are of key importance to historians and can be applied in many other fields of work. Other skill areas developed in studying history include:

To the many employers who recruit graduates in any discipline, these skills will be more important than the actual subject of your degree.

The following comments from past History graduates illustrate this:

"I found my degree in History to be a superb launch-pad for a career in journalism. Analysing detailed material, learning how contextual information can impact understanding of facts, and appreciating how historical perspective can prove crucial in evaluating and explaining current affairs, meant that a history degree proved invaluable in helping me get my foot on the ladder of a media career."

“TV is a very hard industry to break into but my history degree certainly helped me get my first break. My first job involved working on a range of history docu-dramas and the company involved told me they had specifically chosen me because of my history skills! I am now looking to move on and find work in TV research, so all of my research skills will come into use once again! History is a brilliant degree to do because it offers such a range of skills that are beneficial in so many areas of employment”

“When I first graduated I wondered how my degree would help me as many opportunities were asking for business or IT qualifications. However, I found that I had the ability to argue a case, organise work and present information coherently to a variety of audiences. I would say that studying History gave me the ability to research, formulate an argument quickly in my head, and then more substantially on paper and produce this for an audience”

A History graduate with an M.Sc. in Computing who went for an extremely lucrative City computing role was told that he had got the job because of his knowledge of the Crusades; the logic being that at a “micro-level” most employers are looking for people who can get along, who understand and can manage the friction of human interaction and who have a human context from which to build skills and relationships. At a “macro-level” business is about the understanding of human behaviour, needs and wants and then acting upon them.

“Following my graduation I trained as a journalist at my local newspaper. The research and writing skills I learnt while studying History proved invaluable to the job, as I tracked down a good story and tried to write engaging copy. Sticking to deadlines is an absolute must in journalism and again, my time as a history student prepared me for producing work to set deadlines.”

"When I studied History I didn't think I'd end up as a partner in a major City law firm. But that's what happened, and I found that I wasn't alone in my firm in having taken up law after studying history as a degree subject. Now, I'm in charge of recruiting students to train with us, and we are still finding plenty of compelling candidates who come from a history background. Lawyers need to assimilate information and put forward arguments, and that's just what history students learn to do.”

OCCUPATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH HISTORY

See the Prospects Occupational Profiles www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Occupations for fuller details of these occupations

Archaeologist

You do not need to have studied archaeology as part of your first degree, but a postgraduate qualification in this subject would be an advantage. Work experience, usually voluntary to start with, is also important www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Archaeologist

Archivist

Archivists work in national and local records offices, specialist organisations (such as Canterbury Cathedral) and in businesses. A postgraduate archive qualification will be required www.prospects.ac.uk/links/Archivist

Historical researcher

This is a small field of work, often overlapping with other career areas such as university lecturer and museum curator, but also including specialised research such as genealogy. A postgraduate degree is likely to be required. http://ww2.prospects.ac.uk/p/types_of_job/historical_researcher_job_description.jsp

Museum work

Jobs in the museum sector include curator, exhibition organiser, education officer and conservator. A postgraduate qualification and work experience (frequently gained as a volunteer) will be necessary; education officers normally have experience in teaching www.prospects.ac.uk/links/InfoMusManage

Secondary school teacher

You will need a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) to teach in State schools. History is always one of the most popular PGCE courses so early application (in October or November for entry the following September) is advised. See the Teaching Links section of this site for more information.

Tour guide

Some travel companies specialise in historical and cultural tours, but a knowledge of history is valuable for generalist tour guides too. You can gain initial experience through vacation work with organisations such as EF www.ef.com/master/summerjobs or ACIS www.acis.com/about/acis_tour_managers.cfm

University lecturer

This does not require a teaching qualification, but you will need a higher degree, ideally a PhD plus teaching experience (which you may be able to gain while a postgraduate student). Competition is strong for junior academic posts www.prospects.ac.uk/links/HELecture

OTHER OCCUPATIONS WHERE A HISTORY DEGREE WOULD BE USEFUL

Many careers are open to graduates in any subject and may offer the potential to use the analytical, information and communication skills that you have gained through studying History. Your interpersonal skills, however, are likely to be even more important.

Below are just a few of the occupations where the skills of history graduates may be particularly relevant:

Civil Service

Graduates joining the Civil Service Fast-Stream are involved in a wide variety of tasks, such as researching and analysing policy options, drafting material that will be used as the basis for new legislation, supporting Ministers in parliamentary work and the management of their departments and liaising with outside organisations. www.prospects.ac.uk/links/CivServAdmin

Insurance and Risk

This offers a number of career paths for graduates, including claims, broking, reinsurance, loss adjusting and underwriting. www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/insurance.htm In particular, underwriting - the process of assessing risk and making decisions on whether to accept a risk and at what premium – could be of interest to History graduates as analytical skills, handling factual information, formulating arguments and a keen eye for detail are crucial elements of this role.

