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Careers and your History degree

A History degree does not just suit you to a career as a teacher. Apart from being extremely enjoyable and enabling you to learn about the past, it does, as Anthony Beevor explains in the Guardian (Nov 2010) "provides much more than the practical skills which underpin the study of politics and society", it also provides students with "a vital understanding of their place in the world" and current events. Importantly, a History degree also equips you with skills that will be of value after leaving university, skills which are the basis for almost all careers in the private sector, the civil service and law. For example, in your studies you develop important transferrable skills, including

  • How to read critically and think independently
  • How to gather, organise and evaluate evidence
  • How to analyse and assess a wide variety of viewpoints and complex situations
  • How to construct a logical, well-supported argument 
  • How to communicate effectively in writing and in oral presentations
  • How to organise and manage your time to complete assignments
  • Self-discipline and how work independently
  • How to work as part of a team

These skills will be developed through courses that ask you to deliver:

  • Oral presentations and arguments in seminars
  • Group work in seminars
  • Essays based on independent research
  • Research for third-year dissertations
  • Writing under time constraints in exams

A History degree offers a very strong basis for employment and future career development.

Discipline Entering Employment Entering further study / training Working and studying
Graduates (all disciplines)* 59%15%8%
History graduates* 49%25%8%
Cardiff History graduates65%31%5%

* 2009 figures from What do Graduates Do (HECSU / AGCAS 2010)

History therefore compares very favourably with other disciplines in the Humanities, and with those in the social sciences and sciences. 

Some of our students go on to careers which make direct use of the subjects they have studied: over 24% of history graduates go on to postgraduate study (well ahead of the average of 15% across all subjects) in academic or vocational subjects, such as law, accountancy, journalism, librarianship, or teaching. In addition, according to the 2009 study What do graduates do? unemployment levels among History graduates six months after graduation actually fell. This is remarkable given the effects of the economic recession and the overall fall in graduate recruitment.

It is important to realise, however, that a humanities degree is a qualification for a very wide variety of jobs. Although a History degree is not job specific, because History graduates have a wide range of transferable skills they can pursue a wide range of careers after graduation. Many employers are looking for people who, in addition to a good educational achievement, are articulate, capable of thinking for themselves, and able to tackle problems intelligently. History degrees equip students with the skills to research and assess material, to marshal facts and develop arguments, and to arrive at logical conclusions, precisely those skills which employers value and are looking for in graduates. In this sense, History graduates are often extremely successfully in the job market. Historians, for example, have gone on to key positions in the media, politics, law, armed services, teaching, in the museum sector, and in the arts (as writers, screenwriters, etc) and have also gone on to key position in business: historians do, in fact, provide more directors of Britain's leading companies in proportion to the number of graduates than any other subject.

Many important jobs are within the grasp of a History graduate – it just depends on you, and what you want to do with your degree.