In brief

Here are a few thoughts on how one can apply their graduate degree in history to the job market.

Careers for Graduate Students in History

So, you would like to get a degree in history because you're interested in the subject. But what on earth can you do with a B.A., or even an M.A or Ph.D., in history? It's not going to get you a decent job as would the more practical disciplines of, say, engineering, commerce, or computer science. Right?

Sound familiar? If not from the mouths of your family and friends, then maybe you've muttered these thoughts to yourself at times. This page hopes to dispel these notions by explaining why a history degree is relevant and not a waste of time from a career point of view by providing you with some ideas of history-related, and even unrelated, careers to pursue. What is offered below are some of the careers you can follow with a degree in history and by no means is meant to be exhaustive. If you have more suggestions and/or comments please Contact us, or, if you prefer, raise them up for discussion on our Listserv.

Currently, the best place for a job search is the H-Net Jobs page (

K-12 School Teacher, College Teacher, and University Professor

The most commonly considered professions for those interested in pursuing a history-related career. As many of those who have worked as TA's know, first-year survey courses seem to be full of undergrads aspiring to be admitted to education. Sure, most are required to take a Canadian history course, but several also wish history to be their teaching major. K-12 teacher qualifications, length of education, and salary vary from university to university and province to province, but, generally, to be a teacher requires, first, a three-year B.A. and, then, between one to two years for the B.Ed. to be qualified. Salary can range from $40,000 to $50,000. An M.A. usually will increase your wage, but will also decrease your chances of getting hired (school boards aren't too keen on paying the higher wage). Experienced teachers will tell you to get hired first, take a leave of absence after a couple of years on the job, and then go back to school for your M.A.

At one time having only an M.A. in history would be good enough to secure a position as a college teacher, but with the present surplus of unemployed Ph.D.'s in the job market the doctorate has become the norm. We are not going to dwell here on the in's and out's of becoming and working as a college teacher and university professor because it is discussed extensively in other works.  Please see Graduate Student Resources for websites and recent books on following this career path.

Archivist and Librarian

The archivist is another popular career choice since it involves working with historical documents, research, writing, and dealing with fellow historians, both professional and amateur.  Positions are available with businesses, governments, religious bodies, and other institutions which possess their own archives. Occasionally, job postings will not specify "archivist," but will ask for someone with training in "records management" - in many cases the same thing. To get a job as an archivist often requires a Master of Archival Studies (a one- to two-year program requiring a thesis and/or an internship) and a B.A. in a "suitable" specialization (i.e. history) is required for admission to the M.A.S. program. In some cases, however, an M.A. in History alone may be sufficient for a position, provided you can also demonstrate a good knowledge of archival science and methods.  The "Archival Fundamental Series" published by the Society of American Archivists provides a good explanation of modern archival theory and practice. See the webpages of the Association of Canadian Archivists (which also posts job advertisements) and the Canadian Council of Archives for more information about this profession.

The position of librarian needs little explanation. To become a librarian, a Master of Library Science is required. Admission to this program and its length is generally the same as with the Master of Archival Science.

Museum Curator and Heritage Conservation/Preservation

A museum curator develops, maintains, researches, and exhibits a museum collection. He/she may be required to write and prepare booklets and information about displays, research and make decisions as to acquisitions, prepare items for display, and manage the gallery. A Master of Museum Studies (a.k.a. Museology, Museum Science) is usually required.  It is a one- to two-year program, includes a period of internship, and a four-year B.A. maybe required to gain admission (depending upon the university offering the program). The University of Toronto offers one such program. Check out the website of the Canadian Museums Association for more information.

People working in heritage conservation/preservation often are self-employed and seek out contracts, but many are employed at museums working for curators. Again, more than a B.A. is required. Queen's University offers a two-year program leading to the degree of Master of Conservation. This is but one example of several different programs offered at various institutions in this field. Carleton University and the University of Western Ontario also offer an M.A. in Public History.