Intelligence work

When asked what he thought of Western civilization Mahatma Gandhi replied:

"I think it would be a good idea."

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

Winston Churchill

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill

The Security Service (better known as MI5) recruits graduates to investigate and counter threats to national security. The work involves collecting intelligence, assessing and investigating threats, disseminating intelligence and advising on protection - tasks which use many of the skills gained through studying history. www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/intelligence.htm

Law

Solicitors advise clients on legal issues, using statutes and case law to determine their relevance to their client's problem. Barristers also investigate and advise on legal issues, often the more complex ones, and present the client's case in court if necessary. There may even be an historical element to some legal research, in areas such as planning and property law. www.kent.ac.uk/careers/siteslaw.htm

Library and Information work

This may be carried out in public, academic or specialist libraries and involves managing the library's collections and helping users to get the most out of them. Libraries which regularly recruit graduate trainees include those at Canterbury Cathedral, Lambeth Palace and the Institute of Historical Research. www.prospects.ac.uk/links/InfoLibInfoMan

Publishing

This covers books, magazines and electronic publishing, generalist or specialist (including academic publishers). Graduates may work in editorial roles or in business roles such as production and marketing. www.prospects.ac.uk/links/PubPrint

The Prospects pages “Options with your Subject” may also be of interest www.prospects.ac.uk/options_history_job_options.htm

POSTGRADUATE STUDY

Postgraduate study may enable you to explore aspects of history in greater depth or to study a new subject. As noted above, a postgraduate qualification, either academic or vocational, is required to enter many fields of work related to history, such as archive work, museum work, historical research or teaching. You should consider why you want to do postgraduate work, whether it will affect your career prospects and whether you are likely to get funding. There is no equivalent of UCAS for postgraduate study, so investigate courses early, starting with the Postgraduate Study section of this website and the Prospects website. If you are already a student on a taught Masters degree, you may wish to continue your studies by research, in the UK (at Kent or elsewhere) or overseas. Again, early planning is important. You should seek advice from your supervisor as to the possible options.
Funding is a major issue for many postgraduate students: the following publication may be helpful
Grants for History - a guide to funding (Institute of Historical Research) www.history.ac.uk/bookshop/annual- publications/grants-for-history-2011-guide-funding The 2009 edition is available in the Careers Information Room

WHAT DO KENT HISTORY GRADUATES DO?

Over the last three years the destinations of History graduates have broken down as follows: (Figures from HESA www.prospects.ac.uk/links/wdgd )

History Destinations

 

These statistics only cover the first six months after graduation. A significant number of graduates are, at this stage, engaged in work which they would regard as temporary - using a short-term job to gain work experience that could act as a stepping-stone to a better position, or earning money to finance postgraduate study or time out travelling, for example. Please remember this if some of the graduate destinations listed seem surprising or discouraging

