Why You Should Become a History Major

By Adam Maynes, MA

An open history book

Let’s take a shot at sketching a quick picture of your life right now: you’re a senior in high school. You have a number of interests that you know could be pursued in college, but you are not sure which will be the most fulfilling or take you the farthest in your professional life.

Presumably, you have had a number of wonderful teachers across a wide range of interesting topics throughout your formative years. However, while your P.E. and math teachers were great, the subject matter does not appear to translate into future educational opportunities. You’re not necessarily going to be a professional athlete or engineer.

Let us assume also that your history teachers were amazing as well. Their stories were always engaging; their questions, thought provoking; the discussions you took part in, inspiring. You felt like you grew as a thinker, maturing in thought and action as you inch towards the modern adult world that you are now only months away from entering.

Thus, you have begun to wonder: “Would a history degree be right for me?”

Take a few moments to consider why a history degree is best for you, and sneak a peek at just a few of the opportunities and professional possibilities that can come from this educational path.

Mental Growth and Maturity

They say ignorance is bliss, right? If that’s the case, then information is power.

To think that the lack of worldly knowledge is peaceful comes from the idea that what you do not know cannot hurt you. Concurrently, then what you do not know also cannot upset you.

Consider how inconsequential one’s life must be when they cut themselves off from a deep understanding of the world in which they live. Then consider  how empowering a person can feel when they have the necessary information to not only formulate intelligent opinions about the events occurring in the world around them, but then discuss topics that not only affect them on an individual level, but our society as a whole.

At its core, a history degree can provide you with a foundation of fundamental and essential information about the world’s most important events, offering you, the learner, subject matter that can be extracted from the classroom and applied to life.

This concept might seem daunting (and maybe even a little scary) on the surface. With careful consideration, it is not nearly as intimidating as it appears.

What You Will Learn and How it Will Guide You in Life

Learning history isn’t just about names and dates, memorizing basic information and regurgitating it to a professor for a grade. Understanding the specifics of historical events is important, but it should not be the sole purpose of a history student’s collegiate career.

History is about the learning of themes, understanding events that have occurred multiple times in different forms, then extrapolating that knowledge and placing it into a modern context.

History is alive. It is about embracing the idea that the history of the world is not dead simply because the actors in the roles of life have long since gone.

Events of the past live on today through the common thread of time, forever weaving itself in and out of the actions of the living, eventually taking different shapes and being re-witnessed through the eyes of those who did not experience the past first-hand. Thus, those peering into the past use their own experiences to shape how they view and interpret the actions and events that happened before them  through the context of the present world.

Sound difficult to grasp? It’s not. In fact, you practice this very concept every day.

In life, we are faced daily with obstacles that require both a base knowledge of tasks and the tools to execute solutions. When some responsibilities are a little more complex, the solution requires additional background knowledge.

Have you ever called someone and asked, “How do I do this”? Whether it’s baking cookies, installing a printer or hanging a picture, if you do not understand the basic concept, you ask someone who does. Then hopefully, if the idea of “ignorance is bliss” is a frightful one to you, the information learned can be used the next time you attempt a similar task.

This is at its core what a degree in history can provide you unlike any other: a fundamental understanding of the past, which thus allows present events to be synthesized through the actions of those who came before us.

Want to better understand what caused the complex issues facing the Middle East? Well then, understand the results of the First World War and how the demise of Imperialism began a process of territorial disputes while carving out maps of that part of the world, which caused a rippling effect that continues to this day.

Do current issues involving race relations in America make no sense to you? A greater understanding of American Reconstruction after the Civil War and the Civil Rights era will put things into better perspective.

Have you questioned when someone has been called a Nazi, Fascist or Socialist, but you do not quite know why those terms are used insultingly?

Studying the history of the goals and methods to accomplish bureaucratic and civil success in Germany, Italy, and Russia during the 20th century will help you better understand the political and economic issues of today, in addition to how and why those terms are thrown about so flippantly in a free nation like the United States.

Today’s modern world is a truly complex yet fascinating place beyond the peripheral view that many of us have. Ignorance is bliss; information is power; and a degree in history will allow you to see it all more clearly.

That Sounds Amazing, But What Can I Do With This Degree?

First and foremost, you could become one of those great teachers that you have looked up to throughout your educational career.

If the subject of history is so interesting to you already, why not share that passion with the next generation of learners? Why not be a model of leadership and wisdom for young learners as they mature, grow and learn to incorporate the past into present issues?

Of course education is not for everybody, but there is still so much more you can do with a degree in history! Two of the primary skills that you will develop as a history major are research and writing.

Your desire to discover and your ability to explain events at a fundamental level can be utilized in a number of media-related ventures.

For instance, those skills can be used in both fiction and non-fiction, political journalism and even editorializing. While entering any of those careers, not only will you have the opportunity to share the stories of history that you find so fascinating, but you can also help others to understand their historical and modern importance in ways they never would have fathomed.

Have you ever picked up an old penny, seek out the year of its minting and contemplate the history it has “lived” through and the number of people who took part in its creation or possessed it before you found it?

A history degree can set you down the path of a museum educator, gallery curator, archivist or even an exhibitions officer. In any of those careers, the opportunities to quench your thirst for knowledge about those who were somehow directly connected to any one individual item will never cease.

Are you an avid reader? A history degree can direct you toward a career as a librarian or bookstore owner/manager.

Do you often find yourself in debates, devouring intense and intellectual discussions? A history degree can be the first step toward a life of public service, be it in the political realm, as an attorney or lawyer, legal assistant, civil service administrator, or even in human resources.

Archeologists, who study the history of the world through the discoveries of artifacts left behind by humans and all manner of biological life, can begin their careers with a history degree.

Marketers need to share information about a product in a simple, concise, and entertaining manner – and can get their start with the skills learned through, you guessed it—a history degree.

Consultants from all walks of life use their history degree skills of communication and analysis to break down voting or sales patterns to help campaigns reach the appropriate base to maximize public outreach.

Outdoor professionals like park rangers often have to understand and communicate a park’s history, give tours, explain statistics about the park’s environment and wildlife, and even oversee an entire park’s operations which also may include organizing programs and activities for visitors – skills and abilities all learned within a degree of history.

What are you waiting for? These jobs – and many more – are waiting for you. A degree in history may be the perfect way to begin the process towards the most fulfilling career you could ever imagine.

If you are ready to take the next step in your academic career, consider Grand Canyon University’s Bachelor of Arts in History. This program prepares students for beginning careers like museum and archive curation, public relations, journalism, and public service. To learn more about this and other programs offered by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, visit our website or click on the Request more Information button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.