History Department

Frequently Asked Questions

Every student is unique, but we tend to get a few common questions from prospective students and their parents.

If you don't see your question here, please contact us. To learn more about us, arrange to visit a professor or a class through Bethel's Admissions office.

1. How big is the History Department?

We have six full-time faculty members, as well as several adjunct professors. In addition, Sam Mulberry, the co-director of Bethel's Academic Enrichment and Support Center, meets with our department and (like several of our professors) teaches GES 130 Christianity and Western Culture. See our faculty page for more about our professors, their training, and their teaching and research interests.

The number of History majors varies from year to year, but in recent years, our senior seminar (the research course majors take before graduating) has averaged about two dozen students.

2. Do History majors specialize in a certain field of history?

Not unless they want to. More typically, Bethel history students end up with a wide-ranging, diverse education including courses in American, European (both ancient/medieval and modern), and Global history. There are several possible options for each category.

Those who would like to go deeper into one area of history may declare a focus in American, European, or Global history. The major has plenty of room for additional electives, and it is possible to design independent studies and to secure internships as well.

3. Why do so many History majors double-major?

Declaring two majors permits students to gain special skills and knowledge in two fields of study, while retaining the advantages of a broad, liberal arts curriculum. Because History is a relatively "light" major (only 36-40 credits required), it's not at all difficult to double-major.

Probably the most popular "double" for our students is Social Studies Education 5-12, which already requires a number of History courses. We've found that for future middle and high school social studies teachers, getting a strong background in history is as important as studying teaching theory and techniques.

Also common is a History/Political Science double-major, since several of our courses are cross-listed in the Political Science department and count towards both majors. History/Biblical Studies, History/Philosophy, and History/English Literature also show up often, but almost any double-major is conceivable. We even have a couple of current students pursuing triple-majors!

4. Do History majors study abroad?

Absolutely! We strongly encourage all of our majors to get away from Bethel for a semester if possible, or at least for a travel course during Interim ("J-Term"). It's not difficult to design the History major around a semester off-campus, and we believe that students benefit greatly from the exposure to other cultures. After all, it's one thing to read books and watch movies about the history of other peoples; it's another actually to have walked where they walked, ate what they ate, and talked face-to-face with their descendants!

In recent years our majors have traveled everywhere from Oxford to Florence, Lithuania to Australia, and Hong Kong to Cairo. See Bethel's Office of Off-Campus Programs for information on international studies, as well as a number of fantastic options in the United States (e.g., the Oregon Extension, the American Studies Program in Washington, DC).

5. What can I do with a degree in History?

For our best attempt to answer this vitally important question, please see our Careers in History page. There we discuss common careers for History majors, further study for those interested in graduate school, and the kinds of skills that our majors develop -- and then use in a wide variety of professions.

In addition, we strongly believe that the History major prepares students for citizenship -- both in the kingdom of God, and in the secular world. Whatever careers they enter, we strive to cultivate students who love God and serve their neighbors.

6. I'm interested in continuing my historical studies beyond college. How can I best prepare for graduate school?

First, think about why you want to go to graduate school. Ph.D.-granting programs are highly selective, and will only admit applicants who can describe a strong calling to a life of research and teaching.

But if you do feel led to that vocation... Here are a few tips for preparing for graduate training in history:

  1. Take a variety of history courses in college. As an undergraduate you'll want to develop both a broad base of historical understanding (no one is solely a specialist in one era or one culture anymore) and also locate your particular field(s) of interest.
  2. Read! A lot! Not just your assigned texts, but ask your professors for reading lists for your spare time and the summer. Not only will this add to your knowledge, but it will help you develop the discipline needed for graduate studies. Most importantly, learn to read with a critical eye: look for the author's use of sources; pick up cues that she or he is arguing with another scholar; identify what makes for a strong argument.
  3. Challenge yourself to become a better writer. Don't shy away from writing-intensive courses; take up your professors on their offers to help improve your writing; and start reading historical journals and monographs so that you can get a handle on what makes for the best writing in the field.
  4. Learn a second (and maybe a third) language. You will almost certainly be expected to demonstrate reading proficiency in at least one or two foreign languages in order to read journals and work with primary sources.
  5. Study abroad. Not only will this expand your horizons and immerse you in other cultures, but it will give you the chance to encounter other scholars who will challenge and encourage you in your studies.
  6. Finally, get to know your professors. Not just because you'll be asking them for letters of recommendation one day... But they're people who have been through graduate school and dedicated themselves to lives of teaching, scholarship, and service. Ask them how they knew they wanted to teach, or what excites them about research, or what books they're reading. Above all, discuss with your Bethel professors what it means to them to be Christian scholars: how do they integrate faith and learning?

Also, check out our own page on resources for graduate school applicants.