Why A History Degree Is Useful In A Business Career
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The history degree has something of a bad rap. Unless you plan to become a career historian or stay in academia your whole life, there’s a perception that a history degree won’t do you much good. Some may think this is especially true in the world of business, where having a business degree is the only sure route to success.
But believe it or not, there’s plenty a history degree can teach you about business, and there are several prominent figures in business who majored in history — including Martha Stewart, Lee Iacocca, Sam Palmisano (CEO of IBM) and Chris Hughes (co-founder of Facebook).
What Does a History Degree Cover?
Despite what you may have been taught in grade school, history is much more than memorizing places, dates, and broad details about military battles. History is about the shaping and perception of culture, chronicling not just conflicts and technological progression, but how thought and imagination itself has developed over time.
There also isn’t just “one” history — your first round of survey courses when earning your BA in history might cover the history of medicine, women in American history, or the post-Reconstruction era. You may also study local history and learn more about the area in which you live, as well as learn directly about politics and culture, with which history is intrinsically tied. You’ll also learn historiography (the study of the study of history) and subjects like methodology and digital humanities.
How a History Degree is Useful in Business
At its heart, business is about customers — meaning people — and history is, fundamentally, the study of people. Specifically, it’s the study of how societies develop, and how those developments impact the world, in both financial and non-financial ways. Further, having a perspective on the history of human events can grant valuable insight into the future — the old adage of those not learning from history being doomed to repeat it is popular for a reason.
Also, because history has everything to do with people, it’s also a major part of human identity. Through history, we learn about how families, religions, and even countries were formed, and how they developed over time. Understanding where we as people fit into history can teach us a great deal about ourselves — and learning about people and their identity is another skill that comes in very handy when working in the business world.
Not only that, but a history degree will give you plenty of tools you can put to use in the business world, including
- Critical and analytical skills
- Oral and written communication skills
- Experience in doing and presenting research
- Creative problem-solving and interpersonal skills
- An understanding of how institutions work at a broad level
And finally, it’s important to remember that history isn’t just about recalling events about the past — it’s also all about understanding current events and how we got to be where we are, societally, politically, or culturally.
Career Paths You Can Pursue with a History Degree
So what can you really do with a history degree if you don’t want to teach? Well, as we’ve said before, quite a lot. Here are just a few examples:
- Law school. A strong grasp of history is critical for success in the law field, and an excellent precursor for later pursuing a law degree.
- History. Part of getting a history degree is learning strong research and communication skills, and individuals with those skills are in demand everywhere. With the information age continuing to explode and expand, people with a knowledge of how humanity works, and who are able to present that knowledge effectively, will always be in demand.
- Government. Plenty of history majors went on to successful careers in government, and for a good reason. History is, in no small part, the study of how systems work and change. Knowing how to put that knowledge to use in a contemporary context is crucial to a career in government, which makes pursuing history a smart choice.
- Historical preservation. Although the amount of information available in the world is growing faster than ever before, there’s still a strong need to preserve, organize, and look after that information, especially when it comes to our own history. Many historians work for museums, national parks, tourism bureaus, or historical societies, helping to make our shared history accessible and available for generations to come.
Other possible career paths for holders of a history degree include:
- Writing, publishing, and / or journalism, either in the field of history itself, or other areas
- Marketing and advertising
- Media, broadcast and film
- International business, finance, and accounting
- Business consultancy
And, while you don’t have to go into teaching history once you earn your degree, you can absolutely do that if that’s where your passion lies!