“What are you going to do with a history degree?” We’re all familiar with those words that make our hearts sink, but there’s good news: the future is bright! Check out these history writing jobs that make full use of your degree—not just your transferrable skills.
However, if you’re open to roles outside the history field, then check out our list of good jobs for history majors, too. You can find rewarding careers that pay well outside of academia and the heritage sector, too.
History writing jobs for recent graduates
Here’s the list of roles you can get with a history degree or a related background, covering what they do on a daily basis as well as their salary ranges—both in American and Canadian dollars.
Research Associates do the heavy lifting for historical consultancy projects. They can be tapped for genealogy projects (more on genealogy specialists below) but they truly excel in archival research. They also excel in information literacy, meaning that they don’t just find records, but they can also evaluate the quality of sources and identify their idiosyncrasies to identify human error and oversight.
You’ll find historical research associates on municipal projects, in the heritage sector, and involved in special projects that require any of the following tasks:
- Preserving a community’s cultural records and assets.
- Verifying old records and images.
- Maintaining and using databases that have historical records.
- Legal disagreements that require historical research (like land claims).
Archival assistants work to organize and preserve historical records. If you’ve done any archival research at your school’s library or a public facility, then you’ll appreciate just how much attention to detail goes into this kind of role.
The web-first approach to research of the 21st century means that you can expect to dedicate much of your time toward digitizing documents and teaching visitors how to access them. This role is about preserving other people’s writing more than creating your own, but there’s room to flex those communication muscles in creating workflows, presenting archival collections in writing, and maybe even promoting new collections.
Assistant editors spend a lot of time reading and writing, making it one of the most commonly sought-after history writing jobs. Not all positions are about heritage or history, but plenty of them are—and the historian’s skill set is a perfect fit in just about any industry. You can become an assistant editor for plenty of companies related to history, including:
- Academic publishers
- Heritage properties and non-profits
- Genealogy companies
- Government heritage departments
- Publishing houses that produce historical fiction
- K-12 educational publishing houses
- $20,000 – $44,000 USD (Glassdoor)
Neither Glassdoor nor Indeed had salary information for Genealogy Specialist roles in Canada, but the Economic Research Institute does, claiming that full-fledged genealogists make between $60,000 – $100,000 CAD per year. That seems quite high, so you should take a grain of salt or two when you read that number.
Genealogy specialists spend their time conducting research, often getting into the nitty-gritty details of documents like passports, military dossiers, census collections, and ship manifests. The writing component comes in the form of reports, analyses, and presentations.
The role can overlap heavily with the tasks of a Research Associate, so the two roles might be used interchangeably within some organizations. Some tourist destinations also employ “light” genealogy specialists that just help tourists perform quick searches on Ancestry.com, which might explain the low salary range. Having said that, you could build up a portfolio without a barrier to entry by creating your own family tree project—there’s usually an upside if you look for it.
Fundraiser (heritage sector)
Fundraisers don’t necessarily work for historical causes, but many end up working inside or adjacent to the heritage sector, creating a natural affinity. Fundraisers also do a good deal of writing, making it a natural choice for new grads seeking history writing jobs.
You can expect to write things like:
- Historical content (often about a person, a building, or a district)
- Email campaigns
- Donor-related collateral
Assistant curators help to carry out research, preparation, and upkeep for exhibitions or collections. Some of them even help out with marketing and organizing tours, adding an element of external communications and making it more at home with other history writing jobs.
Assistant curators may also spend time managing other employees within a museum or gallery. It’s not an entirely writing-centric role, as there’s a big component involving coordination, communication, and in-person management, but communications tends to feature rather heavily overall.
Collections Managers oversee exhibits and the works they display within museums, often reporting to a Director-level role. There’s also a big hands-on component to this job in the form of preparing those exhibits, including:
- Finding works to add to the museum’s collection (or for an exhibit).
- Negotiating loans for works of art to be featured in an exhibit.
- Packing and unpacking things.
- Organizing storage and museum inventory.
- Framing works of art.
- Setting up protective cases and taking them down.
- Coordinating hired labor to assist with the above.
Where can you find history writing jobs?
There are a few places to find history writing jobs, depending on where you live and if you’re willing to relocate.
American Historical Association
The American Historical Association has its own job board just for historians. Many of those roles are focused on research posts, but there is still a solid amount of entry-level roles relative to the total—about 25%, as of writing.
Most positions will require a PhD, at least in part. This is focused on the academic side of history.
Canadian Historical Association
The Canadian Historical Association has a great resource page outlining various places to find history writing jobs. That page is comprehensive, touching on:
- A dozen external job boards for higher education professionals.
- Job postings at specific universities (like Toronto, York, and Dalhousie).
- Heritage sector job boards.
- Open postdoc positions and related job boards.
The CHA has also introduced a Career Contacts Program, designed to put senior and junior historians in touch with each other to facilitate faster and more successful job searches within the industry. Consider submitting your information if you’re looking for work in Canada!
Royal Historical Society
The Royal Historical Society, operating in the United Kingdom, doesn’t contain a traditional job board for historians in the same way as the AHA or the CHA, but there are plenty of valuable resources here.
First and foremost, it offers a free Early Career Membership for those who have successfully submitted their revised doctoral dissertation. It distributes £60,000 ($79,300 USD) to postgraduates and historians in their early careers every year, but the networking benefits alone are probably worth the price of admission (and it’s hard to argue with “free”).
The RHS also features a handy page with a large pool of resources, although you’ll need to use Indeed and networking to conduct your bread-and-butter job searching.
Australian Historical Association
The Australian Historical Association does in fact have a blog category dedicated to finding jobs in the field, and you can find it right here. It’s not big, but it’s on point if you’re living or working down under.
Beyond that, you can join the organization to gain access to a few benefits:
- The postgraduate network.
- The History Australia journal, which could spark your next project or connection.
There’s a wonderful company operating out of Ottawa, Canada, by the name of Know History. It helps organizations, families, and even individuals to document their own histories and to assist in genealogical projects.
Know History offers many historical services that you could end up doing for a living, including:
- Archival services
- Genealogical research
- Image research
- Indigenous claims support
- Museum services
- Oral history services
I know a few people that work here and it’s a wonderful team, by all accounts. Some employees get to work remotely, too (pandemics aside). It’s the dream: getting paid to practice real history in every sense of the word. Check out their open positions here.
Even historians need to use Indeed, just like the rest of us! Like any other job board, it pays to know what kinds of keywords to use. Start with these ones and combine them with your preferred regions to work:
Searching is one thing, but it pays to set up notifications that generate job postings passively, leaving more time for you to work on your portfolio and to build a network. Set up recurring searches with those keywords and you should be good to go for the foreseeable future.
Happy hunting for those history writing jobs!