How to Become a Historian
Historians learn to use primary sources, such as letters and photographs, in their research.
Although most historian positions require a master’s degree, some research positions require a doctoral degree. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree may qualify for some entry-level positions, but most will not be traditional historian jobs.
Historians need a master’s degree or Ph.D. for most positions. Many historians have a master’s degree in history or public history. Others complete degrees in related fields, such as museum studies, historical preservation, or archival management.
In addition to coursework, most master’s programs in public history and similar fields require an internship as part of the curriculum.
Research positions within the federal government and positions in academia typically require a Ph.D. Students in history Ph.D. programs usually concentrate in a specific area of history. Possible specializations include a particular country or region, period, or field, such as social, political, or cultural history.
Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in history may qualify for entry-level positions at museums, historical associations, or other small organizations. However, most bachelor’s degree holders usually work outside of traditional historian jobs—for example, jobs in education, communications, law, business, publishing, or journalism.
Many employers recommend that prospective historians complete an internship during their formal educational studies. Internships offer an opportunity for students to learn practical skills, such as handling and preserving artifacts and creating exhibits. They also give students an opportunity to apply their academic knowledge in a hands-on setting.
Analytical skills. Historians must be able to examine various types of historical resources and draw clear and logical conclusions based on their findings.
Communication skills. Historians must communicate effectively when collecting information, collaborating with colleagues, and presenting their research to the public through written documents and presentations.
Foreign language skills. Historians may need to review primary source materials that are not in English. This makes knowledge of the other language useful during research.
Problem-solving skills. Historians try to answer questions about the past. They may investigate something unknown about a past idea, event, or person; decipher historical information; or identify how the past has affected the present.
Research skills. Historians must be able to examine and process information from a large number of historical resources, including documents, images, and material artifacts.