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At a Glance

  • Research the causes and effects of past events
  • Often write books and reports
  • Usually specialize in one area (i.e., a time period or region)
  • Many are college or university professors
  • Have a master's degree
  • Occasionally travel to conduct research

Career summary

Historians research, analyze, and explain past events and people.

#no matching wois, historians is a subheading in 2144 social scientists

Historians study the causes and effects of past events. Historians study and consider many different views of events to understand the past.

Historians usually specialize in one area, such as:

They use many sources to gather information:

Historians may supervise students or other workers who help them catalog the information they gather. They must determine if historic items are authentic.

Once historians have an understanding of an event, they may write a book or put together an exhibit for a historical society. They may also give talks to students and other groups.

Historians sometimes act as consultants. They may advise individuals, institutions, or organizations about areas of historical interest. For example, they may help a writer understand the events of a specific time.

Historians may also review books and exhibits put together by other historians. They verify that the information presented is accurate.

Other specialties in history include:

Many historians are also college and university professors. They teach in addition to conducting research.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to historians.

Common work activities

Historians perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, historians:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Historians frequently:

It is important for historians to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for historians to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Historians need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a historian, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Many historians have a master's degree or higher in history. However, research assistants usually need only a bachelor's degree. As a student you study different areas of history, such as medieval, American, or world history. When you earn an advanced degree you focus on one area of history. You learn how to find, document, and write reports about important pieces of historical information.

To teach history at a university, you will need a doctoral (PhD) degree. Most colleges and universities offer degrees in history.

Work experience

Working as a research assistant for a historian is good experience for this field. Look for this kind of work when you are a college student.

On-the-job training

Some students complete an internship while in school. This is important for finding a job. Working as an intern with an archivist or at a historical society provides good work experience.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

A bachelor's degree in history is usually the minimum requirement for employment. However, few jobs directly related to history are open to graduates who have only a bachelor's degree. Employers prefer research assistants who can work with little or no supervision.

Many employers, especially in research, prefer to hire applicants with a PhD or at least a master's degree. Universities choose candidates based on their area of research and the quality of their published articles. Some employers prefer applicants who have combined a PhD in history with a degree in another discipline, such as a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or Master of Library Science (MLS).

Costs to workers

Workers must pay for association dues, reference books and journals, and college classes to keep up with changes in the field.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Historians (SOC 19-3093)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $26.10 $28.47 $34.34 $38.45 $54.58
Monthly $4,523 $4,934 $5,951 $6,663 $9,459
Yearly $54,290 $59,220 $71,420 $79,970 $113,540
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $26.14 $28.55 $34.78 $39.95 $55.53
Monthly $4,530 $4,948 $6,027 $6,923 $9,623
Yearly $54,372 $59,374 $72,329 $83,113 $115,512
    Vancouver Hourly $25.39 $28.13 $37.50 $45.67 $50.44
Monthly $4,400 $4,875 $6,499 $7,915 $8,741
Yearly $52,814 $58,521 $78,013 $95,006 $104,930
United States Hourly $14.07 $19.55 $29.40 $41.20 $53.20
Monthly $2,438 $3,388 $5,095 $7,140 $9,220
Yearly $29,270 $40,670 $61,140 $85,700 $110,670

Earnings for historians vary by employer. For those who teach at colleges and universities, wages depend on the historian's academic rank and length of employment. Wages increase as historians achieve higher ranks.

Wages for historians who work for the federal government vary by the worker's education level and length of employment.

Historians who work full time may receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan. 

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings. 

Historians (SOC 19-3093)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 35 14.3% 16.1% 4
    King County 29 17.2% 19.6% 4
United States 3,300 6.1% 5.2% 400

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Growth for historians is expected to be about as fast as average. Most historians work for government agencies. Public interest in preserving and restoring historical sites is increasing. As a result, historians may find opportunities with historic preservation societies.

Historians currently face strong competition for academic positions. There are more applicants than there are jobs available. Job prospects are best for those with advanced degrees or experience in an area of specialization such as exhibits or fundraising.

The employment and outlook data does not include historians who teach at colleges and universities.

Other resources

African Studies Association (external link)
American Folklore Society (external link)
American Historical Association (external link)
777 6th St NW, 11th floor
Washington, DC 20001


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters