How to Become a Historian

They say that history is written by the winners, but for the most part it’s actually written by historians.

When you become a historian your work is to research, document, and interpret events of the past.

History is viewed as a branch of social science.

Most historians will specialize in a certain period of history.

For instance, it could be Tudor England, Ancient Egypt, or Revolutionary Russia.

They may also specialize in a particular aspect of a field.

For instance, a historian could be particularly interested in the culture of the era, the use of language, or the politics of the time.

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Many historians work in educational settings, such as a professor in a college.

They also work in museums, as writers, or for state or local governments.

Education Requirements to Become a Historian

The education you require to become a historian will depend on the type of historian you want to be.

You will need at a minimum a four year bachelors degree with a major in history.

This could allow you to teach history in a high school.

It could also help you to get a job in a visitors center, library, or museum where you could work to on educational programs, or as a research assistant.

The best opportunities will go to those with a postgraduate qualification such as a masters or PhD.

A masters degree in history will allow you work on research projects or head your own research.

A PhD will allow you access to teaching positions within a college setting.

While at college, it’s a good idea to gain some experience as a historian.

Local libraries and museums offer numerous volunteer positions where you could start to gain some experience.

You could also offer to help your professors with their own research, or take on a position a graduate teacher.

Historian Job Description

When you become a historian, your role is to research the past.

To do this, you will use a range of sources.

It could be official documents from the past, artifacts discovered on archeological digs, or ancient texts.

Often, as advances are made in science, politics, as well as changes within society, periods of history are reinterpreted.

For instance, carbon dating has made it possible to verify many theories put forward by historians.

Movements like feminism have also changed the way we view the past.

Historians working in an educational setting, such as a college, will spend a good amount of time teaching.

They will also publish their own papers and research.

Those working in museums may spend some time archiving and researching, and also spend time with guests and visitors, using their skills to bring light to the past for others.

Here are some of the tasks of a historian:

  • Reviewing documents and artifacts from the past
  • Conducting research
  • Preserving artifacts
  • Teaching
  • Researching and writing papers
  • Writing books

Historian Salary and Career Path

There are many different paths you could take when you become a historian.

If you were employed as a college professor, you would start out as a graduate teacher, then as an assistant instructor.

You would climb the ranks of academia to become a professor once you gained tenure.

Working in a visitors center or museum, you could start out as an assistant.

You could be giving out tickets, keeping accurate records, or simply handing visitor inquiries.

After a while, you may give talks or presentations to visitors.

You could go on to coordinate exhibitions, manage departments and facilities, or other administrative duties.

Many historians work as researchers.

They could be assistant a college professor on a project, or working for a state or local government.

Some historians go on to write books about particular periods of history.

Some work as researchers for documentaries, films, movies, or TV shows.

The median wage for a historian is $54,000 a year.

The middle 50% earn between $35,000 and $77,000.

The highest incomes will be earned by those who work within education.

Some similar roles to that of a historian include:

You can find out some more information about historians and a career in this field at the American Historical Association website.

If you would like to become a historian, you’ll need to be prepared to complete a lot of education and hard work to gain a role in this competitive field.

While this area is experiencing growth, there are always more applicants than jobs.

If you are truly passionate about history, then you will find this career rewarding.

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