An historical manuscript and several dollar bills denoting a salary.

The average salary of a history major (and specific job salaries)

Contrary to popular belief, history graduates don’t stay in minimum-wage jobs forever. It’s true that humanities and liberal arts grads do take longer to find gainful employment in general. It makes students wonder if they should major in history at all. Yet it may surprise you to learn that the average salary of a history major sits between $55,000 and $68,000.

According to Payscale, history grads make an average of $68,000 USD per year in the United States and $57,000 CAD per year in Canada. Data from the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that to be the average for liberal arts and humanities graduates across the board.

 

What is the average salary of a history major?

Here are what the sources say:

  • The BLS says the average history major makes $60,000 USD per year.
  • Payscale says history grads make an average of $68,000 USD per year.
  • Zip Recruiter says that history majors make an average of $59,731 USD per year.
  • The American Historical Association says that history majors made an average of $55,000 USD per year—although that data is from 2014.

 

 

That’s consistent with data from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which shows that humanities graduates earn an average of $66,185 USD per year at the peaks of their careers (this data is from 2014 as well).

Zip Recruiter has some insights into its figures into how those numbers are weighted. If you look at the chart below you’ll see that the majority of individuals with history degrees earn between $26,500 – $58,000. Those are represented by columns 2-4, the tallest ones in the chart.

 

 

This means that while it is entirely possible to land a role earning $130,000 USD like some of these famous history majors, it’s likely that most people will earn less than that. That’s the case with calculating averages—higher-end salaries tend to be held by fewer people.

 

Dark green bar graph comparing the average salary of history majors with other humanities programs.

 

This is how history majors’ salaries compare with other programs in the humanities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Archaeology and anthropology average salary: $66,000
  • Political science average salary: $64,000
  • History average salary: $60,000
  • Philosophy and religious studies average salary: $55,000
  • Law average salary: $53,000
  • English average salary: $51,000
  • Visual and performing arts average salary: $42,000

 

History major average salary by career length

There’s even better data available that will help you gauge where your income should be if you’re a recent graduate. The Hamilton Project, part of the Brookings Institute (a think tank), has collected the data on history majors.

Here’s what their data says about history major’s average salary, adjusted for inflation to 2018 dollars.

 

 

Years in workforce Average salary
1 $28,000
2 $28,000
3 $38,000
4 $42,000
5 $42,000
6 $48000
7 $46,000
8 $48,000
9 $51,000
10 $49,000
11 $56,000
12 $54,000
13 $58,000
14 $58,000
15 $65,000
16 $64,000
17 $66,000
18 $64,000
19 $68,000
20 $72,000
21 $75,000
22 $77,000
23 $71,000
24 $71,000
25 $74,000

 

Pro tip: accelerate your earning potential with experience from internships for history majors.

 

That data also shows a modest decline in earnings after 25 years in the workforce (possibly due to retirement or stepping down from high-level roles), but it’s pretty clear that history majors make a respectable average salary.

Bottom line: you won’t be working as a barista forever. In fact, history grads seem to earn salaries as high as $78,000 at an average peak earning power. It’s not an engineer’s salary but it’s far from poverty.

 

Average salaries for roles suited to history majors

Some fields pay more than others, and some roles can be found in all kinds of companies (like marketing, legal counsel, and business development). Many of these entry-level jobs are suited to history majors, so take some time to think about which ones interest you the most.

 

Marketing roles

  • Content Writer: $48,000 average salary
  • Content Manager: $60,119 average salary
  • Digital Strategist: $62,082 average salary
  • Account Manager: $55,893 average salary

 

 

Journalism roles

  • Broadcast Journalist: $36,577 average salary
  • Journalist: $42,602 average salary
  • News Producer: $44,475 average salary
  • Reporter: $47,769 average salary 
  • Copy Editor: $50,615 average salary

 

 

Legal roles

  • Paralegal: $49,354 average salary
  • Legal Secretary: $56,173 average salary
  • Prosecutor: $67,853 average salary
  • Associate Attorney: $82,306 average salary
  • Law Firm Partner: $186,904 average salary

 

 

Government roles

  • City Clerk: $49,191 average salary
  • City Planner: $57,284 average salary
  • City Administrator: $74,265 average salary
  • City Manager: $91,681 average salary

 

 

Non-profit roles

  • Program Coordinator: $44,780 average salary
  • Outreach Coordinator: $45,710 average salary
  • Grant Writer: $49,458 average salary
  • Program Director: $58,302 average salary
  • Director of Development: $66,715 average salary
  • Executive Director: $68,056 average salary

 

 

Education roles

  • Teacher: $49,761 average salary
  • Curriculum Specialist: $58,538 average salary
  • Curriculum Director: $73,580 average salary
  • Assistant Principal: $74,231 average salary
  • Principal: $84,700 average salary
  • Superintendent: $120,315 average salary

 

 

Public history roles

  • Museum Educator: $36,609 average salary
  • Archivist: $41,086 average salary
  • Museum Curator: $46,809 average salary (this may be skewed downward)
  • Exhibit Designer: $47,752 average salary
  • Museum Director: $70,000 average salary

 

 

Publishing roles

  • Editorial Assistant: $37,217 average salary
  • Publicist: $50,408 average salary
  • Writer/Author: $51,235 average salary
  • Editor: $54,458 average salary
  • Senior Editor: $70,744 average salary
  • Associate Publisher: $78,619 average salary

 

 

Business roles

  • Data Analyst: $61,901 average salary
  • Business Development Associate: $53,973 average salary
  • Business Manager: $63,670 average salary
  • National Sales Manager: $84,414 average salary
  • VP of Business Development: $135,647 average salary

 

 

There are many roles available to history majors, and the vast majority of them pay over $50,000 on average. Choose a career path and you’ll be well on your way to earning what you truly deserve.

Happy hunting!

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb is on a mission to teach liberal arts and humanities graduates to build the successful careers they deserve. After earning a bachelor's and a master's degree in history, he became a digital marketer and joined one of the most successful tech companies in the world. He started the Employed Historian blog at employedhistorian.com.

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