Careers for History and American Studies Majors
The History and American Studies programs help students develop skills that prepare them to pursue careers in a wide range of fields. Many go on to work in education, museums, law, and libraries, but others work in fields ranging from banking to marketing to city planning to educational technology to government to media. Others become public historians, sometimes after additional graduate training specializing in public history. The department has collected short profiles of a number of its graduates, and if you visit our offices in Monroe Hall, you’ll find displays highlighting alumni who have become academic historians.
American Studies and History students are prepared for these diverse career fields because they develop specific skills and knowledge through their work in the disciplines. During their academic careers, History and American Studies students build historical knowledge and consider multiple perspectives; examine the historical and interdisciplinary methods that produce that knowledge; research, evaluate, and critique the sources of historical information; create and communicate arguments and narratives in written, oral, and digital formats; and use historical and comparative perspectives to frame their active citizenship and engagement with the rest of the world. At Mary Washington, they frequently engage in this study in a digital environment, conducting research in digital archives, collaborating remotely with classes at different universities, and developing historical knowledge they share via websites, videos, and other media they create. Examples of these digital projects include websites about UMW’s historic buildings, the campus’s history as a normal school, the rare books held in the university’s library, and the Taiping Civil War.
Professional organizations committed to promoting the study of History and American Studies and demonstrating the value of degrees in these fields have resources available to students. The American Historical Association (AHA) lists and describes a variety of fields in which history graduates obtain jobs. The organization also publishes a series of blog posts addressing the value of a history degree; these short essays discuss how to market a history degree, consider the ways graduates now working in fields as diverse as medicine and business have used skills they developed as history majors, share advice on exploring career options, and provide data on history graduates’ career fields. As part of this project, the AHA has gathered data showing that history majors find employment at a rate comparable to their peers in other disciplines, frequently go on to earn advanced and professional degrees, and work in a variety of fields–including business and STEM. American Studies graduates find jobs in similarly diverse fields, including in public history.
UMW’s Center for Career and Professional Development offers students and alumni a range of services and resources, and can help you shape your resume and cover letter to promote the skills you develop as an American Studies or History major. Several career assessment tools can help students match their interests with potential majors and careers; aimed at incoming freshmen, Focus 2 also provides additional details about the skills needed in these fields, the salaries people earn, and suggestions for planning your academic career. Handshake is a resource that lets students and alumni seeking jobs and internships connect directly with employers, browse postings, share professional materials, and make appointments with Center staff. And of course, the Center also provides information on graduate school and job searches, as well as career coaching, including assistance with resumes and cover letters, and interviews.
American Historical Association’s Tuning Project
National Council on Public History