How to Become a


The complete career guide to be a Historian: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $61,120
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • Get to Travel
    Career Attribute
  • High Job Satisfaction
    Career Attribute
  • Office Work Environment
    Career Attribute

Historians study the past through analysis, research and interpretation of various source material throughout recorded human history.

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What is a Historian?

Historians must be accomplished critical thinkers with a broad background in writing, research and communication skills regardless of their particular specialization or area of expertise. Satisfaction is generally high in this career, despite fierce competition and generally long hours.

In the course of their work, historians typically engage in the following:

  • Gather, interpret and analyze historical data from a variety of sources to determine authenticity and significance.
  • Preserve documents, artifacts and materials in historical sites, museums and universities.
  • Monitor historical developments in specific fields and provide reports addressing relevant issues
  • Write books, articles and report on new theories

Day In the Life

Historians work in numerous industries, typically conducting research and providing analysis for companies large and small, nonprofit organizations, government entities, colleges and universities and historical associations. A host of source materials are utilized, such as photos, letters, personal diaries, newspapers, institutional records, films and various primary documents. These are very often catalogued and archived as part of the job. Findings are oftentimes presented in exhibits, on websites, or through books and articles.

In a university setting, historians will teach and conduct research. In historical associations and museums, historians preserved relics and artifacts and provide easily understandable explanations on the significance of the subjects at hand. In government, historians explore policy issues through the prism of historical context.  conduct research to provide historical context for current policy issues, such as writing about a particular military operation from the past or a political power from a previous era. Corporations employ historians to examine regulations, legal matters or cultural shifts in the workplace.

The majority of historians work full time and do so during normal business hours. A small number are able to work as consultants or independently and are thus able to maintain more control over their schedules. For those who are employed at museums, evenings and weekends are typical requirements. Travel is also quite common for historians regardless of job specifics, as conducting interviews, collecting artifacts and immersing oneself in local culture is essential for much of the work historians must do.


Degree programs in history are extremely popular, however job growth for historians is expected to increase at a slightly slower rate in the next ten years than the average for all other occupations. As a result, historians will likely continue to face strong competition for jobs, especially in academia. However, historians have traditionally been able to move their skill sets to or within a variety of other occupations, such as journalists, lawyers, teachers (all levels of education) and writers.


The most coveted jobs are usually tenure-track university positions, where job security and quality of life is rated exceptionally high, and within the federal government, where compensation approaches the higher end of the spectrum as compared to the median across the industry.

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How To Become a Historian

The majority of historian positions require a master’s degree, usually in history or public history. Related fields of study, such as archival management, historical preservation and museum studies are less common, but viable paths nonetheless. Positions in research and academia typically require a doctoral degree. PhD students invariably focus on a specific area of history, such as social, military, political or within a particular era or region. Internships are readily available and strongly encouraged in the majority of master’s and doctoral programs, providing valuable on-the-job experience along with coursework. Additionally, Volunteer opportunities at museums, nonprofits and historical societies can separate applicants from one another in the search for the best positions.

Job candidates with a bachelor’s degree may qualify for some entry-level positions, but most will not be traditional historian jobs, i.e. education, the law or journalism to name a few.


Historian Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Historian salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Historian's can make an average annual salary of $61,120, or $29 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $36,760 or $18 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #257 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Historian. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Historians

  • 17%   Doctorate
  • 37%   Masters
  • 36.8%   Bachelors
  • 3.9%   Associates
  • 4.8%   College
  • 0.3%   High School
  • 0.2%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Historian job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of --- jobs for a total of 3,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a --- change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #594 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Historians

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 900 --- ---
Federal government, excluding postal service 800 -100 0%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 500 --- ---

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