By Cliff Manko
When I interviewed for a job in corporate finance at Houghton Mifflin in 1992, the publishing firm’s CEO was far more interested in my history degree than my CPA. He grilled me about what I’d studied and how the history courses I’d taken had been taught. To this day, I believe that my passion for what I’d studied in college was the tipping point in getting what I consider to be the most important job in my life.
By Stephanie Fulbright
I earned my undergraduate degrees in history and business, and while my primary interest was in history, by graduation I had burned out on academia. Looking for a change of pace, I took a job at a healthcare IT organization. As I gained more work experience, I noticed I drew on the skills I learned as a history major more frequently than the skills from my business major. I began to see how well thinking like a historian applied to my roles as a project manager and a business analyst.
By Mark Speltz
Twenty-five years have passed since I chose to pursue a history degree. Amazingly, it is one decision I have never regretted or second guessed. Yet it would be a lie to suggest to prospective history majors or young historians that I knew just where my degree would take me. Being personable, intellectually curious, and open to new opportunities has served me and my history degree well.
By James Rick
While attending a panel on “the Culture Wars” in American history at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Atlanta, I was struck by something a fellow attendee said. As someone interested in cultural history, his comment, which concerned the influence of anthropological conceptions of culture on the way historians understand and employ the concept, felt important and worth wrestling with to me. I am now a graduate student, and this question, along with others that I encountered at the annual meeting, has stuck with me and often come up in the courses I am now taking.
By Rachel Snyder
Applying for college is stressful enough without having to pick a major. That is why after writing a personal statement, answering philosophical questions in less than 500 words, and providing character references, I wasn’t ready to click a box declaring my plan of study for the next four plus years. The decision seemed binding and final—I clicked “undecided.”
By David Glenn
Twenty seven years ago, I was a newly declared sophomore history major. I’d fallen hard for labor history. I wanted to study the American workplace as a site of both solidarity and alienation, a place where people can sometimes break free of the chains of class, caste, and gender, while at the same time falling prey to other kinds of oppression. I wanted to write books like Christine Stansell’s City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789–1860 (1986) or Walter Licht’s Working for the Railroad: The Organization of Work in the Nineteenth Century (1983).
By Kamarin Takahara
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Because I spent most of my time surrounded by teachers, I answered this question when I was young with: “Well, I want to be a teacher.” As I grew up and experienced new things, however, that question took on a greater significance.
The seeming irrevocability of the answer scared me—like in a final exam, you make a choice, turn it in, and because you can never change the answer, you are stuck with your decision forever.
By Jacob Anbinder
It’s no secret that many departments use job prospects to lure undergraduates trying to pick a major. History departments in particular tend to tout their alumni’s diverse array of career paths in an attempt to answer the inevitable question: “But what will you do with that?” Among college majors, it seems, history is considered just “useful” enough to have to justify itself, but not so useful that students would flock to it anyway. Studying history, however, gives graduates tremendous flexibility in the job market.