Is becoming a historian right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do historians do?
Career Satisfaction
Are historians happy with their careers?
What are historians like?

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How to become a Historian

Becoming a historian requires a commitment to lifelong learning and a passion for the study of history. Here are the steps you can take to become a historian:

  • Obtain a Bachelor's Degree: Most historians have at least a Bachelor's Degree in History, although some may have degrees in related fields such as political science, anthropology, or archaeology. Look for universities that offer strong history programs and have faculty with expertise in the areas of history that interest you.
  • Pursue Graduate Studies: While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions, most historians have a master's degree or a PhD. Graduate programs in history can take between two and six years to complete, depending on the program and whether or not you decide to pursue a PhD. Look for programs with strong faculty in your area of interest, and consider applying to multiple programs to increase your chances of admission.
  • Gain Research Experience: Historians spend a significant amount of time conducting research, analyzing primary sources, and interpreting historical events. You can gain research experience by working as a research assistant for a professor, volunteering at a local historical society, or conducting independent research projects.
  • Develop Writing and Communication Skills: Historians must be able to communicate their findings effectively through writing and oral presentations. Take courses in writing and public speaking, and look for opportunities to present your research at conferences or public events.
  • Build Professional Networks: Join professional organizations such as the American Historical Association or local historical societies. Attend conferences and networking events to meet other historians and learn about new research and job opportunities.
  • Consider Internships or Work Experience: Look for internships or entry-level positions at museums, historical sites, or government agencies to gain practical experience in the field of history.
  • Pursue Continuing Education: Historians need to stay current on developments in their field, so consider pursuing continuing education through workshops, conferences, or online courses.

There are several certifications available for historians, depending on their area of specialization and career goals. Here are some examples:

  • National Board Certification in Social Studies/History: This certification is designed for K-12 history teachers and recognizes accomplished teaching practices in the field of social studies/history. The certification process includes a rigorous performance-based assessment that evaluates a teacher's knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  • Certified Archivist: This certification is offered by the Academy of Certified Archivists and demonstrates a professional's expertise in the management, preservation, and use of archival materials. To earn this certification, individuals must pass a comprehensive exam and meet education and experience requirements.
  • Certified Genealogist: This certification is offered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists and demonstrates a professional's competence in genealogical research. To earn this certification, individuals must pass a rigorous exam that tests their knowledge of genealogical methods, sources, and standards.
  • Certified Historical Consultant: This certification is offered by the National Council on Public History and recognizes professionals who provide consulting services to the public history community. To earn this certification, individuals must demonstrate their expertise in areas such as historical research, interpretation, and planning.
  • Professional Certification in Heritage Conservation: This certification is offered by the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals and demonstrates a professional's expertise in heritage conservation. To earn this certification, individuals must meet education and experience requirements and pass an exam that evaluates their knowledge of heritage conservation principles and practices.

There are many professional associations that cater to historians and those interested in history. Some of the most well-known ones include:

  • American Historical Association (AHA): The oldest and largest professional organization for historians in the United States, the AHA promotes the study of history and advocates for historians in academia, public history, and other fields.
  • Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES): Focused on the study of Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, ASEEES provides resources and support for scholars and students in this field.
  • Society for History in the Federal Government (SHFG): SHFG promotes the study and practice of history within the federal government, and helps connect historians with government agencies.
  • National Council on Public History (NCPH): NCPH is dedicated to promoting the practice of public history, which involves using historical knowledge and methods to engage with and serve communities outside of academia.
  • Organization of American Historians (OAH): The OAH promotes the study of American history and supports historians working in academia, government, and other fields.
  • World History Association (WHA): Focused on the study of global history, the WHA encourages research and teaching in this field, and promotes collaboration among scholars from different regions and disciplines.
  • International Commission for Historical Demography (ICHD): The ICHD is dedicated to the study of population history and demographic change, and brings together scholars from around the world to share research and insights.