Examples of destinations of Kent graduates in single and joint honours History

Arts, Design, Culture, and Media Sector  

Deeson Group

Assistant Editor

Chart Show Channels

Scheduler

IPC Media

Classified Sales Executive

Business and Finance Sector  

A & G Accounting

Trainee Chartered Accountant

Ensor's

Trainee Chartered Accountant

BP Oil International

Accounts Assistant

Churchill Insurance

Customer Assistant

London & Country

Graduate Trainee Broker

Barclays Capital

Data Analyst

Enterprise-Rent-a-Car

Trainee Manager

Capita

Pensions Administrator

Education Sector  

Teacher Development Agency

Team Assistant

Community College

Learning Support Assistant

St Andrew's School

Teaching Assistant

Bromley Schools Collegiate

QTS

Primary School

Teaching Assistant

Canterbury High School

Teaching Assistant

University of Kent

Library Assistant
Heritage Sector  

National Army Museum

Museum Assistant

BPMA

Archives Assistant

Canterbury Cathedral/Whitstable Museum

Archives Assistant

Kent County Council

Fortifications Officer

Achievements Ltd

Trainee Genealogist

Canterbury Tales

Centre Operator

Royal Engineers Museum

Education Officer
Information Technology Sector  

Systems Mechanics

Trainee Software Developer

Marketing, Sales and Advertising Sector  

The Pilot Pen Company

Marketing Assistant

Property and Construction Sector  

Countrywide Residential Lettings

Lettings Negotiator

Rother Homes

Lettings Administrator

Public Sector  

Thanet District Council

Researcher

Metropolitan Police Service

Community Support Officer

RAF

Officer

Kent County Council

Trading Standards Officer

Dartmouth Hospital

Administrator

Hertfordshire Police

Information Management Assistant

Retail Sector  

Waterstones

Bookseller

Lidl

Trainee Manager

Tourism, Sports and Leisure Sector  

British Airways

Cabin Crew

Kent Union

Sports Sabbatical Officer

Elsham High School

Badminton Coach

Transport & Logistics Sector  

Jacobs UK Ltd

Assistant Transport Planner

Postgraduate study  

University of Kent

M.Phil Medieval & Early Modern Studies

University of Kent

MA Architecture

University of Kent

MA History

University of Kent

MA History & Cultural Studies of Science

University of Kent

MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

University of Kent

MA Performance Practice

University of Kent

MA Propaganda & Persuasion in History

Canterbury Christ Church

PGCE History

College of Law , Guildford

Graduate Diploma in Law

UCL

MA Archives & Records Management

University of Plymouth

MA Personnel & Development

City University

MA Publishing Studies

Middlesex University

Graduate Diploma in Nursing

UCL

MA Artefact Studies

University of Birmingham

MA Archaeology

Schiller International Univ. London

MA International Relations & Diplomacy

POSTGRADUATE DESTINATIONS

DESTINATIONS OF POSTGRADUATES IN HISTORY-RELATED SUBJECTS 

2009

Degree

Employer

Job Title

MA History

Samaritans

Trust & Statutory Fundraiser

PhD History

University of Kent

Part-time Sessional Teacher

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

Self Employed/ University of Kent

Freelance Journalist/ M.Phil  History

MA War, Media & Modernity

Century 21

Estate Agent

MA War, Media & Modernity

Metropolitan Police

Police Officer

MA War, Media & Modernity

British Army

Infantry Signaller

MA War, Media & Modernity

Off-Licence

Manager

MA War, Media & Modernity

University of Kent

M.Phil History

MA War, Media & Modernity

University of Kent

M.Phil History

MA Medieval & Early Modern Studies

Law firm

Litigation Executive

MA Medieval & Early Modern Studies

Waterstone’s

Part-time Bookseller

MA Medieval & Early Modern Studies

University of Kent

M.Phil Medieval History

 

2005 - 2008

 PhD History

Leeds Castle

Castle Guide

 PhD History

 Retired

 

 PhD History

 Unknown

 

MA (Research) History of Science

University of Manchester

PhD

MA (Research) History

University of Kent

M.Phil -  History

 MA History

University College London

M.Phil Ancient & Early Medieval History

 MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

JET Scheme

Teaching Assistant

 MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

Spellmount Publishing

Editorial Assistant

 MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

Jaeger

Sales Consultant

 MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

Mid Kent College

Clerk

 MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

University of Kent

PhD Medieval Language & Literature

 MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

Canterbury Cathedral

Library Assistant

 MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

Self-employed

Art Historian

 MA Medieval & Tudor Studies

University of Bolton

PGDE Adult Literacy

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

University of Kent

M.Phil History

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

Kent & Medway NHS Trust/Kent Univ.

Doctor/PhD Medicine

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

University of Northampton

Admissions Assistant

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

Beaumont School

Teacher

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

Cabinet Office

Assistant

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

Ministry of Economics

Trainee

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

University of East Anglia

PGCE History

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

FDS Field Marketing

Operations Executive

MA Propaganda, Persuasion & History

DEFRA

Deputy Business Manager

LONGER-TERM PROSPECTS

A History degree offers many possibilities and graduates are not necessarily going to remain with their first employer or job role for the whole of their working lives. These are some of the positions occupied by past Kent graduates of a slightly older vintage:

  • Policy Adviser- Ministry of Justice
  • Assistant Curator – Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Editor – Children’s Books Publisher
  • Detective Constable
  • Casework Officer – English Heritage
  • Charity Fundraiser
  • Divisional Officer – Fire & Rescue Service
  • Project Analyst – NHS
  • Personal Injury Solicitor
  • IT Technician – Chelsea FC
  • Human Resource Manager – British Museum
  • Yoga Teacher
  • Business Manager – Guardian Media Group
  • Pensions Consultant
  • Probation Officer
  • Property Developer
  • Analyst – Bank of England
  • Independent TV producer
  • Business Banking Manager – HSBC
  • Production Manager – market research
  • Genealogist
  • Events Organiser
  • Opera Singer
  • Freelance business journalist
  • Chief Executive – EasyJet
  • Media Analyst

 

For profiles of past Kent graduates, see www.kent.ac.uk/history/studying/BACareerprosp.html

USEFUL HISTORY AND CAREERS LINKS

Archaeology links

More archaeology links at:

Archives links

Heritage organisations and museum links

More heritage links at:

Genealogy links

Teaching links

General history links

General careers links

The Prospects website www.prospects.ac.uk includes:

 

Last fully updated 2011