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Resources & Activities

Careers in History

In the process of making sense of our collective and individual past, the student of history develops research, analytical and communication skills which can be drawn upon in a variety of careers. History majors offer employers a broad range of skills: the ability to write effectively, research thoroughly, organize materials effectively, and solve complex problems. History majors from Sonoma State have developed careers in journalism, teaching, law, business, public consulting and research, museum and records management, genealogy, library science and government service.

The Department of History encourages students to combine their major with courses in statistics, computer science, accounting, and economics. Joined with technical skills in such areas, the solid foundation of traditional skills developed by the major in history will command a hearing in a greatly expanded job market.

According to Peter Stearns (George Mason University) and Marcus Collins (Loughborough University, UK), only about 1 in 10 history majors in the United States becomes a schoolteacher, and only about 1 in 20 becomes a university professor. These data points belie the most common myth about the history degree: it leads only to careers in education. In fact, history majors get jobs in fields far beyond education, and with enviable salaries: “history majors typically out earn other graduates in the humanities as well as those in education and the arts. They earn roughly the same as graduates in the life sciences (e.g. biology), behavioral sciences (e.g. psychology) and social sciences (e.g. international relations). . . . A business major in search of riches would find they didn’t earn more than the typical history graduate . . . A quarter of history graduates in 2015 were earning upwards of $85,000.” Moreover, history majors, like graduates from the arts and humanities broadly, report far higher degrees of happiness in their careers than graduates in other fields, perhaps because the history degree has provided them a range of skills that have value in the professional world: oral and written communication, problem solving, teamwork, initiative, analytical skills, and so on. [See Stearns and Collins, Why Study History? (London, 2020), Kindle locations 730-735.]

Similarly, the School of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts at the University of Michigan has conducted interviews with more than 8,000 of its alumni, with degrees dating back to 1942, to establish linkages between major and career path. The results? The history major leads to myriad different careers beyond education: from medicine and technology to finance, consulting, and law.

For further information, check out: 
University of Michigan: What Will You Do with an LSA Degree? 

History Is Not a Useless Major: Fighting Myths with Data

The Best Jobs and Career Advice for History Majors


For additional ideas, you may want to check the following books:

  • The Liberal Arts Advantage: How to Turn Your Degree into a Great Job, by Gregory Giangrande. Paperback,184 pages, Avon Books, 1998.
  • Great Jobs for History Majors, by Julie Ann DeGalan, Stephen E. Lambert. Paperback, 254 pages, Vgm Career Horizons, 1995.
  • Great Jobs for Liberal Arts Majors, by Blythe Camenson, Stephen E. Lambert, Julie Ann Degalan. Paperback, 232 pages, Vgm Career Horizons, 1997.
  • Peterson's Liberal Arts Jobs: The Guide That Turns Learning into Earning (3rd edition), by Burton Jay Nadler. Paperback, 240 pages, Petersons Guides, 1998.
  • 150 Best Companies for Liberal Arts Graduates: Where to Get a Winning Job in Tough Times, by Cheryl Woodruff, Greg Ptacek. Paperback, 304 pages, John Wiley & Sons, 1992.


Phi Alpha Theta

PHI ALPHA THETA is a national history honor society, with chapters throughout the United States. Its purpose is to promote the study of history by encouraging research, teaching, publication, and the exchange of ideas among students, teachers, and writers of history.

MEMBERSHIP in Sonoma State University’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, Pi Zeta, is open to all undergraduates (not just history majors) with at least a 3.0 GPA who have completed 12 units of history with grades of B or higher. MA students are also welcome to apply, although requirements are more rigorous.

ACTIVITIES have included sponsorship of the Women’s History Month lecture series; noontime presentations by faculty and students on diverse subjects; multi-year championship of the SSU College Bowl Trivia Game; guided field trips to museum exhibits at San Francisco’s De Young museum (special exhibits on the Maya, on Han China, and on Egypt); and visits to Fort Ross, and to the special collections at SSU library.

BENEFITS of membership in Pi Zeta include scholarship opportunities, a subscription to The Historian, Pi Zeta honors regalia at graduation, the opportunity to present papers at regional conferences, and networking, fun and fellowship with other students.

APPLICATIONS for membership are in the History Department office, Stevenson 3715, or online; the completed application should be returned to the History office. Applications are due the third Thursday of October at noon (Fall induction) or the third Thursday of March at noon (Spring induction). Once your GPA has been verified, there is a one-time membership fee of $40.00.

MEETINGS of Pi Zeta Chapter are every other week during the semester, and all are welcome to attend, not just members. Please join us!

FOR MORE INFORMATION please contact Professor Steve Estes.