Why Major in History

tribble hallStudying History offers you access, skills, and opportunity. Studying History provides access to the whole world—not just to the past, but to the present that grew out of the past. Studying History teaches you vital, widely applicable skills—research, analysis, writing, and oral communication. Studying History will help you build a career—anything from business to government to education to the law, and beyond. The following links give various perspectives on the intellectual importance of history. For more on the various career options open to history majors, please see the linked essays on the Careers page.

The following selections are good starting points for exploring in more detail why a major in History provides the heart of a liberal arts education.

Katharine Brooks, Executive Director of WFU’s Office of Personal and Career Development, considers the lasting value of the history major in  “Why Major in History?

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce shows that history majors earn higher median salaries than all other humanities majors and earn the same or more than those who majored in education, communications, or international relations. Twenty percent of those history graduates were employed in management positions.

Senior Jessica Lockhart reflects on writing and presenting her work at the 2013 “Lay My Burden Down” conference as well as on the utility of the liberal arts degree to the wider world.

A dozen leading historians ponder the answer to the question, “Why Become a Historian?”

Op-eds in the NY Times have been arguing for the centrality of humanities degrees. While some specify other humanities majors, their arguments apply equally well to history: Verlyn Klinkenborg (a regular columnist for the NYT), Gerald Howard (a NY book editor), and David Brooks (another NYT columnist).

Christine Giamattei discusses the importance of her degree in history in the professional world.

Christopher Brooks discusses why business leaders seek out history majors.

Gerald W. Schlabach, a professor of theology, lists the components that make up “A Sense of History.”

More practically, you might consider “What can you do with an undergraduate degree in History?”

A primary History newsletter talks about how History is relevant for business leadership skills.

A strong case is made for studying history for pre-medical students here.


For theoretical reflections on the significance and practice of history as a discipline, peruse the following selections:

Lord Acton, Inaugural Lecture on the Study of History (1906)

Roland Barthes, The Discourse of History (1981)

Natalie Davis, Any Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead (1987)

Louis 0. Mink, Modes of Comprehension and the Unity of Knowledge (1987)