What you can do with a degree in... history
SOAS University of London shares the skills and career opportunities this degree can lead to
History is an exciting and versatile degree that gives you many skills that can apply to a wide range of different careers. This guide breaks down some of the careers this degree might lead you to, but first, let’s look at the key skills you can gain.
Skills you can gain from this degree include…
Communication skills - You will learn through essays, debates and blogs how to clearly articulate ideas, both in speech and in writing. This will be valuable in the world of work.
Teamwork - You’ll gain confidence in working with others, and not always those you know well, through group assignments and research projects. This is a key skill for many careers.
Presentation skills - You’ll be expected to deliver presentations to your peers, and to accept and integrate feedback. The confidence you’ll gain can be put to excellent use in future interviews.
Data handling - You’ll be looking at data from many different sources, particularly when it comes to your final year dissertation. As a result, you’ll learn how to make meaning from data, which will be useful in any career that involves surveys or interviews, analytics, or statistics.
Research skills - You’ll look at how historians have approached researching the past. As a result, you’ll gain knowledge of a wide range of research methods, exploring economy, society and culture, giving you an open-minded approach to collecting data.
With a degree in history, you can become…
Here are some common careers that history grads take up after they finish their degrees.
Humanities grads make great teachers because they have great written and oral communications skills. They are good at analysing problems and offering feedback, and have had lots of experience collaborating and working with others during their degree. It can be a particularly appealing choice for history grads, as there are loads of opportunities to teach students about different parts of the world and different periods of history, and sometimes to even work in different countries.
Archivists manage and maintain historical records in places like libraries, museums, churches, and historical institutions like parliament. You’ll make sure the materials in the archive are well organised and taken care of, and you’ll help academics and members of the general public navigate them. During your degree, you’ll get the skills you need in working with archives and databases, performing research, and learning best practices for sharing archival materials with the general public.
There are a huge range of roles to take in the heritage sector, working with historic houses, buildings, and other sites. Your background in history will make you a great fit for helping engage visitors with these fascinating places. But you’ll also draw upon other skills you’ve gained during your degree, including your ability to communicate both verbally and in writing, your research skills, and your ability to craft historical facts into a compelling narrative to share with others.
Historians research, analyse, record, and interpret the past as recorded in different sources. In this role, you could be teaching, conducting research, hosting interviews for biographies… the pathway you choose will likely be informed by the modules you studied on your history degree (which is pretty much essential to this career). You could even use the topic you explored for your dissertation as a starting point.
Curators are in charge of choosing and organising displays and temporary exhibitions at museums. While you’ll likely need to work your way up through the ranks of the museum to reach the curator role, it’s a great fit for history grads because it demands not only passion for the subject but also research skills and great verbal and written communication skills. The time you’ve spent on your degree writing papers that tell a compelling historical story is great practice for crafting similar narratives using the objects contained in a museum.
A degree in this subject might also take you to…
Whilst you might expect to pursue one of the above roles after this degree, the wide social and cultural knowledge you gain on a history degree can invite a whole range of possible careers.
Here are some of the roles graduates from SOAS, University of London have gone on to pursue...
Civil servants work for the government, in departments like the Ministry of Defence, or Department for Education. This graduate began working for the Treasury after going through the civil service fast stream programme, doing background research to support the development of government policy. The knowledge gained from their history degree helped prepare them for this role, giving them an understanding of complex socio-economic, political, and cultural contexts.
Financial accountants are employed by organisations or private clients to keep track of a company’s financial transactions. The research and analysis skills gained on this degree will be useful for looking at data in this role. You’ll also be expected to present data to external clients, so the practise in presenting to peers on the degree will be helpful here too.
This role can involve overseeing PR, social media, digital content and media. This particular graduate worked for a global arts and culture organisation with a presence in over 100 countries, overseeing communication planning across the EU. They said: ‘A SOAS history degree gave me a deeper understanding of global affairs and taught me how to distil complex narratives into succinct and persuasive outputs, with clear goals and audiences in mind.’
This graduate moved into filmmaking after working independently as a journalist, which they said gave them ‘the flexibility to tell stories of people that matter the most to me. It’s personal and political and no day is the same as the other.’ The history programme at SOAS supports the development of the ability to speak to different audiences from year one. It is not only about histories that happened, but also about how these histories are still relevant, and can be used to shape the present and the future.
Charity directors plan ways to develop a charity’s services, generate income and raise awareness. The communication skills gained on a history degree are important in this kind of work, as you’ll likely need to deliver presentations, and present persuasive arguments to encourage donations and sponsorship. With experience, you could work for an international non-governmental organisation (NGO).
There are several types of lawyer, and opportunities to specialise in many different areas. Solicitors offer guidance on the law to clients, and prepare legal documents, whilst barristers (or ‘advocates’) represent clients in court or at public hearings. A history degree could give you background on changes in the law, as a result of social and political events, and experience of paying close attention to detail in data - both useful for a legal role.
15 months after graduating…
The average salary for a history student 15 months after graduating is £23,674. According to our stats, roughly 64% of these students have secured a graduate job by this point.
… and long term?
‘A history degree gives you a range of skills that foster you to move easily in a rapidly changing world. It enables you to become a responsible global citizen and understand the world around you better’ - Dr Shabnum Tejani, Department of History, SOAS University of London
Curious about one of the above careers? Visit the Careers library to learn all about what they entail, and what else you can do to get into them.
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