History, like all of the liberal disciplines, prepares students to think critically, write with authority, and understand the importance of the past in shaping the present and the future. These are qualities that can serve one well in any future undertaking. And looking at the varied career paths of our graduates, History majors can do just about anything. Below is some information on how to prepare for the future.
Institutions that interpret the past for the public offer a growing field of employment for History majors. Museums, historical societies, local archives, and other similar organizations need trained historians to perform a wide variety of tasks. Most require a graduate degree as the entry-level credential. A number of universities--including Duquesne--have M.A. programs that can prepare students for this field. If you think you might be interested in public history, you can apply for the undergraduate professional track described above. It is also very good idea to get some experience by volunteering at a local historical institution.
The Business World
A study of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies discovered that more had majored in History than in any other discipline. Clearly, you can succeed in business after majoring in History, as the success of many of our alumni indicates. If you think that this is what you want to do, we recommend that you take advantage of one of the joint programs of the College and School of Business Administration mentioned above. The "Business Certificate" is a particularly attractive option. At the very least, majors who think that their futures are in the business world should study and perhaps minor in economics.
Many History majors find that even with only a B.A., businesses are willing to hire them at entry-level positions, especially in sales. Extracurricular activities and employment during college can demonstrate ability in this area.
Secondary School Teaching. Many History majors choose to share their enthusiasm for the past with others by teaching in middle or high school. There are two paths you can take to prepare for this career. You can pursue the joint B.A./B.S.Ed. as described under Special Opportunities for History Majors. Or you can apply to a post-B.A. certification program that will permit you to complete all the requirements for state certification in a fifth year of study. Most local colleges and universities--including Duquesne--have such programs.
For juniors and seniors who are now thinking that they may want to teach in the public schools:
- Pennsylvania and most other, if not all, states require that public school teachers be certified.
- Certification requires that a person has passed certain key classes in content fields as well as in educational theory and practice.
- To apply for post-baccalaureate certification programs and/or graduate programs in social studies education at Duquesne (and elsewhere), at least 8 of the following courses, and all of the co-requisites, should be completed.
Higher Education. Many History majors believe that the most desirable career is college teaching. All of your professors certainly agree with this assessment. However, the road to achieving this goal is long and arduous. The M.A. degree is currently the minimum credential for teaching at the community college level, while a Ph.D. is absolutely necessary for full-time teaching at a college or university. (See more below about obtaining these advanced degrees [under Graduate School].)
Many former History majors are now employed at the various levels of government-local, state, and national. The paths to such careers are varied. Many students choose to go on to graduate school to prepare for government jobs. They choose programs such as Duquesne's Social and Public Policy Center or the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public and International Affairs. (These are meant as examples, not as recommendations. They indicate the kinds of programs that are available at many universities.) The criteria and process for applying to these graduate programs are the same as for those applying to History programs described above.
Students who are thinking of going in this direction should use their electives wisely. For example, students who are hoping to work in the government should probably take statistics and economics. If they hope to work in the international field, it is important that they master a foreign language beyond the 200 level.
Many of our History alumni are working in the social service area. Often these agencies will hire students with a bachelor's degree in the liberal arts and provide on-site training. However, to advance in the field, it is generally necessary to go on to further graduate work. While students never get rich in these careers, they often find the work highly rewarding.
Journalism and Communications
Those seeking careers in the field of journalism can benefit from having a wide knowledge of the liberal arts and social sciences. History is a particularly valuable discipline for those who write and report the news. History majors who think they might be interested in this career path should consider a journalism minor. They should also get involved in campus publications and look for internship and employment opportunities in this area. Most of the better graduate programs in journalism and communications welcome liberal arts majors and in some instances, prefer them. The advice on applying to graduate school found above applies to these graduate programs.
As noted above, many History majors choose to go to law school, and our graduates have been accepted in a wide variety of schools. Law schools look at grades and the range of courses taken by a student. While not required, taking some or all of the courses in our pre-law track will suggest an interest in the field and the desire to prepare seriously for it. Law schools will look very hard at LSAT scores. This exam tests knowledge to some extent, but it also tests critical thinking. Given the specialized nature of the LSAT exam, we recommend that prospective law students take a prep course or do extensive self-study before taking an exam. You can learn more about these opportunities by visiting the LSAT website.
Master's and/or Ph.D. Programs
Getting into a good graduate program requires:
- excellent grades
- proof of the ability to do research
- competence in at least one foreign language (Ph.D. programs only)
- very good scores on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination)
- first-rate letters of recommendation from your professors
Given the importance of the GRE exam, we recommend that students prepare diligently for it by taking a prep course or doing extensive self-study. You can learn more about these opportunities by visiting the GRE website.
Given the importance of letters of recommendation, there are some rules of common sense and courtesy that will make this process more effective.
- First, get to know your professors outside of the classroom. The more extensive their knowledge of you and your goals, the better the letters they can write.
- Second, always check with professors about how many letters they are able to write and give them plenty of time to write them.
- Third, give your references a resume of your activities that will give them a better feel for you as a whole person.
- Fourth, talk about the program you are applying to and about how the work done with your professors relates to your future studies.
- Finally, be sure to fill out any part of the form that you are asked to complete and provide the postage-paid, addressed envelope. Also, you should keep the professor informed about your success in getting into graduate school.
Those students who think they might be interested in going on for a Ph.D. but who are unsure or who feel that their undergraduate grades are not quite good enough can consider a terminal master's program where they can hone their skills or improve their knowledge. Duquesne has such a program as do many other universities. Students who are planning to go to graduate school in History should consult with their mentors and/or Department Chair. They should keep an eye on the History bulletin board and examine the brochures that are posted there.