Summary

Historians
Historians may engage with the public through educational programs and presentations.
Quick Facts: Historians
2015 Median Pay $55,800 per year
$26.83 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 3,500
Job Outlook, 2014-24 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 100

What Historians Do

Historians research, analyze, interpret, and present the past by studying historical documents and sources.

Work Environment

Historians work in government agencies, museums, archives, historical societies, research organizations, nonprofits, and consulting firms. Some must travel to carry out research. Most work full time.

How to Become a Historian

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 find jobs in different fields.

Pay

The median annual wage for historians was $55,800 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of historians is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Competition for jobs may be very strong because there are a small number of positions relative to the number of people seeking jobs in the field.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for historians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of historians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about historians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Historians Do About this section

Historians
Historians often study and preserve archival materials.

Historians research, analyze, interpret, and present the past by studying historical documents and sources.

Duties

Historians typically do the following:

  • Gather historical data from various sources, including archives, books, and artifacts
  • Analyze and interpret historical information to determine its authenticity and significance
  • Trace historical developments in a particular field
  • Engage with the public through educational programs and presentations
  • Archive or preserve materials and artifacts in museums, visitor centers, and historic sites
  • Provide advice or guidance on historical topics and preservation issues
  • Write reports, articles, and books on findings and theories

Historians conduct research and analysis for governments, businesses, nonprofits, historical associations, and other organizations. They use a variety of sources in their work, including government and institutional records, newspapers, photographs, interviews, films, and unpublished manuscripts, such as personal diaries, letters, and other primary documents. They also may process, catalog, and archive these documents and artifacts.

Many historians present and interpret history in order to inform or build upon public knowledge of past events. They often trace and build a historical profile of a particular person, area, idea, organization, or event. Once their research is complete, they present their findings through articles, books, reports, exhibits, websites, and educational programs.

In government, some historians conduct research to provide historical context for current policy issues. For example, they may research the history of Social Security as background for a new bill or upcoming funding debate. Many write about the history of a particular government agency, activity, or program, such as a military operation or the space program.

In historical associations, historians preserve artifacts and explain the historical significance of a wide variety of subjects, such as historic buildings, religious groups, and battlegrounds.

Historians who work for businesses may examine historical evidence for legal cases and regulatory matters.

Many people with an educational background in history become high school teachers or postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment About this section

Historians
Historians may spend much of their time researching and writing reports.

Historians held about 3,500 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most historians were as follows:

State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 39%
Federal government, excluding postal service 22
Professional, scientific, and technical services 21

Historians also worked in museums, archives, historical societies, research organizations, and nonprofits. Some worked as consultants for these organizations while being employed by consulting firms, and some worked as independent consultants.

Work Schedules

Most historians work full time during regular business hours. Some work independently and are able to set their own schedules. Historians who work in museums or other institutions open to the public may work evenings or weekends. Some historians may travel to collect artifacts, conduct interviews, or visit an area to better understand its culture and environment.

How to Become a Historian About this section

historians image
Historians may 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.

Education

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. 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.

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 people with an educational background in history become high school teachers or postsecondary teachers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Historians must be able to examine various types of historical resources and draw logical conclusions based on their findings.

Communication skills. Historians must communicate effectively when collaborating with colleagues and when presenting their research to the public.

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.

Writing skills. Writing skills are essential for historians as they often present their findings in reports, articles, and books.

Pay About this section

Historians

Median annual wages, May 2015

Social scientists and related workers

$72,570

Historians

$55,800

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for historians was $55,800 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,920, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,880.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for historians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $89,450
Professional, scientific, and technical services 60,290
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 39,420

Most historians work full time during standard business hours. Some work independently and are able to set their own schedules.

Job Outlook About this section

Historians

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Social scientists and related workers

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

Historians

2%

 

Employment of historians is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.

Employment in the federal government, where more than 1 out of 5 historians worked in 2014, is expected to decline slightly over the coming decade, due to expected reductions in federal spending.

Historians who are employed in settings outside of the federal government, such as historical societies and historical consulting firms, are expected to see some job growth. However, many of these organizations that employ historians depend on donations or public funding. Thus, employment growth from 2014 to 2024 will depend largely on the amount of funding available.

Job Prospects

Historians may face very strong competition for most jobs. Because of the popularity of history degree programs, applicants are expected to outnumber positions available. Those with a master’s degree or Ph.D. should have the best job opportunities.

Practical skills or hands-on work experience in a specialized field such as collections, fundraising, or exhibit design also may be beneficial. Job seekers may gain this experience through internships, related work experience, or volunteering. Positions are often available at local museums, historical societies, government agencies, or nonprofit and other organizations.

Because historians have broad training and education in writing, analytical research, and critical thinking, they can apply their skills to many different occupations—for example, as writers and authors, editors, postsecondary teachershigh school teachers, or policy analysts.

Also, there are many history-related jobs that do not have the title of historian. Workers with a background in history often look for closely related jobs, working as archivists, curators, and museum workers, social science or humanities researchers, and cultural resource managers.

Employment projections data for historians, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Historians

19-3093 3,500 3,500 2 100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of historians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Anthropologists and archeologists

Anthropologists and Archeologists

Anthropologists and archeologists study the origin, development, and behavior of humans. They examine the cultures, languages, archeological remains, and physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world.

Master's degree $61,220
Curators and museum technicians

Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers

Archivists appraise, process, catalog, and preserve permanent records and historically valuable documents. Curators oversee collections of artwork and historic items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Museum technicians and conservators prepare and restore objects and documents in museum collections and exhibits.

See How to Become One $46,710
Economists

Economists

Economists study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services by collecting and analyzing data, researching trends, and evaluating economic issues.

Master's degree $99,180
Editors

Editors

Editors plan, review, and revise content for publication.

Bachelor's degree $56,010
Geographers

Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine phenomena such as political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.

Bachelor's degree $74,260
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor's degree $57,200
Political scientists

Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.

Master's degree $99,730
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $72,470
Sociologists

Sociologists

Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions, and processes that develop when people interact and work together.

Master's degree $73,760
Writers and authors

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors develop written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, blogs, or other types of media.

Bachelor's degree $60,250
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Historians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/historians.htm (visited September 24, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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State & Area Data

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.