The History Column: The Benefits of Majoring in History
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So why do people major in history? What is the purpose behind it? Often, when determining how a major will help out career-wise, the study of history drops from most college students' minds almost immediately. Even those whose favorite subject in high school was history (oh, the horror!) decide against majoring in it during their college years, believing that a degree in history cannot be of any use in getting a job. And yet, there are still some, like me, who venture to earn a history degree in college. But the questions remain: Why? And what will we do with this major? While many today view a degree in history or even merely the study of history as pointless, the practical applications of both have benefits that cannot be understated.

To dispel common myths about the uselessness of a history degree, the two foremost questions about majoring in history will be examined: how it is relevant today, and what one can do with a history degree.

The Relevance of the Study of History

So what does the study of history offer for those who apply themselves to it? Reviewing and analyzing the events of the past grants one an understanding of the world around him, connecting the past to the present to see how the world got where it is today. For instance, in today's America, women and African Americans can vote. None of that would have happened were it not for the origins of the women's suffrage movement which gained great prominence in 1848 with the call of the feminist Seneca Falls Convention, culminating in the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, or in the case of the African American community, the civil rights movement that began after the Civil War's end in 1865, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If one is to respect the privileges and rights granted in the present day, one must also understand the struggle for those rights in past years.

The study of history is a study of cause and effect: the past is the cause, the present is the effect. With this in mind, studying history can often show one where the world went wrong, and how not to repeat the same mistakes or to rectify the current effects of the mistakes of the past. So, in a sense, the study of history is relevant because it can help determine the future: if the world's past failures or successes are reviewed, if their effects on the present are measured according to their worth, then the we are better equipped to build upon our forefathers' successes and rectify their mistakes.

Career Options for History Majors

Now by this point, my readers are probably asking the burning question, "But what can you do with a history degree?" There are two ways a history major looks at the job prospects: the direct and the indirect. The direct method accounts for natural careers that having a history degree can offer. These jobs include historians and/or history teachers, librarians, tourists, journalists, paralegals, lawyers, research analysts (often for a politician or a political campaign), etc. Personally, I use this "direct method," hoping for a career in the legal field.

Still others choose jobs indirectly related to history, go into fields that at first glance would seem most unusual for those with a history degree. According to the American Historical Association, these history majors choose sales work, information technology, the healthcare field (mostly nursing), manufacturing, entertainment, the arts, life and physical sciences, et cetera.

These types of history majors look at the skills they develop as consequence of majoring in history: A history major is taught how to think critically about the historical subjects, analyzing the events determining why those events occurred, such as what caused the outbreak of the Civil War, or how and why Hitler rose to power in Germany in the 1930s. History majors are taught to analyze data such as how many people were killed in the Great War (1914-1918) due to the war itself versus the number of deaths caused by the influenza epidemic during the same time period. Communication for research, such as formal or informal interviews with a primary source (such as a discussion with a World War II veteran over his experiences in the war), is essential to a history major's development and objectivity in his field.

Simply put, to have a degree in history, one will have learned how to think critically, analyze and research data, and communicate effectively in the professional world. Besides growing one's personal abilities, these skills are also among the most coveted abilities sought after by companies seeking to hire new employees, and history majors use this to their advantage. So the reality is that when anyone says that a degree in history is useless, they are merely citing a common stereotype; the only trouble with a history degree is actually narrowing one's career options down.

*For statistical data on the career choices of history majors, see the American Historical Association: https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/april-2017/history-is-not-a-useless-major-fighting-myths-with-data

Studying history in college can be incredibly valuable to those apply themselves to it. While the stereotype is that one can do next to nothing with a degree in history and therefore there is no reason to study history, this is a misrepresentation of the truth. The study of history is very relevant today, and a degree in history can offer a wide variety of career options.

So to address my readers directly, if you are interested in history but are uneasy about majoring in it, give it a chance. It may be more beneficial to you than you will ever know.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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