How to Become a Historian: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Historians study the past. They create, find, and preserve historical records, which may be anything from newspapers to interviews to government records; they also investigate existing records and archives. Historians don’t just find things out: they also explain and interpret the past, deepening our understanding of historical events, and help to educate others about history.


Annual salaries for historians will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for historians working in the U.S. was $60,010 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for historians, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work as a Historian

New York leads the nation in employment for historians, with 450 currently occupying positions statewide, and making an annual average salary of $35,130. California is second, where 300 historians presently work in various positions, and earn an average salary of $74,210 annually.

The metro areas employing the most historians are:

  • Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria (400)
  • Sacramento (100)
  • New York-White Plains (60)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of historians are:

  • Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria (0.17 jobs per thousand)
  • Trenton-Ewing, NJ (0.17 jobs per thousand)

The metro areas employing the best-paid historians are:

  • Washington D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria (annual average salary $87,660)
  • Austin, TX (average annual salary $79,760)

Employment and Salary Information for Historians

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a historian. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for History

Why Become A Historian?

Your history textbooks didn’t write themselves. Everything we know about the past came from the research, study, interpretation and hard work of historians. They help us understand who we are and where we’re going. And there are definite advantages to being one, too.

  • Follow your passion. Does the history of your town interest you? Or the history of ideas? There are chances to specialize in the things that really fascinate you.
  • Do original research. Historians don’t just learn what we already know: they go out and find out new information and change our understanding of the past.
  • Pays well. Annual salaries average $60,010 per year.
  • Chance to be your own boss. The large majority of historians work as employees (and most of those work in government). But some work as consultants, and some even work independently and set their own hours.

Historians: What You Need To Know

Investigating the past takes a keen mind and a lot of persistence. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Knowledge of Specialized Subject
  • Data Gathering / Interviews
  • Research
  • Written Communication
  • Analysis of Data
  • Verbal Communication and Education

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about careers, degrees, and applicable courses for historians from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for History Careers

Bachelor’s degree

A few entry-level positions are open to candidates with a bachelor’s degree.

Master’s degree

Most jobs as a historian require at least a master’s degree in history, or another field like museum studies, historical preservation or archival management. Museums and historical organizations usually ask for master’s degrees. Many colleges and universities also have opportunities for internships and field experience during their education, which give valuable practical experience.

Graduates may also work as history teachers in middle and high schools, as well as postsecondary institutions. Research positions, however, are more likely to be obtained by those who have gone on to earn a doctorate degree, particularly for positions within the federal government.