Why Study History?

Wondering if history is the right choice?

Many people have history all wrong. Perhaps classes taken in high school or community college made history seem outdated or irrelevant. Some students think a degree in history is worthless on the job market. Some even feel they should pursue degrees that they are less interested in. We, like many employers, are here to tell you that it's simply not true.

Do you assume history is all about memorizing dates?

Admittedly, that A.P. course in 12th grade got a little, well, boring. College history is not designed around state-mandated textbooks or standardized tests. While exploring diverse points of view, it teaches you how to collect, evaluate, and arrange sources into persuasive arguments and narratives. The study of history is unique because it combines the science of finding, analyzing, and arranging documents with the art of creative writing, eloquent argument, and storytelling. It teaches non-programmable skills like cultural awareness, advocacy, problem-solving, and understanding a whole new world of references and jokes.

Yes, history majors regularly go on to law or graduate school, education, and museums. However, these jobs are far from the limit.  A recent survey at Vanderbilt, for example, found that 30% of their history graduates worked in business. Here at Lehigh, our history graduates have gone on to work in a host of careers, including the Philadelphia Art Gallery, fitness magazine Runner's World, toys and games congolmerate Hasbro, and the 9/11 Memorial to name just a few!

Do you think history doesn't offer “real world” skills?

Recently Stanford University students asked popular television host and author Rachel Maddow to name the kind of major she looks for in job candidates.  She did not hesitate in endorsing humanities, adding, “History is kind of the king.” She explained, “We need people who are good at explaining facts, who are good at editing, and who can visualize things in creative ways. We need good artists and we need good writers.” Employers are looking for intelligent individuals trained in multidisciplinary thinking to add an edge to their companies.

As a result, unemployment for liberal arts graduates is low, and by the peak earning years, workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional or pre-professional fields. Among other liberal arts, history majors earn higher median salaries than all other humanities majors and earn the same or more than those who majored in education, communications, or international relations. Twenty percent of those history graduates were employed in management positions.

At the end of the day you learn on the job, and interviewers are looking for intelligence, integrity, and passion for your field- which reflects in your work. So whether you're in it for the long road to a history Ph.D. or you're a finance major minoring in history, study what you are passionate about, engage with our faculty, and recognize what you bring to the table in the workforce.