“Why Major in History?”

Over at Psychology Today they have a great article about majoring in history.  Here is a tid bit of that article.

It starts with your attitude. If you say or think, “this major is a waste of time” or “I wish I had studied something practical,” the degree probably is/was a waste because you will convey this attitude to a potential employer– who will agree with you and probably not hire you because, why, after all, did you invest four years in something so useless? To paraphrase Henry Ford, “If you think your history major is a waste, you’re right. If you think your history major is invaluable, you’re right.”

If you don’t enjoy the major or know why you’re studying it then it’s time for a reality check. If you do enjoy it, but you are only focused on a direct linear outlet for your degree, you are not casting your career net far enough. It’s time to meet with career center staff, talk to your parents, an academic advisor, your professors, alumni, and even get an internship—do what you need to do to find your academic purpose and the value of your education.

And it isn’t enough to appreciate the degree yourself. Passion for a subject is wonderful— but you have to be able to market the degree. You cannot arrive at an interview, proudly announce your history degree and expect the employer to intrinsically understand its value.

A few years ago I taught a “History Majors in the Workplace” course atUT, and during one of the class exercises I asked my students to describe the characteristics of a “successful” history major. They had no trouble doing this—they described themselves as:

  • A “dog on a bone” for information. Always hungry for the “facts.”
  • Never content with what someone says. Have to look it up for themselves.
  • Insatiably curious about everything.
  • Able to view events in context.
  • Knowing the value of oral history and remembering the past as it affected individuals and societies.

Take a moment and consider if this describes you. What else would you add? And—why would your potential employer value those traits?

-Phil

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About

Christian, Lover of History, Aspiring Teacher

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