A history degree and data sheet with a bar graph on it, side by side.

Facts about history majors from credible sources

Looking for facts about history majors and employment statistics about them? You’re in the right place. This page contains stats on enrollment, employment, and every major source for salary data.

Use this data to make decisions about your education and your career path, or even just to make a report. It only uses top sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics (from the U.S. Department of Education), The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Brookings Institute, and the Federal Reserve Bank.

Enjoy!

 

History major stats

Use these history major statistics to understand how they fit into the post-secondary landscape. 27,349 history degrees were conferred in the United States in 2019 alone, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of those history degrees, 23,169 were bachelor’s degrees, 3,340 were master’s degrees, and 840 were doctoral degrees.

 

 

Fun fact: 44,663 bachelor’s degrees in history were conferred in 1971 within the United States, and that number has never been reached again.

Enrollment in master’s programs appears to follow the same pattern as bachelor’s programs, with peak numbers occurring in 1971 and declining until the 1990s. Enrollment in doctoral history programs seems to have been steadier, however.

 

 

Year History bachelor’s degrees History master’s degrees History doctoral degrees
1950 13,542 1,801 275
1952 10,187 1,445 317
1954 9,363 1,220 355
1956 10,510 1,114 259
1958 12,840 1,397 297
1960 14,737 1,794 342
1962 17,340 2,163 343
1964 23,668 2,705 507
1966 28,612 3,883 599
1968 35,291 4,845 688
1970 43,386 5,049 1,038
1971 44,663 5,157 991
1972 43,695 5,217 1,133
1973 40,943 5,030 1,140
1974 37,049 4,533 1,114
1975 31,470 4,226 1,117
1976 28,400 3,658 1,014
1977 25,433 3,393 921
1978 23,004 3,033 813
1979 21,019 2,536 756
1980 19,301 2,367 712
1981 18,301 2,237 643
1982 17,146 2,210 636
1983 16,467 2,041 575
1984 16,643 1,940 561
1985 16,049 1,921 468
1986 16,415 1,961 497
1987 16,997 2,021 534
1988 18,207 2,093 517
1989 20,159 2,121 487
1990 22,476 2,369 570
1991 24,541 2,591 606
1992 26,966 2,754 644
1993 27,774 2,952 690
1994 27,503 3,009 752
1995 26,598 3,091 816
1996 26,005 2,898 805
1997 25,214 2,901 873
1998 25,726 2,895 937
1999 24,742 2,618 931
2000 25,247 2,573 984
2001 25,090 2,365 931
2002 26,001 2,420 924
2003 27,757 2,521 861
2004 29,808 2,522 855
2005 31,398 2,893 819
2006 33,147 2,992 852
2007 34,453 3,145 807
2008 34,427 3,406 860
2009 34,713 3,543 918
2010 35,191 3,858 888
2011 35,008 4,003 908
2012 35,122 4,155 969
2013 34,188 4,083 1,003
2014 31,122 3,955 1,040
2015 28,038 3,703 986
2016 25,589 3,465 980
2017 24,054 3,435 925
2018 23,382 3,272 911
2019 23,169 3,340 840

 

 

Of all history degrees earned in 2019 at all levels (bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral), 58.9% were conferred to men and 41.1% were conferred to women.

 

All types Bachelor’s Master’s Doctoral
Total 27,349 23,169 3,340 840
Male 16,097 13,831 1,795 471
Female 11,252 9,338 1,545 369

 

 

This is the gender breakdown for each level of history degree earned in 2019:

  • Bachelor’s degrees: 59.7% conferred to men, 40.3% conferred to women.
  • Master’s degrees: 53.7% conferred to men, 46.3% conferred to women.
  • Doctoral degrees: 56.1% conferred to men, 43.9% conferred to women.

Of all history degrees earned in 2019, 84.7% were bachelor’s degrees, 12.2% were master’s degrees, and 3.1% were doctoral degrees.

