History is the story of us - the human race. It is the collective remembering and study of where we have been, what has shaped us, our victories and failures – in short, everything that has brought us to where we are today. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it only encompasses the big events of the past.
Why is History Important?
The fact is, there is history surrounding everything – art, literature, culture, food, politics, medicine, music, architecture, people groups, war, work, religion, transportation, and every other facet of society. When studied separately, as they should be, these provide greater understanding, appreciation, and lessons of the many facets of history at any given time. But it’s important to note that each informs the other, and when looked at together, they comprise the big picture of history through the ages from which we learn and share the world’s story.
For example, studying the history of WWII will provide great insight into the motives, causes, and impact of the war. However, these motives, causes, and impacts will be very different when looked at from different perspectives. Each is important, but history must not draw overarching conclusions based on one at the exclusion of the other if we are to gain a full understanding of the War. Studying history is an excellent way to gain an understanding of different eras throughout civilization. Above all, if we are to learn from history and apply its lessons for the future, the study of history must be objective, with no preconceived agenda or outcomes. Only then can we hope to grow as a society, not repeat the mistakes of the past, and learn to appreciate our differences, as well as how we are joined together in this human condition.
What Do Historians Do?
If history looks a bit more enticing now, you may want to consider becoming a historian – a seeker and keeper of the past’s secrets. But exactly what do historians do? Historians research, analyze, and interpret historical documents and sources, such as scrolls, books, paintings, literature, government records, letters, interviews, and artifacts, historians learn about people and events of the past. Often, they apply that knowledge by writing about, or chronicling, what they’ve discovered and its implications for society, whether through articles, books, reports, exhibits, websites, or educational programs.
Historians can’t become experts in all of history. Instead, historians often specialize in an era of human history that has been documented in some way. They may also specialize in a country or region, or a particular field, such as social, intellectual, cultural, political, or diplomatic history. Other historians help study and preserve archival materials, artifacts, and historic buildings and sites.
How to Become a Historian
If you are wondering how to become a historian, you must get the right education. Ottawa University’s Bachelor of Arts in History explores the impact of past events on vital contemporary problems. You learn to synthesize the study of past human activity with the nature, purpose, and principles of governmental systems throughout the world. You also develop an understanding of public events and trends in both national and international spheres.
As a history major, you will explore the interrelationships between society and the environment, issues of war and peace, and movements for social and political change. Your courses may include:
- American Government
- American Women's History
- Global Issues in Historical Perspective
- Religion in American Culture
- Seminar in American History and Government I
- Seminar in World History I
- The American Experience I & II
- Twentieth Century World History
- United States Constitution
- World Civilization I & II
- World Regional Geography
In-Demand Skills of a Historian
Historians need a variety of skills to perform a wide range of duties that are required in this field. Studying history helps students develop specific skills needed to thrive in your career. As you learn how to become a historian, you will gain the following skills employers will look for on your resume:
As noted, historians spend the majority of their time combing through documents and other sources to unearth the secrets of an era’s past. They must be resourceful and diligent to find these sources, extract the details relevant to their subject, and accurately record them.
Historians are, above all, analytical. Not only must they uncover history, but they must critically question the validity of each source, identify patterns, synthesize diverse findings, and draw logical conclusions.
Sometimes it is the smallest of details that bring all the pieces of the puzzle together. Historians must leave no stone unturned and no detail unexamined when finding and synthesizing the mysteries of the past.
We rely on historians to provide us with the knowledge they’ve uncovered. Excellent writing skills are required to document history in an understandable, engaging, and accurate way for the public and posterity.
Being able to clearly articulate your research findings or other information is an important skill for any historian. Historians may even be called upon to present their findings publicly at conferences or through educational programming.
What Can I Do with a History Degree?
As you work toward earning your bachelor’s degree and honing your skills, you will discover what you can do with a history degree. The study of history, like any effort that promotes critical thinking and careful judgment, prepares its practitioners for a diverse range of careers. As a history graduate, you might even find yourself studying ancient civilizations across the globe. As with any field, some positions may require additional education or experience. Popular jobs for graduates with a history degree often include:
- Government Worker
- Museum Curator
- Park Ranger
- Intelligence Agent
- Information Specialist
How Much Do Historians Make?
Along with asking, “What do historians do?” and “What can I do with a history degree?” you may be wondering how much historians make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, historians made an average of $64,940 in 2021. Entry-level positions, such as those available to bachelor’s degree holders, may be somewhat less, while those with greater experience will earn more. The growth rate for historians is estimated at 5% through 2030.
As with most fields, you can begin your career as a historian by gaining initial experience while you earn your degree. Numerous local museums, historical societies, government agencies, non-profit and other organizations offer internships or volunteer research opportunities to help you get started.
Are You Ready to Make History?
You are a part of history in this moment. If you want to leave your mark by helping us understand the past and its implications for our future, find out more about Ottawa University’s Bachelor of Arts in History!
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