23 of the Best Jobs for History Majors

Our friend John Fea recently shared a link to a post entitled “23 of the Best Jobs for History Majors.” Compiled by James Mulvey, an English major-turned-software marketer, it lists “careers that pay well, complement the skills taught in History departments and have long-term growth.” While some would probably come to mind quickly — journalist, museum exhibit designer, perhaps political campaign manager, several prizing research skills — others are much more surprising.

In particular, let me point out that several of the 23 are cutting-edge jobs that lie at the intersection of history, coding, and design: e.g., web developer, CMS editor, content editor and content strategist, UX designer, social media manager. So if any of those career paths intrigue you, then you definitely should be taking DIG200 Intro to Digital Humanities this fall with Prof. Goldberg!


Response Paper: Interviewing a Bethel History Alum

Your last response paper isn’t due until the last week of classes (W 5/17, noon), but I’m going to give it to you now so that you can set things up in plenty of time. It will be a last chance to think through history as a calling before you write your final essay on that topic.


1. Start by identifying a Bethel alum who majored or minored in History and has since entered a career that you find intriguing. I’ve compiled a list of forty such alumni who are eager to interview our students. I’ll share that spreadsheet separately. Pick the person you want to interview as soon as possible, since I’ll only allow 1-2 students per alum. (You can pick an alum not on the list, but clear the choice with me first.)

2. Contact your chosen alum and schedule an informational interview for no later than M 5/15. Ideally, try to do the interview in person — better yet, at the alum’s workplace. But if you’ve picked someone who doesn’t live in the Twin Cities or otherwise isn’t able to meet in person, you can talk over phone, FaceTime, or Skype. (Don’t do this by email or texting.)

3. To prepare for the interview, read these guidelines (including sample questions) on informational interviews, courtesy of Will O’Brien in Bethel’s Office of Career Development and Calling.

4. Conduct your interview. Be on time, dressed appropriately, and take notes.

5. As a follow-up, send a sincere thank you to the alum.


By noon on Wednesday, May 17th, upload to Moodle a 300-400 word response paper in which you reflect on the interview in the process of answering at least two or three of the following questions:

How relevant is undergraduate study of history to the career you chose to explore? What connections between historical study and their professional work did the alum make in your interview? (Did they identify other benefits of studying history that may be less directly connected to job and career?) In what ways was a history major or minor by itself insufficient to prepare the alum for their career path? Did the interview largely confirm your sense of calling, or did it shift/challenge it in some way?

Note that you’ve answered similar questions before, on the basis of reading interviews with other History alumni. You might reach similar conclusions this time, but you should clearly be interacting with this particular interview; be sure to reflect on or respond to quotations or paraphrases from the alum.

Unlike most other response papers, this assignment will be worth 15 pts. After these papers are turned in, I’ll share some responses here for a final round of blog commenting before the last day of classes.

Visualizing the Careers of America’s History Majors

Here’s the data visualization that Will showed early in his presentation this afternoon. Click through to see Ben Schmidt’s analysis of education/career data from the American Community Survey.

Visualization of History major careers by Ben Schmidt

Just look for the “History” box on the left-hand side of the chart and click on it to see what History majors nationally have tended to do for their careers. It’ll give you total numbers of jobs, plus how that compares to other fields of study.

Response Paper: Exploring Careers

As we check back in on the topic of history and vocation, take some time this week to explore at least two career paths followed by people who studied history as undergraduates. Then write a 300-word response paper summarizing what you learned, due by 5pm on Thursday 3/23.

(I won’t repost what you write, and we’ll take a week off from blog commenting. This is just a chance for you to do some personal exploration.)


1. Start by reviewing the final essay assignment — and perhaps the first response to it that you wrote at the beginning of February.

2. Then use LinkedIn and/or the Labor Department’s O*Net database (both introduced by Dave and Will in class on Monday afternoon) to identify at least two careers that you find intriguing.

3. Using our department’s series of alumni interviews (From AC 2nd to…) and/or John Fea’s long-running “So What Can You Do With a History Major?” blog series, read about former history students who have pursued the two careers you identified. (Note: at the end of the semester, you’ll be interviewing a Bethel alum — so you might want to use this assignment to identify a potential interview subject.)


By 5pm on Thursday, upload to Moodle a 300-word response paper in which you draw on this reading and research in order to answer the following questions: (however you answer the questions, it should be clear which careers you explored and which interviews/blog posts you read)

Just how relevant is undergraduate study of history to the careers you chose to explore? What connections did you see in the interviews/blog posts? (Can you think of any others?) In what ways is a history major or minor by itself insufficient to prepare you for these career paths? Finally, what’s something specific you can do this semester, this summer, or next fall to prepare you better for one of these careers? (declaring a major/minor, picking a course or courses, seeking an internship, networking, other experiences, etc.)

Guidelines for Faculty Interview

This week you’ll be interviewing one of the professors in Bethel’s History Department. (See the sign-up sheet if you forgot which professor and day/time you selected.) Along with your first reading assignments in the Fea and McKenzie textbooks, that interview will be the basis for your first response paper assignment, which I’ll give on Monday.

But since some of you have interviews right after class on Monday, let me go ahead and suggest the kinds of questions you should think about asking the professor you interview:

Intellectual Autobiography/Calling

How did you decide to become a historian and college professor? Did you come to college with that plan? If not, what led you on that path? Any advice for me as I try to figure out my calling and career? (Depending on your own goals, you might also want to ask about graduate school here.)

What is History?

