The Value of Having a History Degree
by Daniel Wilson
When you're choosing a degree, your future career will be at the front of your mind. The professional relevance and value of a business, law or medical degree is clear. But what is the value of a history degree when very few history students become historians? The answer lies not with the knowledge and facts that a history graduate learns but, more importantly, with the skills and discipline required to study history and succeed at it.
Independent Reading and Research
At first glance, history students aren't the busiest on campus. They certainly don't have the most lectures or classes. That's because the bulk of a history degree is taken up with independent reading and research. The skills involved in consuming large amounts of information (which is often complex and detailed) and then assimilating that data into papers and presentations is critical to success in history. It's also highly prized in many professions.
Clarity of Expression
Once you've absorbed a wealth of information, you'll need to present it to tutors and fellow students. This could be in the form of written papers or even Powerpoint presentations in class. You'll need to express yourself clearly, display data correctly and make a cogent and reasoned argument. History students need to be able to explain difficult concepts simply.
Debate and Discussion
Taking part in class and seminar discussions is a central part of a history degree, and your participation will often affect your grades. Making a case, framing an argument and debating with tutors and fellow students is much like the discussions in meetings in the workplace. The seminar room is great training for that.
Keeping Your Options Open
A history degree is a respected gateway to many careers because it requires qualities that are also vital in the workplace. History is an attractive option for many students because it keeps their options open. The skills acquired by a history student are highly transferable across many professions and also leave the option of future study open. A history degree is a good platform for an MBA or for law school.
A Greater Understanding of the World
A history degree is not just about skills. An appreciation of the past enhances your understanding of the present and future. A history graduate will have learned about wars, economic trends and the inventions that changed the world. All that past knowledge can be a useful source of inspiration for people in business and beyond. But perhaps most chillingly and usefully, we can learn from history's mistakes. As George Santayana said: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."