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Historians Career Overview

Research, analyze, record, and interpret the past as recorded in sources, such as government and institutional records, newspapers and other periodicals, photographs, interviews, films, and unpublished manuscripts, such as personal diaries and letters.

Salary for Historians

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U.S. $33,570
Annual figures are on top. Hourly figures are below in parentheses.
N/A = Information not available

Majors for this Career

Career Outlook for Historians

Overall employment is projected to grow much faster than average, but varies by detailed occupation. For anthropologists and archaeologists, opportunities will be best with management, scientific, and technical consulting services companies. For geographers, opportunities will be best for those who have GIS experience or knowledge. Keen competition is expected for historian jobs because the number of applicants typically outnumbers the number of positions available.

Employment change. Overall employment of anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Anthropologists and archaeologists, the largest specialty, is expected to grow by 28 percent, driven by growth in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry. Anthropologists who work as consultants will be needed to apply their analytical skills and knowledge to problems ranging from economic development to forensics. A growing number of anthropologists also will be needed in specific segments of the Federal Government, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, to assess the regional customs and values—or "cultural terrain"—of a particular society in specific parts of the world. Employment growth of archaeologists will be driven by higher levels of overall construction, including large-scale transportation projects and upgrades to the Nation's infrastructure. As construction projects increase, more archaeologists will be needed to ensure that Federal laws related to the preservation of archaeological and historical sites and artifacts are met.

Employment of geographers is expected to increase by 26 percent because the Federal Government—the largest employer—is projected to grow faster than in the past. Outside of the Federal Government, geographers will be needed to advise businesses, local municipalities, real estate developers, utilities, and telecommunications firms regarding where to build new roads, buildings, powerplants, and cable lines. Geographers also will be needed to advise about environmental matters, such as where to build a landfill and where to preserve wetland habitats.

Employment of historians is expected to grow by 11 percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations, reflecting the relatively few jobs outside of Federal, State, and local Government. Nonetheless, historians possess broad training and education in writing, analytical research, and coherent thinking, so their skills can be applied to many different occupations. As a result, many workers with a history background will find work in niche areas with specialized titles, such as researcher, writer, or policy analyst.

Job prospects. In addition to opportunities arising from employment growth, some job openings for social scientists will come from the need to replace those who retire or who leave the occupation for other reasons. Some social scientists leave the occupation to become professors, but competition for tenured teaching positions will be keen.

Overall, people seeking social science positions are likely to face competition for jobs. Candidates who have a master's or Ph.D. degree in a social science, who are skilled in quantitative research methods, and who also have good written and communications skills are likely to have the best job opportunities. In addition, many jobs in policy, research, or marketing, for which social scientists qualify, are not advertised exclusively as social scientist positions.

Anthropologists and archaeologists will experience the best job prospects at management, scientific, and technical consulting firms. Those with a bachelor's degree in archaeology usually qualify to be a field technician.

Geographers with a background in GIS will find numerous job opportunities applying GIS technology in nontraditional areas, such as emergency assistance, where GISs can track the locations of ambulances, police, and fire rescue units and their proximity to the emergency. Workers in these jobs may not be called "geographers," but instead may be referred to by a different title, such as "GIS analyst" or "GIS specialist."

Historians will find jobs mainly in policy or research. Historians may find opportunities with historic preservation societies or by working as a consultant as public interest in preserving and restoring historical sites increases. Many workers with a history background also choose to teach in elementary, middle, and secondary schools.

Employment Overview

Anthropologists and archaeologists, geographers, and historians held about 11,100 jobs in 2008. Professional, scientific, and technical services employed 37 percent of all workers. A small amount—about 2 percent—was self-employed.

Job Zone Description

Job Zone 5 - Extensive preparation

Overall Experience
Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of medical school and up to an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to do their job.

At a minimum, a bachelor's degree is required for these occupations. However, many also require a graduate school degree such as a Master's, Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).

Job Training
Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations require that you already have the necessary skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Lawyers, instrumental musicians, physicists, counseling psychologists, and surgeons.

These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising or managing the activities of others. Very advanced communication and organization skills are required.

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Additional Resources for Historians Job Seekers

For information about careers in anthropology, contact:

  • American Anthropological Association, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 600, Arlington, VA 22201. Internet:

For information about careers in archaeology, contact:

For information about careers in geography, contact:

Information on careers for historians is available from:

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