What Does a History Major Prepare Me to Do?

What can I do with a History Degree? Anything!

History introduces you to important information about the past while challenging you to do close readings of texts, think critically about complicated issues, and communicate your ideas persuasively in writing. But don’t take our word for it – keep reading and decide for yourself!  

Professions for History Majors

Careers of Amherst History Majors

Recent Amherst graduates who majored in history are doing a bit of everything. They can be found working in law firms, medicine, consulting, healthcare, teaching, in non-governmental organizations (both domestically and internationally), military, religious institutions, and education. Many of them are pursuing graduate degrees, including PhDs, MBAs, MDs, and JDs. Join us and add your passion to the mix!

“As someone who also wanted to pursue a career in academic medicine, I thought that honing my analytical and writing skills in history would serve me well in my future career,” Faraz Ahmad, ’04.

 “Close study of history [is] helpful generally in reading/writing/analysis skills which I use every day as a lawyer. Better understanding of modern politics; greater sensitivity to foreign cultures (esp. in conjunction with language study),” Christopher Condlin, ’03.

 “Being a history major at Amherst College teaches you how to think critically, argue convincingly, and write well. These skills are transferrable far beyond academia: to wit, I interned for a global strategy consulting firm after my junior year, and then worked for four years at the same company before pursuing a Ph.D. Studying history at Amherst was instrumental to my success in consulting, because it helped me to develop vital skills of drawing conclusions and forming narratives based on my interpretation of large amounts of data.”  K. Ian Shin, ‘06

“Indirectly: the ability to think critically about global issues, tie in historical precedent, and write compellingly and persuasively plays a huge role in my career. I just finished my MBA and found those skills (which helped me tremendously) lacking in many other students. I'm now in a leadership development rotational program that relies a lot on written communication skills, research, and a global perspective. My History major prepared me well to succeed in this kind of role,” Nicole Krensky, ’11.

“I started out with the idea that my history training was an excellent preparation for work in foreign policy and development--and it was indeed useful as I worked on my MS in foreign policy at Georgetown University. Ironically, my venture into foreign policy convinced me that I had questions about the contemporary world that could only be answered with deeper historical study--and so I ended up with a PhD in History (Georgetown, 2008) and have been teaching in the history department at Southwestern University (a small, national liberal arts college outside Austin, TX) since 2008,” Melissa Byrnes, ’00.

National Data

History Is Not a Useless Major: Fighting Myths with Data,” by Paul B. Sturtevant, Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, April 2017

Why Major in History?

“It provided a powerful intellectual framework for understanding the world,” Joshua Stanton, ’08.

“I think studying history in today's world is valuable, because it teaches us empathy: to try to figure out what other people's lives were like at different times and in different places.” Katharina (Pluck) Matro, ’01.

“It's quintessentially liberal arts to be a history major. It might very well challenge everything you've ever learned or thought. And that's a good thing,” Alex Speir, ’11.

 “During my freshman year at Amherst I experimented with almost all of the college's departmental offerings. But I soon realized that whether it was psychology, art history, LJST, or political science, what all the classes I was taking (and loving) had in common was their shared emphasis on the historical.” Julie Rebecca Keresztes, ’12.

“I loved reading (and viewing!) an eclectic variety of sources and material on the syllabus, learning how to construct nuanced arguments in analytical essays, and - most of all - hearing the mix of perspectives from all of my classmates in the small seminar setting. After that taste of history, I was tempted into signing up for more courses in the History department, which seemed to feature so many brilliant and down-to-earth faculty.” Keri Lambert, ’13.

 “Do you ever wonder how the Democratic and Republican parties became the institutions they are in this election cycle? Are you interested in participating in on-campus rallies? Are you curious as to how sports have evolved over time? Do you think about how the food options in Val are not necessarily indigenous to the Pioneer Valley? The list goes on – becoming a history major allows you to understand the forces that shaped (and often continue to shape) the way the world works, and can inform the way you engage with those dynamics. Beyond the specific content, taking history courses will help you develop skills that enable you to be a thoughtful, critical, persuasive, and engaged global citizen,” Anonymous, ’15.

For more information on the History major and the requirements, please click on the link to the left.