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Become A Historian

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Working As A Historian

  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others
  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Make Decisions

  • $170,300

    Average Salary

What Does A Historian Do

Historians research, analyze, interpret, and present the past by studying historical documents and sources.

Duties

Historians typically do the following:

  • Gather historical data from various sources, including archives, books, and artifacts
  • Analyze and interpret historical information to determine its authenticity and significance
  • Trace historical developments in a particular field
  • Engage with the public through educational programs and presentations
  • Archive or preserve materials and artifacts in museums, visitor centers, and historic sites
  • Provide advice or guidance on historical topics and preservation issues
  • Write reports, articles, and books on findings and theories

Historians conduct research and analysis for governments, businesses, nonprofits, historical associations, and other organizations. They use a variety of sources in their work, including government and institutional records, newspapers, photographs, interviews, films, and unpublished manuscripts, such as personal diaries, letters, and other primary documents. They also may process, catalog, and archive these documents and artifacts.

Many historians present and interpret history in order to inform or build upon public knowledge of past events. They often trace and build a historical profile of a particular person, area, idea, organization, or event. Once their research is complete, they present their findings through articles, books, reports, exhibits, websites, and educational programs.

In government, some historians conduct research to provide historical context for current policy issues. For example, they may research the history of Social Security as background for a new bill or upcoming funding debate. Many write about the history of a particular government agency, activity, or program, such as a military operation or the space program.

In historical associations, historians preserve artifacts and explain the historical significance of a wide variety of subjects, such as historic buildings, religious groups, and battlegrounds.

Historians who work for businesses may examine historical evidence for legal cases and regulatory matters.

Many people with an educational background in history become high school teachers or postsecondary teachers.

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How To Become A Historian

Although most historian positions require a master’s degree, some research positions require a doctoral degree. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree may qualify for some entry-level positions, but most will not be traditional historian jobs.

Education

Historians need a master’s degree or Ph.D. for most positions. Many historians have a master’s degree in history or public history. Others complete degrees in related fields, such as museum studies, historical preservation, or archival management.

In addition to coursework, most master’s programs in public history and similar fields require an internship as part of the curriculum. Internships offer an opportunity for students to learn practical skills, such as handling and preserving artifacts and creating exhibits. They also give students an opportunity to apply their academic knowledge in a hands-on setting.

Research positions within the federal government and positions in academia typically require a Ph.D. Students in history Ph.D. programs usually concentrate in a specific area of history. Possible specializations include a particular country or region, period, or field, such as social, political, or cultural history.

Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in history may qualify for entry-level positions at museums, historical associations, or other small organizations. However, most bachelor’s degree holders usually work outside of traditional historian jobs—for example, jobs in education, communications, law, business, publishing, or journalism.

Many people with an educational background in history become high school teachers or postsecondary teachers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Historians must be able to examine various types of historical resources and draw logical conclusions based on their findings.

Communication skills. Historians must communicate effectively when collaborating with colleagues and when presenting their research to the public.

Problem-solving skills. Historians try to answer questions about the past. They may investigate something unknown about a past idea, event, or person; decipher historical information; or identify how the past has affected the present.

Research skills. Historians must be able to examine and process information from a large number of historical resources, including documents, images, and material artifacts.

Writing skills. Writing skills are essential for historians as they often present their findings in reports, articles, and books.

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Historian jobs

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Real Historian Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Historians Middle East Forum Philadelphia, PA Sep 11, 2012 $100,000
OLD Restoration and Design Historian Sanford Kendall, Old House Restoration Nantucket, MA Oct 01, 2011 $80,000
OLD Restoration and Design Historian Sanford Kendall Nantucket, MA Oct 01, 2011 $80,000
Historians The Foundation for A Christian Civilization McLean, VA Aug 25, 2010 $64,501
Textile Historian The Detroit Institute of Arts Detroit, MI May 10, 2011 $60,625
Historians Columbia University New York, NY Jan 25, 2010 $55,000
Historian National Institute for Newman Studies Pittsburgh, PA Sep 24, 2015 $50,088
Historian/Archivist Disciples of Christ Historical Society Bethany, WV Jul 15, 2016 $47,200
Historian The Foundation for A Christian Civilization McLean, VA Jan 15, 2010 $44,158
Historian Historic House Trust of New York City New York, NY Nov 15, 2016 $39,549

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Top Skills for A Historian

OralHistoryInterviewsFraternityEventsAlumniRelationsScrapbookFacebookPowerpointNewMembersInstagramTwitterAdobePhotoshopHistoricalResearchChapterEventsClubEventsPhilanthropicEventsArchivalResearchHistoricResourcesSocialEventsChapterWebsiteNewspaperArticlesHabs

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Top Historian Skills

  1. Oral History Interviews
  2. Fraternity Events
  3. Alumni Relations
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conduct oral history interviews of members for posterity.
  • Raised awareness of fraternity events and connected alumni to current members of the organization !
  • Maintained alumni relations, and was responsible for creating, organizing, and sending fraternity newsletters.
  • Organized a scrapbook to tell the club's story for the year.
  • Attended Meetings, Attended leadership conferences, Recorded elections and events, Edited Facebook page, Tracked inventory sales

Top Historian Employers

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Historian Videos

The Civil War in Four Minutes: Soldier Life