What You Can Do With A History Major?

“I look for people who have studied mathematics, philosophy, languages. And really history is kind of the king." —Rachel Maddow, MSNBC television host and author, when asked what kind of background she looks for in selecting job candidates.

If you enjoy studying history and learning about past events and peoples because you find the information interesting, that’s truly wonderful. Passion and joy are tremendously important when deciding on a major. Some of our students go on to graduate school to become professional historians. But that’s not the only reason to major or minor in history or to take history courses. Here are reasons history is a valuable and practical subject to study.

The skills learned from studying history are transferable to a wide range of occupations, as you can see from data about the careers of majors nationally and at Luther. To learn more about how "the ACS data suggest that the picture for history majors is far brighter than critics of the humanities would have you believe," see this essay disputing several common myths about history majors' careers after graduation. Examine this graph to see the wide range of careers our alumni have pursued:

Pie chart of career outcomes for history majors, 1980-2012.

History is among those majors best situated to help you become a careful, critical, and sophisticated reader and to help you learn to write powerful essays with convincing evidence. History papers require that you make solid arguments clarifying your positions and justifying them using evidence you have chosen, sifted, and evaluated — exactly the kind of work all professions require. Studying history is an excellent way of developing skills in critical thinking and problem solving because you are required to analyze cause and effect, to determine why certain outcomes occurred and others did not, and to prioritize evidence and to evaluate consequences.

History also encourages cultural literacy, good citizenship, and sensitivity to various peoples and contexts. Good history scholars learn to consider multiple points of view and to understand changing global situations. In a world where “facts” are often greatly in dispute, one of the unique strengths of historical study is that it forces students to collect, evaluate, and arrange a variety of sources to turn these sources into evidence and to use this evidence to construct an argument-driven narrative.

To learn more about what our history alumni have done with their careers, please see our alumni profiles.