Just what can you do with a degree in History? Soon-to-graduate Bethel students, high school sophomores just starting to think about college, parents getting ready to pay that Bethel tuition bill, and other inquiring minds want to know!
Not to toot our own horn, but... You can do just about anything with a history degree! Just take a look at some of the famous Americans who majored in history: presidents, actors, senators, journalists, judges, comedians, professional athletes, captains of industry, civil rights leaders, singers...
The great thing about a degree in a liberal arts field like history is that it gives you an enormous set of skills: writing, research, analysis, public speaking, problem solving, etc. There aren't too many employers out there who wouldn't want to hire someone with those abilities. (We have a separate page with nothing but resources geared to help you think creatively about careers in connection with your interest in history.)
Still, it is fair to say that there are some career paths especially popular with history majors:
A significant number of our majors are actually double-majors in Bethel's well-regarded Social Studies Education program. They go on to teach history, government, geography, economics, and similar classes to students in grades 5-12.
Some of these students will go back to school to get a master's degree, in education or history. And others of our majors will go straight to graduate school in order to get a doctorate and start a career teaching in a college or university and publishing scholarly works. Check out our graduate school link for more information on picking a program, applying, and paying for it!
The American Bar Association doesn't single out any college major as being best for pre-law students. But it's easy to understand why History is at the top of their list of traditional fields. The very skills the ABA identifies as necessary for lawyers are cultivated in history courses: analysis and problem solving; critical reading; writing; oral communication and listening; research; task organization and management. Check out Bethel's Prelaw Education description if you want more information.
British historian Timothy Garton Ash has pointed out that "good journalism and good history have some of the qualities of good fiction: imaginative sympathy with the characters involved, literary powers of selection, description, and evocation.... It requires an effort not just of research but of imagination to get inside the experience of the people you are writing about. To this extent, the historian or journalist does work like a novelist." (History of the Present, p. xviii)
History is all about story-telling (it's right there in the name), so it's not surprising that history majors often make excellent journalists and fiction writers.
Seminary is a popular destination among our students, and it's hardly uncommon for our majors to take on a second major (or minor) in Biblical and Theological Studies. And even those students whose interest in history runs more to contemporary Japan or the American Civil War than the Early Church or Hebrew civilization find that their historical studies prepare them well for the demands of a seminary education.
Our own librarians at Bethel work closely with our History professors, and they share many of the same interests (books!) and abilities (research, organizing data, solving problems).
History students might also find that they can translate their passion for the past into a career spent recovering, preserving, documenting, and exhibiting the sources historians rely on. Those who specialize in "public history" may work at historical archives or museums like the National Archives, Smithsonian, or Minnesota Historical Society. (The links for the Smithsonian and MNHS will take you to those institutions' undergraduate internship programs.) Or talk to our own Diana Magnuson: in addition to teaching history at Bethel, she's the archivist of the Baptist General Conference History Center.