How would you define history as an academic discipline? What’s distinctive about how historians interact with the past? How is history similar to or different from other disciplines?

specific fields

How did you get interested in your particular fields of study? (e.g., women’s history, Roman history, Islam, Latin America, World War II) What’s your favorite book written in that field? (What makes it so good?) What’s a distinctive feature of your field, as compared to others in the larger discipline of history? What’s an example of an important debate among historians in your primary field?

Take good notes! You don’t need to turn in a transcript, but you’ll need to quote or paraphrase this professor while writing your first response paper for Thursday afternoon. And some of what they say might even end up being very useful for your midterm or final essays.

Don’t “Do What You Love”

Yesterday I started our semester-long discussion of how your interest in history might relate to your calling by sharing Frederick Buechner’s oft-cited idea that we should listen for the voice that calls us to the intersection of personal gladness and others’ needs. But some who write about calling worry that the language of “gladness” — if rewritten as the advice “Do what you love” — actually leads us astray.

So before you write Monday’s response paper, you might want to consider this 2014 post by Jeff Haanen at the Mission:Work blog. He quotes from Miya Tokumitsu, who argues that “do what you love” is actually “the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment.” Jumping off from this, and from his reading of Scripture, Haanen concludes that

There is a historical connection between being called, and using your gifts to serve the needs of others. For some this means doing what you love. But for most, it means doing what you must. It means using your skills to bring value and life to your community….

Ironically, when we think about work, chasing after our own happiness will never bring us happiness. It is in serving others and pointing beyond ourselves that happiness is tossed in along the way.

Do you think these are fair points? Can they be reconciled with what you heard from Buechner?

Response Paper: Gladness, Need, and Vocation

For your first response paper in HIS290 (due by Moodle no later than noon on Monday, 2/6), I’d like you to take a first shot at writing about the theme of your final essay: “…how you would relate your interest in the past and your training as a historian with what you understand to be your calling or vocation.”

Buechner, Secrets in the DarkTo get at this big topic, I’m going to ask you to write approximately 250 words in response to the excerpts we read in class on Friday from Frederick Buechner’s sermon, “The Calling of Voices.” Some questions you might respond to:

  • In general, do you like his way of framing calling? Why or why not?
  • If you resonate with it… Does his description of “gladness” seem to fit how you respond to history? (Does studying the past leave you “with the strongest sense of sailing true north and of peace, which is much of what gladness is”?)
  • Tentatively, can you see a connection between that interest in history and how you might go “where [you] are most needed” in this world? (Or even to his closing idea of being called “to be Christs”?)
  • If you didn’t like Buechner’s approach, do you have an alternative way of thinking about vocation at this point in you time at Bethel?

Note that this is a somewhat unusual response paper. Unlike others:

  • You’ll work on it over the weekend (again, it’s due Monday at noon) — usually these will be due on Wednesdays.
  • I won’t share anything you write as a blog post here — this is a private reflection.
  • I’ll grade it pass/fail — so long as you do the assignment and meet basic writing expectations, I’ll give you 10/10 points.

Final Essay: Vocation and History

Now that you’ve completed your first assignments for HIS290, I’m going to go ahead and give you your final assignment for the class. (I’ll explain why tomorrow afternoon, when we have our first F2F session.)

In place of a final exam in this course, you will write a final 75-point essay: a 1000-word reflection on how you would relate your interest in the past and your training as a historian with what you understand to be your calling or vocation.

There are many ways to approach the assignment. (And you’ll have chance to start thinking through the question for two of your shorter response papers during the semester.) But you may want to reflect on one, possibly two of the following questions:

• Do you already have a clear sense of being called to work in a certain profession? Is it directly related to the study of the past? If not, do you think that continuing your studies in History can nevertheless prepare you well for the profession?

• If it is directly connected to study of the past (e.g., if you aspire to teach history at some point or work in a museum), then reflect more deeply on the nature of your calling: How did you discern it and how has it changed? How has it been clarified or complicated by this course? What do you need to do in the next 1-3 years to help translate this calling into a career?

• Do you have a clear sense of calling that isn’t defined in terms of profession or career? For example, do you feel a particular calling in the church, in a community, as a citizen, or among your family? How might your passions and preparation as a historian shape how you discern and follow that vocation?

For the most part, your grade will be based on the standard Writing Expectations for the course. But however you approach the assignment, I will particularly expect that you engage with multiple sources from the course. At an absolute minimum, I’d expect to see you respond to the alumnus interview from the last week of class and the faculty video conversation about calling. Especially strong essays will also likely draw on assigned readings (e.g., ch. 6 or ch. 8 in John Fea’s book), alumni interviews posted on AC 2nd, a mid-March presentation by staff from the Office of Career Development and Calling, and other resources on vocation and career I make available throughout the semester.

Your essay is due at the scheduled final exam time: Friday, May 26th, 8:15am, when we’ll have one final discussion as a class. I’ll most likely ask you both to submit an electronic copy of this essay via Moodle and bring a hard copy to that final F2F discussion.

The 2017 Minnesota Private College Job and Internship Fair

Especially if you’re a junior or senior, but really wherever you are in your time at Bethel, you should think about attending the 2017 Minnesota Private College Job & Internship Fair — Wednesday, February 22, 9am-3pm at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Costing $10 and featuring over 260 employers in a wide variety of fields, the fair is open to all majors, including History.

To take part, you need to register by Feb. 17th with Bethel’s Office of Career Development and Calling, and take a prep class (numerous times available, starting tomorrow and running through the 15th).