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What can you do with a History major? The short answer is: just about anything.
Our mission as a department is defined by the College’s dedication to offering undergraduates a broad liberal arts education. We know that only a small fraction of our majors will eventually become professional historians. Consequently, we recognize that the major part of our mission is to provide a large and diverse student body with a general understanding of the historical foundations and cultural dimensions of the world they live in—an understanding that we are happy to see often grows into a life-long passion for history.
But perhaps the most important consequence of studying history is to inculcate and develop basic critical, analytical and communication skills that have a broad application beyond the academy. These include the ability to analyze arguments on the basis of evidence, to understand and evaluate the nature of that evidence, and to communicate arguments cogently, effectively—and even elegantly—through speech and writing.
In keeping with their liberal arts orientation, Dartmouth’s History majors pursue a broad range of careers upon graduation. The figure above summarizes the careers of 2,282 History alumni graduating in the classes of 1972-2001. The date range for this sample was selected assuming that most careers have been defined by the tenth year following graduation and that some alumni are thinking of retirement after the thirtieth.
The number of majors going on to graduate school in History is small—in this thirty-year sample, fewer than 4 percent reported receiving PhDs in any field, compared to 32 percent receiving JDs, 18 percent MBAs, and 6 percent MDs. Most of the 246 History alumni listing their field of work as education are either educational administrators or consultants, or work in secondary education, or teach law or medicine. However, those who do attend graduate school in History are being accepted into outstanding programs. In the past decade our students have gone on to Berkeley, Cambridge, Columbia, Harvard, Michigan, North Carolina, Oxford, Princeton, SOAS, St. Andrews, Texas, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and Yale. Several former students now teach at some of the most prestigious universities here and abroad.
How did you benefit from majoring in History? If you’d like to tell us, we’d like to know. Please drop us a line.