Expand your career possibilities with these master's in history jobs

October 18, 2022 · 8 min read · By ASU Online
Turn your passion for history into a full-time occupation: Learn more about the different careers you can obtain with an online master's in history.

Obtaining an online master’s in history degree can prepare you to pursue a range of competitive occupations, such as historian, curator and archivist. Other master’s in history job options for graduates include working at federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations, consulting firms, historical societies and more.

“Companies want humanities majors. They want people with critical thinking skills, with logical comprehension, people who are able to translate really difficult ideas into clear and concise information,” said Dr. Peter Van Cleave, clinical assistant professor of history and director of online programs at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. “Silicon Valley has a demand for humanities and history majors because of the skills that history offers that aren’t necessarily translatable to a specific job."


Top skills you’ll earn with your master’s in history

One of the advantages of graduating with a master’s degree in history is that most history programs are not tied to any single career path. Instead, a history degree can help you to hone well-rounded skills and abilities that employers in many fields are looking for. These skills include:

  • Ability to conduct a critical analysis.
  • Connecting the past to better understand current events.
  • Effective oral and written communication.
  • Research and investigation techniques.
  • Understanding cultural frameworks.

Effective oral and written communication are essential for many jobs. While earning a master’s degree in history online, students discuss complex and sensitive topics. For example, you may be asked to write or speak about global literacy, or comparative colonialism. These graduate-level courses and assignments build up your ability to effectively communicate in order to present your research and theories.

Nearly all history master’s programs involve examining the past through different critical frameworks. History students also learn to challenge their own assumptions about accepted historical and cultural narratives. As a master’s student in history, you have the chance to study different time periods, geographical regions and historical events. This means your understanding of cultures and places of today may deepen as you look at the changes that have happened over time in global communities. Using this knowledge, you can expand your understanding of what to do with a history degree that will make a real impact on societies around the world.

“History is not static. It isn’t something that you’re just reading back and recreating the past as it exactly was,” said Van Cleave. “History is dynamic; interpretations change. They’re constantly changing, being reevaluated, challenged, revised. And so history thrives as a result of that.”


How much you can earn with a master’s in history

Graduates with a master’s degree in history can earn a widely ranging salary depending on their career path. The four jobs we delve into below range in salary between about $50,000–$64,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall range for graduates is even broader, since master’s of history graduates can enter fields as wide ranging as public service, teaching and executive management.

With a rich understanding of the past and diverse set of skills from your graduate-level classes, new career opportunities may unfold. For graduates with a master’s in history, jobs and careers such as the ones below can be explored.

Can I get my graduate degree while working full time?

With the right strategy and support, you can strike a balance between your educational goals and busy life. Learn more about the time management and strategic planning it takes for working professionals to earn their online master's degree.

Possible careers for master's in history graduates

  • Delve into the past as a historian

Historians research, analyze and interpret past events by closely studying documents and artifacts. They often use the information they collect to create academic reports, journal articles, nonfiction books and documentaries. These documents engage and inform the public about important topics in world history. Some historians choose to focus on a single period, geographical region or historical figure. Yet, others prefer studying the evolution of human civilizations and cultures from their earliest roots.

Historians typically work for government agencies, businesses, nonprofit organizations and historical associations. However, there are opportunities for consulting roles. Television and movie studios may hire historians to ensure costumes and dialogue are historically accurate. Many historians also partner with museums, visitor centers and landmarks. There, they develop educational programs, presentations and public lectures on relevant subjects. For example, surging interest in black history has had a positive effect on museum attendance, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for this occupation in 2021 was $63,940. However, popular history writers and public speakers may secure higher incomes. The BLS expects employment of historians to grow by 4% from 2021 to 2031, which is on par with the national average for all occupations.

  • Become a curator to oversee artwork and historic items

Curators manage collections of artwork and historic items on behalf of public and private institutions. These collections may include ancient tools, coins, statues, paintings and more. They are also responsible for acquiring and storing objects for use in public exhibitions. This often requires them to negotiate with other museums and private collectors.

Curators also create new exhibits, organize promotional events and design workshops. Curators may serve as administrators for their organization. In this role, they plan special research projects and direct curatorial and technical staff members. Larger historical institutions sometimes hire several curators with different specializations. These curators oversee particular collections, attend conventions and speak at professional conferences.

Most curators work for cultural heritage institutions in a public-facing capacity. These include museums, art galleries, libraries and archives. They leverage their subject matter expertise to develop educational programs, guided tours and online resources. Through these efforts, they are able to engage, inform and attract a diverse range of audiences. Success in this role typically requires above-average communication and interpersonal skills. It also requires close attention to detail and a passion for history and culture.

The BLS projects 19% job growth for a group that includes curators, archivists and museum workers between 2020 and 2030, a much faster rate than the average for all occupations. In 2021, the annual median salary for this group was $50,120. Some larger organizations often have more opportunities for increased compensation.

  • Organize and preserve valuable documents as an archivist

Archivists play a crucial role in the preservation of historically valuable information. They do this by appraising and cataloging a wide range of physical and digital documents. They also use classification systems to ensure researchers and the public have access to documents. This may include rare manuscripts, photographs, organizational records, analog film and more. 

Archivists provide hands-on reference services, create document descriptions and maintain computer databases. Professionals in this field also verify the authenticity of historical documents. Finally, they are responsible for safeguarding records by creating film or digital copies.

This career path involves the use of electronic information storage technologies. However, most archivists have a background in historical studies. Pursuing a history degree, in person or online may offer you more opportunities to explore digital databases and archives. This can help you develop a familiarity with current best practices. Archivists typically work for museums, libraries and universities. However, there are also opportunities with large corporations, government institutions and historical societies.

  • Safeguard artifacts as a historic preservationist

Historic preservationists are responsible for the long-term care of documents and artifacts in collections and exhibitions. They are also known as museum technicians or conservators. They maintain detailed records of each item to track its condition and location. This may include whether it’s on display, in storage or in transit. This occupation is unique among history careers because of its diverse specialized subfields. For example, some historic preservationists directly handle, treat and restore objects to minimize deterioration. Yet, others focus on external research and communications. There are also opportunities for administrative roles. These positions oversee acquisitions, manage insurance policies and develop risk management procedures.

Some of the more technical positions may require a background in science or fine arts. However, many of these may be secured with an master’s in history online degree. Professionals in the field often work for museums, national parks and government agencies. Historical societies also offer employment possibilities. There, professionals are typically involved in maintaining old buildings and national landmarks.


Earn your master’s in history online with Arizona State University

For professionals with a master’s in history, many jobs and opportunities are available. Demand for passionate historians continues to grow at a consistent pace. This provides students and mid-career professionals with a variety of occupational opportunities. Cultural heritage institutions and preservation-focused organizations seek qualified people with the right balance of education, experience and technical proficiencies.

Pursuing a Master of Arts in history from ASU Online can help you gain the knowledge and skills needed for these roles. You'll also gain a strong foundation in communication and research. This graduate program offers in-depth instruction on a range of historical topics. The program focuses on preparing students for the competitive workforce. Through a combination of core courses and specialized electives, you can develop critical thinking competencies. You can also hone your organizational techniques and subject matter expertise in order to advance your career.

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