Historians are experts on past events. Many people who become historians do so because they have an interest in learning about the past, but there’s more to the job than just learning. By knowing the advantages and potential disadvantages of working as a historian, you can better decide if this is a good career choice for you. In this article, we discuss some pros and cons of being a historian.
What is a historian?
A historian is a professional who has expert knowledge of past events. Many historians have specialized knowledge of a specific era or time period in history. One of the primary goals for historians is to share their knowledge with others. To do this, historians commonly work in positions such as:
Teacher or professor
Working as a historian often requires conducting research, compiling your findings, and sharing them with the public in some form. Historians commonly have a love of learning and enjoy the opportunity to share what they know with others.
Pros of being a historian
Working as a historian, you may experience some advantages, such as:
1. Different types of jobs
Historians can work in several settings or roles, providing them with a variety of career options. For example, a historian may work as a professor at a university, where their primary responsibility is to teach students about historical topics. Another option is to work for a museum, helping to preserve important artifacts or conduct tour groups. Some historians work full-time as researchers, after which they publish their findings in papers or books.
While the core responsibilities are similar across these different professions, such as researching the past and teaching others about it, there are enough different positions as a historian to provide you with some options. This is an advantage, as one career choice may be more suitable for you than others.
2. Work-life balance
A common advantage for those working as a historian is the ability to have a good balance between work and personal life. Many historian positions, such as professor, writer or archivist, have a set number of hours that they work each week. This means that there’s often little need for you to work overtime or long hours, allowing you to spend a reasonable amount of time doing things outside of work.
In some positions, you may even have the opportunity to select your own hours. For example, a writer may get to choose which days of the week they want to spend researching and writing, while a professor may get to choose when to offer office hours or when to hold their classes. This gives you more control over when you need to work and when you have personal time.
3. Travel opportunities
When conducting research, a historian may need to travel to different locations. For example, they may need to travel to a library that houses specific documents to see them in person. Historians also often travel to historical sites if they need to learn about that location.
Where and when historians travel depends largely on the topics they’re researching and the type of work they’re doing. A historian who’s working on a book about ancient Rome may need to travel there to conduct research, for example. In addition, the historian may have someone else covering the expenses of the trip, such as their university or book publisher.
4. Study interesting topics
Some people become historians because they’re interested in a certain historical topic. By becoming a historian, they’re able to spend their time learning more about this topic while getting paid. This lets them turn their passion into a career. In addition, while learning more about the topics that interest them, they may come across other topics that pique their interest, giving them new areas to research. Historians are often people who love learning new things and this career choice allows them to discover and study interesting topics regularly.
5. Earning potential
Some historians have a high earning potential, depending on their chosen career route. For example, the average salary for a professor is $55,074 per year. This position can also come with benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans.
Another potentially high-earning position for historians is that of a writer. The average salary for a writer is $59,650 per year. Salaries for writers can vary greatly depending on how well their book sells. If a book becomes popular, the author may have more opportunities to publish other works, growing their earning potential.
Cons of being a historian
Below are some drawbacks you may encounter if you become a historian:
1. Educational requirements
Many historian positions have advanced education requirements. Common positions, such as a professor or archivist, require at least a master’s degree, and some even require a doctorate degree. Earning these advanced degrees requires more time and money, something not everyone can afford. Those wishing to become a historian can look for ways to make obtaining an advanced degree more manageable, such as completing it while working part-time or seeking financial aid.
2. Job openings
Some historians have trouble finding job openings for their type of work. For example, universities only need a certain number of professors to teach history, and once the positions are full, they may not hire any additional ones. The same goes for other historian positions, such as archivists or curators of a museum. To work through this potential issue, historians can be prepared to work in different jobs, along with being able to relocate for a position.
3. Job security
Depending on their role, some historians lack job security. Historians who work as writers, for example, typically don’t have any guarantees of future work. In addition, unless they receive tenure from an educational institute, teachers and professors may not be guaranteed a job for future semesters. As with job openings, historians can prepare themselves by exploring different career opportunities.
4. Transferable skills
If you ever decide that you no longer wish to work as a historian, you may find that the skills you acquired during your education and training don’t transfer over well to other positions. For example, even if a historian has experience teaching, they may only be qualified to teach history. Wanting to teach another subject would likely require additional training and education.
Some of the skills acquired while working as a historian can likely help you start a new career. For example, historians are typically strong researchers, which can help them learn about new roles and develop the necessary education for them. When looking to switch careers, historians should make a list of their current skills and knowledge to help them determine the best new career path.
I hope you find this article helpful.