As a history graduate you will have gained skills highly valued by employers, such as analytical and critical reasoning, oral and written communication and research skills - a history degree is a good launch pad for a wide range of careers, including law, the public sector, business management and finance. However, if you are passionate about history you may wish to use your degree in an area more directly related to your studies. In most cases you will need further postgraduate qualifications, either a history specialism, research based study or a specific vocational course.
The following career areas may have opportunities for direct entry from a history degree. However bear in mind a history specialism at postgraduate level, either taught or research based, may create more openings.
Some of the larger museums, such as the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum employ history graduates with knowledge of specific periods of history as researchers. Working as a museum assistant or voluntary work in the museum or heritage industry may increase your chances of entry.
For work as a programme researcher at organisations such as the BBC, a subject based degree, such as history, may be more useful than having studied media production skills. Producers often look for applicants with specific subject knowledge relating to programme content. See BBC Careers for details of the Production Talent Pool, the route on to the BBC Production Trainee Scheme. Entry is highly competitive and you will need experience of local or student newspapers/radio/TV or have worked as a runner with TV production companies.
Currently there is a huge public interest in tracing ancestors and researching family histories presenting opportunities for self-employed genealogists to offer research services to private clients. See the Society of Genealogists for related courses.
For the following areas specific vocational postgraduate qualifications are usually required for entry.
Curator is a very broad term; the job varies considerably with the size and type of museum. Working in a small local authority or university museum, you may need to be a jack of all trades; the role can combine collections management, staff management, exhibition management (including hands-on installation) and museum education and require business awareness. In a large museum you might focus on only one of these areas.
A degree appropriate to the subject of the museum collection and a Masters degree relating to museum studies will almost always be required. The best advice is to volunteer or work as an assistant in a range of museums to get a feel for the environment that would suit you best and to gain the work experience essential for entry to museum studies courses. The Museums Association is a useful resource.
Museum Education Officer
Entry is as for curator but classroom based experience or teaching qualifications, such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) are also useful. See the Group for Education in Museums for information.
Recently there has been a huge expansion in heritage and tourist attractions to reach out to wider audiences. Work is possible at heritage sites in a range of roles including steward, manager or in visitor services or heritage interpretation – in costume or demonstrating craft skills to school groups or the public. History or archaeology degrees can be useful and this can be a way to bring your love of history alive and share it with others. Voluntary work with the National Trust or English Heritage could be a good starting point. Masters degree courses are available in heritage studies/management.
Conversion courses at postgraduate level are available for those without an archaeology degree. Opportunities exist in excavating or assessing sites prior to building work as part of the local authority planning process, as well as with university departments, museums and heritage agencies. A good starting point is the Council for British Archaeology at new.archaeologyyuk.org.
If preservation of historical documents or helping members of the public with research appeal, you could consider archives work. In most cases a Masters degree in archive administration/record management will be required and this can include learning to digitise records for on-line preservation– a skill currently in demand. The Archives and Records Association is a good source of information on accredited courses and the work experience required for entry.
Other options include working in publishing with history books, as a specialist librarian with early printed books, teaching history or working as a political researcher. All could involve using your history degree as a good starting point and pursuing a subject you have a passion for.