Historians research, analyze, and interpret the past. They use many sources of information in their research, including government and institutional records, newspapers and other periodicals, photographs, interviews, films, and unpublished manuscripts such as personal diaries and letters.
Common Work Tasks
- Study and preserve archival materials, artifacts, and historic buildings and sites
- Research a topic of interest
- Trace historical development in a particular field, such as social, cultural, and political history
- Prepare publications and exhibits, or review those prepared by others in order to ensure their historical accuracy
- Research the history of a particular country or region, or of a specific time period
- Translate or request translation of reference materials
- Interview people in order to gather information about historical events, and to record oral histories
- Edit historical society publications
Other Job Titles
Historians are also known by other titles, including:
- Museum Conservator
Education, Training, and Experience
Education and Training
Graduates with master’s degrees in applied specialties usually are qualified for positions outside of colleges and universities, although requirements vary by field. A Ph.D. degree may be required for higher-level positions. Bachelor’s degree holders have limited opportunities and do not qualify for most of the occupations discussed above. A bachelor’s degree does, however, provide a suitable background for many different kinds of entry-level jobs in related occupations, such as research assistant, writer, or management trainee.
Many historians also benefit from internships or field experience. Numerous local museums, historical societies, government agencies, non-profit and other organizations offer internships or volunteer research opportunities. Archaeological field schools instruct future historians in how to excavate, record, and interpret historical sites.
Historians need excellent written and oral communication skills to report research findings and to collaborate on research. Successful historians also need intellectual curiosity and creativity because they constantly seek new information about people, things, and ideas. The ability to think logically and methodically is also essential to analyze complicated issues, such as the relative merits of various forms of government. Objectivity, an open mind, and systematic work habits are important in all kinds of historical research.
The median annual salary for a Historian is $50,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $93,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $25,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of historians are:
- Local Government - $37,070
- Federal Executive Branch - $80,280
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services - $69,400
- State Government - $46,420
- Scientific Research and Development Services - $43,530
- 2006-2016 Employment growth: 8%
- Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 300
- Employment 2006 : 3,400
- Employment 2016: 3,700