Government Opportunities

The federal government hires historians to fill a variety of jobs in different departments and agencies. Some of these include:

-land claims researchers and advisors for Indian Affairs
-historians for the Department of National Defence and Parks Canada
-curators and heritage conservationists for the federal museums and National Historic Sites
-archivists for the National Archives and departmental archives
-park interpreters at National Historic Sites
-writers, editors, researchers, research managers, communications officers, and information specialists for virtually every department and agency.

The departments and agencies most promising for a person with a background in history include:

-Heritage Canada
-Parks Canada
-Department of National Defence
-National Capital Commission
-Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
-Royal Canadian Mounted Police
-National Film Board
-Canada Council
-Telefilm Canada
-Canadian Museum of Civilization

Most job opportunities are posted on the Public Service Commission website, but some agencies do not and it is advised to check out each department's and agency's website you are interested in for employment information. Also, you should explore each department's website and contact their human resources section for information on qualifications and competencies required for certain jobs--they vary greatly from department to department and level to level.

The provincial governments and some municipalities also hire historians for provincial and municipal heritage departments and sites. In addition, many of the opportunities noted in the federal government hold true for the provinces (i.e. land claims research in some regions). Again, check out the job opportunity websites of each province and municipality you are interested in working for job postings.

Read below at "Jobs 'Unrelated' to History" for more Government Job Opportunities.

Private Industry and Self-Employed Opportunities in History

Several private companies work in Historical Resource Management and provide a range of services to the heritage ndustry. These include conducting site assessments (i.e. assessment of the cultural significance of buildings, trees, etc.), researching and writing business and community histories, development of heritage sites on behalf of government agencies, and research and planning for cultural tourism attractions. The Canadian Association of Professional Heritage Consultants is the national society and its website contains a membership directory and information on the profession.

Instead of choosing to work for one of these companies, some people decide to be self-employed as a heritage consultant and provide the above services from the comfort of their home office. While many work strictly as freelance writers, editors, and researchers, many also seek out lucrative government contracts in heritage development. Federal government contracts, and several provincial and municipal ones, are handled by Merx.

Other history-related jobs which a person can either find a company to work under or work self-employed include:

-information manager
-tour guide/interpreter
-CD-ROM and database compiler
-in television and film production (i.e. script writing, site location, image research for documentaries)

Jobs "Un-related" to History

When considering what jobs you are qualified to perform outside of the historical profession, you must consider which job competencies and skills you have obtained from your education in history. Fortunately, history provides you with the three most in-demand skills according to a survey of managers from major Canadian corporations:

-written communication
-oral communication

Instead of seeing yourself as someone who only knows a lot of dates and why certain things happened in the past, to find a job outside of academia you have to market yourself as someone with strong communication skills, a mature and original thinker able to frame and solve complex problems, a teacher and public speaker (if you have TA'ed and delivered papers), a research specialist, and a skilled projet manager (i.e. managing and completing your thesis). From this point of view, the number of jobs you are qualified for multiplies significantly and by no means are limited to strictly history-related professions.

Many corporations are realizing that historians with graduate degrees possess the skills they require to fill a wide range of jobs. To name but a few examples, in 1999 graduate students from the humanities in the United States were specifically canvassed to fill the following positions: editor, producer, and project manager (three separate positions) for Encyclopaedia Britannica, a technical writer for Microsoft, and research analysts, research associates, program analysts, project managers, and curriculum developers for a slew of management and education consultant firms. In all, the required qualifications included the above noted skills and not much more (and no, the position with Microsoft did not require computer skills and the positions with the consulting firms did not require a degree in commerce/management--just the big three skills).

Not interested in working for the private sector? Well, you can apply the same methodology in landing a government job as wide ranging as a Foreign Affairs Officer to a Customs Inspector to a CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) Desk Officer (for all three jobs the big three skills are the main competencies required).

Get a Job!

The preceding overview of careers in (and out of) history provides a brief description of jobs available for someone trained in Clio's craft and demonstrates that we are not limited (thankfully!) to only academic positions. I say "thankfully" not to disparage the academic career, but because the prospects of landing a tenure-track position in these days of cutbacks seems to be getting bleaker by the day. So, open up your imagination, market your skills, and redirect your career towards other possibilities--there's a whole world waiting outside the ivory tower.