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History Pathway (A.A.)

The history pathway courses introduces students to the broad sweep of world and U.S. history, and introduces the skills of historical inquiry, research, and document analysis.  This program is designed to prepare students for the Bachelor of Arts in History or the Bachelor of Arts in History Education degrees.

Many go on to pursue a bachelor's degree where they can study more in-depth topics and specific areas of history while increasing their skills in research, interpretation and analysis, and organization and writing.

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Why Study History?

Honestly, for many a high school student, history often meant a dry memorization of “facts.” Sure, you were exposed to important ideas and principles, but how relevant and meaningful was it? So, when you arrive at college, history is not the first thing that comes to mind as a major unless you plan to teach it in school. After all, most people go to college to prepare for a career; to receive a vocationally-oriented education. How in the world would history help you there unless you wanted to teach? The answer is: A lot!

How is it Relevant?

History is more than a collection of battles, dead politicians, and grand uplifting and morally satisfying events. You examine events, ideas, forces, and conditions that created nations, shaped cultures, moved peoples, generated economies, and established identities.

The student of history understands how beliefs and interests influenced diplomacy, exploration, societies and social structures, cultural practices, and how one group of people dealt with another - not just on the local stage, but in the world arena as well. And not only the good, but the bad too. At its most basic, the study of history helps us understand how and in what way things changed and how the world we live in came to be.

After all, the founding fathers of the United States relied extensively on history in creating the Constitution and government.  Nineteenth century writers and religious movements helped inspire the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century. The ideologies that inspired the American Revolution in addition to the Constitution also were instrumental in creating an American identity.  Can you really understand what it means to be an American citizen without knowing your country’s past?

To understand where we are now, we must understand where we have been.

On a global scale, foreign policy must take into account episodes such as colonization and occupation of other countries.  The process of globalization today requires both the business executive as well as the diplomat to understand the culture and history of other peoples and cultures around the world.

Types of History

There are many different types of history: Gender, Political, Military, Social, Legal, Economic, and Cultural to name but a few.

So why can’t I just rely on my high school history?

High school lays the foundation for understanding history by teaching key concepts and facts, but university history courses are deep explorations of the conditions and elements that go into the story of history.

The student learns not just what happened, but why, and is introduced to the different viewpoints and interpretations of those events by people whose experiences and values gave them another understanding.  You are not just dealing with facts, you understand how and why people may differ in their explanation of events. 

History is complex and being able to recognizing and dissect this complexity is important today in understanding how today’s society operates and the point of view of different groups that compose society. 

Beyond the Textbook

Teaching materials are not limited to textbooks. Many courses include researching and examining documents such as letters, diaries, maps, and journals. But the study of history can encompass the study of environmental conditions, dress, music, art, and economic circumstances. A history student is as likely to work with the lyrics of a song as the position paper of a diplomat; to inspect an old musket as well as a World War II recruitment poster. Again, that’s because history is not just about great events, but often about the everyday, the commonplace events that influence our lives and actions.

What Skills Will I Learn?

Successful completion of a history degree requires the development and refinement of important fundamental skills. Honestly, a potential employer may not care if you know who won the Battle of Gettysburg, but they will be impressed by the skill set you will acquire as a history major.  History majors take a variety of classes that usually require a major research paper and often oral presentations. Upper division classes involve not only the absorption of lots of information, students engage the material, question it, and interpret the historical record.

You will learn...


This means you learn how to research: how to ask a question about an event or idea and look for information that may shed some light on the matter. Research skills required of a history major involve not just knowing how to use an archive or a database, but what sources of information may prove useful in answering your question, whether government records, sales reports, or the classifieds in a daily newspaper. You practice asking questions, parsing out subtle issues, finding hidden meaning, spotting patterns, causes, and effects. You develop skill at assessing relevance, materiality, and the meaning of evidence—and reading between the lines. You will come to realize that history is told not only by great events, but by the commonplace. Indeed, the historian knows how to look at the everyday with a discerning eye in looking to understand the past, as well as the present.

Interpretation and Analysis

After researching a question, next comes interpretation and analysis. What sort of answer is indicated by your research? How may the answer vary when the evidence is seen from different perspectives or angles? Are there any potential objections to your conclusions and what response might you offer?  Did you overlook something? Studying history trains you to think critically and creatively, to delve deeply into the facts, and to craft well-supported arguments and conclusions, skills that apply to many tasks in everyday life.

Organizational and Writing Skills

Along with learning how to research and analyze, you hone your organizational and writing skills. Gathering information and interpreting it are only part of the skills you will hone as a history student. A conclusion means little if you cannot present it clearly and effectively.  The history major thus gains essential training and experience in organizing and writing a formal paper that is logical, clear in its presentation, and cogently sets out your conclusion and its evidentiary foundation. In other words, you learn how to persuade!

Putting it All Together

In sum, history majors come away with more than increased knowledge of a particular area of history; they understand the importance of critical thinking and clear communication. They gain exposure to different ideas, cultures, beliefs, peoples, and understanding of the world that enable them to think creatively about the solution to a problem or an interpretation of a set of facts. They are better writers, advocates, and problem solvers. Essentially, the successful history major comes away with set of fundamental skills will serve them well in their other classes and in their careers.

What Can I Do With a History Degree?

There's More Than Just Teaching

While teaching is an important career contributing greatly to a productive and harmonious society, there are other career paths available. Many people are surprised at the extensive variety of careers open to the history graduate because of the skills instilled and sharpened by history classes.

Creative and critical thinking, solid communication skills, and research ability are assets required in a number of occupations not traditionally associated with an undergraduate history degree, though that is exactly what you come away with after college. Thanks to these fundamental skills, history graduates are as prepared to go to law school or business school as any other. Career options also include jobs in public service, journalism, publishing and writing, archival management, ministry, historic preservation as well as traditional teaching positions.  Increasingly, medical schools are admitting more students who are not only pre-med but who also have a strong background in history because of their research and writing skills.

The History Major in the Business World

Look at the evidence! Business is well represented by the undergraduate history major. Lee Iaccoca and Martha Stewart are but two examples of history majors succeeding in the business world.  Indeed, history students are sought out by companies. A recent survey conducted by Vanderbilt University of its history graduates found that over fifty percent had jobs in either finance or law. Business schools value the training history majors receive.  Corporations find those trained in the liberal arts, such as history students, attractive recruits. Almost a quarter of the University of New Hampshire’s history graduates are employed by corporations, because history teaches you how to think, and to think in creative, non-linear ways that do not limit you to dogmatic responses.[1]

The History Major in Government

History majors find success in other areas as well. A number of presidents were history majors: Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Woodrow Wilson to name a few. Other major figures in government, such as U.S. Senator George Mitchell and the late Senator George McGovern, received undergraduate degrees in History.

The History Major in Journalism and News

Noted journalists with history degrees include Charles Kuralt and Wolf Blitzer of CNN . Rhodes Scholar and MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow described the type of job candidate she looks for in hiring staff for her show.  Maddow prefers people who have an education in the humanities including history. For Maddow, “History is kind of the king” because those candidates have learned to craft and persuasively present arguments, skills she learned in her college history and philosophy classes.[2]

What Are Employers Looking For?

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) posted the results of an employer survey conducted by Hart Research Associates. It shows how the skills you would learn as a history major are highly sought after by employers. It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success.

[1] (accessed April 2, 2013); (accessed April 2, 2013); (accessed April 2, 2013)

[2]; http:// news. (accessed April 4, 2013)

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