 

Green and blue pie graph showing the distribution of history degrees conferred in 2019 by level, including bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

 

History major employment statistics

There are approximately 1,200,000 history majors out of a total of 164,600,000 people in the American labor force. That means around 0.72% of the American workforce possesses a history degree.

Some other quick employment stats for history majors include:

  • 16% are employed part-time.
  • 60% are employed in occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • 50% of history grads have an advanced degree of some kind.

Below you’ll see the top 10 most common jobs for history majors in the United States, as outlined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

 

Job for History Major % of grads in job Job growth, 2020 – 2030
Lawyers 10% +9%
High school teachers 5% +8%
Elementary teachers 5% +7%
Professors 4% +24%
Personal service managers 4% +7%
Education administrators 2% +8%
Chief executives 2% -6%
Management analysts 2% +14%
Retail supervisor 1% -6%
Retail salesperson 1% -1%

 

Many of the most common jobs for history majors involve education, but you may be surprised to learn one of the most interesting facts about history majors is that 10% of them become lawyers—-and lawyers make an average of $126,930 per year (USD).

 

 

You can also see a breakdown of the industries where history majors tend to work most commonly.

  • Education and libraries: 19%
  • Management: 17%
  • Legal: 12%
  • Sales: 9%
  • Business and financial: 8%
  • Other: 35%

It’s not surprising that education and libraries are home to nearly a fifth of working history grads, but you may be surprised that 17% find management positions, too.

What about unemployment and underemployment rates, though? The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has the data to answer this.

History grads have an unemployment rate of just 3.8% in the United States. That’s right in the middle of the pack for all post-secondary programs that the Federal Reserve Bank measured. Compared with traditional college programs its unemployment rate is on the medium-low end of the spectrum.

 

 

However, history majors have a fairly high underemployment rate of 41.3%. What’s interesting here is that 41.3% is one of the highest underemployment rates among traditional college programs, yet it sits very much in the middle of the pack when you introduce specialist programs into the mix.

The graph below only covers traditional college programs, in which history grads have one of the highest underemployment rates, but the Federal Reserve Bank’s data lists programs that range from 11.2% to 73.2%. History’s underemployment rate sits right in the middle.

 

 

Salary stats for history majors

One of the most surprising history major facts is their earning power. Far from remaining baristas forever, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary for history majors in the United States is $60,000.

Here is how that salary compares with other programs in the humanities, according to the BLS:

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

 

Green bar graph comparing the median salary of history majors with other humanities programs.

 

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York offers deeper insights. In their early careers, history grads make just $38,000. At peak career, however, that number reaches a median of $65,000.

Here’s a granular breakdown, where you can see what history majors make over the course of 25 years after graduating, one year at a time. This data comes from the Hamilton Project, an arm of the Brookings Institute.

  • 5 years into career: $42,000
  • 10 years into career: $49,000
  • 15 years into career: $64,000
  • 20 years into career: $72,000
  • 25 years into career: $74,000

 

Orange line graph showing the median salary for history majors over time.

 

The data is in: history majors make a respectable living wage. Sources from the BLS, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project all indicate that history majors make at least $60,000 per year, by the numbers.

 

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics 1, BLS 2, The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, National Center for Education Statistics 1, NCES 2, NCES 3, NCES 4

 

From here you should check out our related resources for and about history majors:

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb

Andrew Webb is on a mission to show humanities graduates how to land jobs and build careers. He turned a 9-month stretch of unemployment with a history degree into a fulfilling career in digital marketing and technology—and he founded the Employed Historian blog to show you how to do it for yourself, too.

Dig deeper

Get the free secrets to job searching with a humanities degree

Small confession: I spent almost a YEAR trying to get a job with a history degree as a recent graduate.

And I failed... At first. Then I figured out why.

Knowing these "secrets," I now see excellent results during my job searches - and I don’t even apply to more than a handful at once.

If you aren't getting the callbacks you'd hoped for, then this is for you (and it's free).

Those headlines are on the way! Remember to check your spam folder, too.