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History Major and Job Market

With education costs soaring to heights considered unthinkable only a few years ago, students are assessing their undergraduate education with an eye toward future value. Many college students feel that their potential will be enhanced by a narrowly focused business education, but this is not necessarily the best strategy in an ever-changing job market. Experts agree that a solid foundation in basic skills gives individuals the flexibility to adapt to new jobs and responsibilities. A major in history develops communication, research, and analytic skills that are in great demand in business, public service, publishing, journalism, education, social work, and other fields. According to business leaders and educators, the liberal arts degree, with a major in history, is just as sure a path to success as any alternative.

Large corporations are looking for individuals who are both creative and analytical for their management programs. A spokesperson for BellSystems maintains that "employees with liberal arts majors have shown stronger management skills and have advanced further than those with other college majors." Procter and Gamble also prefers liberal arts recruits: "It doesn't matter whether they studied Germanic history or philosophy as long as they have gained some understanding of what the world is all about." A recent report from General Motors says that "GM values a broad-based education that cultivates creative, analytical and communication skills and encourages self-motivation, persistence and self discipline." GM employs over 1,000 history majors. According to a survey published by the University of New Hampshire, corporations are employing 23% of the University’s history graduates. Moreover, the traditional markets for history majors should not be overlooked; new teaching jobs open up every year, as well as positions in publishing, archives, and museums.

For those people who are thinking in terms of graduate school, history is also a most suitable major. Graduate programs in history welcome undergraduate majors, and our majors who have chosen this route have been accepted by some of the finest schools in the country. Law schools are also very receptive to history majors since law, after all, is historical in nature. Our placement record in law schools is excellent; our majors have performed with distinction at Harvard Law School and other prestigious institutions.

Graduate business schools strongly encourage history as an undergraduate major. The Dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Rhode Island has this to say: "I believe it is extremely important for our students to develop a strong background in arts and science. History is (a) most appropriate preparation for a student wishing to take an MBA degree after completing a baccalaureate program." The Director of Admissions at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management has requested assistance in recruiting history majors. They find that history majors "are very well prepared to undertake an intensive graduate program in management."

In short, both graduate schools and business want well rounded individuals who have been taught, as William Bennett, chairman of the pharmaceuticals firm Schering-Plough, asserts, "how to think, not what to think." Whatever plans students might have, the members of the history department are more than willing to talk things over with them.