Why Study History?

Three Radford University Seniors Discuss Their Experiences As History Majors:

Why Study History?, Video Courtesy of the University of Utah.

"History is Not a Useless Major: Fighting Myths with Data," by Paul B. Sturtevant, in Perspectives on History, April 2017.

The study of history is a window into the past that provides understanding of the present-day, and how individuals, nations, and the global community might develop in the future. Historical study instructs how societies came to be and examines cultural, political, social, and economic influences across time and space. It also builds the personal understanding of how we as individuals are the sum of a vast range of past experience and actors ourselves in the process of historical change.  In short, the study of the past helps lead to greater personal insight and comprehension of each person’s place in the grand sweep of the human story.  

The study of history helps instruct one in skills that have universal application, no matter what one’s life work might become.  Students of history learn good habits of thought.  They analyze ideas and data, and develop original interpretations of such materials.  They are also schooled in expressing themselves well, both verbally and in writing, essential skills whether one becomes a teacher, doctor, lawyer, businessperson, consultant, nurse—or whatever calling one may choose. 

Historical studies also offer flexibility in the pursuit of jobs. The question often asked by prospective history majors is: “I enjoy history, but what jobs are available once I get my degree?” Teaching is usually the first answer, and the answer most students anticipate, but history majors actually find jobs in a wide variety of fields. The following list is merely a sample:  journalism, publishing, museums, state and federal governmental agencies, law, public relations, FBI, CIA, and banking. Please explore the History Department Career Resources page to discover more opportunities.