All You Need To Know About A Historian Career

You consider becoming a historian but are still not entirely sure whether this is the right career path for you or not?

Stick with me since I will show you everything you need to know about a historian career in the following chapters.

Not only will you learn how much you can make as a historian, but we will also talk about job satisfaction, future outlook, working hours, work-life balance, educational requirements, duties and much more.

I also added an FAQ section where I answer the most common questions about being a historian.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of whether you still want to become a historian or rather want to go for a different career instead.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Table of Contents

What does a Historian do?

Historians research about the past and try to preserve ancient knowledge.

Hence, they are important for handing over information about the past to future generations.

Responsibilities & Duties of a Historian

  • Researching about the past
  • Preserving ancient knowledge
  • Preserving the history of mankind
  • Archiving important ancient materials properly
  • Documenting important historical events
  • Digitalizing important historical materials
  • Interpreting historical artifacts
  • Helping museums to improve their exhibitions
  • Estimating the value of historical finds and discoveries

What a Typical Day of a Historian looks like?

Most historians start their workday between 8 and 10 a.m.

Once they arrive at their workplace, the first thing they do is checking their mails and answering the most important ones.

After doing some organizational work, historians get to their actual work they are specialized in.

However, your duties will greatly depend on the institution you work for.

For instance, if you work as a historian for a museum, you will have completely different tasks compared to working for a research institute.

Hence, it is pretty hard to say what your workday will look like since it greatly depends on the type of job you will get as a historian.

However, most historians still finish their workday between 4 and 6 p.m. and come home from work relatively early.

Historian Salary 2021

Historian salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $88,000> $43.92
Top 25 %$75,000 – $81,000$37.41 – $40.38
Bottom 25 %$36,000 – $47,000$17.94 – $23.45
Bottom 10 %$24,000 – $29,000$11.89 – $14.48
Range$24,000 – $97,000$11.89 – $48.46
Average (Mean)$68,000$33.96
Median$62,000$30.88

Historian salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$24,000 – $33,000$11.89 – $16.43
Junior$31,000 – $49,000$15.41 – $24.48
Professional$47,000 – $63,000$23.48 – $31.39
Senior Professional$60,000 – $72,000$29.92 – $35.95
Expert$71,000 – $85,000$35.47 – $42.44
Top Expert$83,000 – $97,000$41.39 – $48.42

Historian salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$62,400$31.17
Alaska$58,700$29.32
Arizona$65,200$32.58
Arkansas$63,300$31.63
California$71,800$35.89
Colorado$65,500$32.72
Connecticut$63,900$31.94
Delaware$61,400$30.68
District of Columbia$63,100$31.53
Florida$58,900$29.42
Georgia$57,600$28.79
Guam$55,800$27.87
Hawaii$63,600$31.76
Idaho$61,100$30.53
Illinois$62,500$31.22
Indiana$64,900$32.41
Iowa$66,300$33.13
Kansas$61,800$30.88
Kentucky$60,700$30.32
Louisiana$62,900$31.44
Maine$61,400$30.68
Maryland$65,300$32.64
Massachusetts$67,700$33.82
Michigan$62,800$31.35
Minnesota$59,300$29.63
Mississippi$58,400$29.19
Missouri$56,900$28.39
Montana$62,900$31.42
Nebraska$61,400$30.68
Nevada$60,200$30.04
New Hampshire$63,800$31.89
New Jersey$62,600$31.27
New Mexico$59,300$29.59
New York$73,700$36.83
North Carolina$61,600$30.78
North Dakota$64,900$32.39
Ohio$65,300$32.63
Oklahoma$67,100$33.54
Oregon$62,800$31.39
Pennsylvania$66,700$33.28
Rhode Island$67,200$33.59
South Carolina$62,100$31.04
South Dakota$61,500$30.72
Tennessee$58,600$29.25
Texas$57,800$28.87
Utah$62,900$31.38
Vermont$63,700$31.83
Virginia$61,600$30.79
Washington$67,200$33.53
West Virginia$63,400$31.68
Wisconsin$63,100$31.54
Wyoming$61,200$30.53

Job Security of Historians

Historians have pretty decent job security since there is a lack of qualified historians in most regions and not many people want to work in this field anymore.

Consequently, once you find a job as a historian, you don’t have to worry about getting laid off that much.

Future Job Prospects of Historians

While current job prospects are pretty decent for historians, some jobs may be lost in this field due to artificial intelligence and machine learning since some tasks of historians will just be done by machines instead of humans in the near future.

Consequently, fewer people will be needed in this field and job prospects and salaries may worsen over time.

Working Hours of Historians

Historians usually start their workday between 8 and 10 a.m. and finish their workday between 4 and 6 p.m.

Hence, historians don’t have to work long hours and will come home from work relatively early.

Thus, they also have more than enough time to spend with their families or to meet up with their favorite people after work.

Job Satisfaction of Historians

Many historians are pretty happy with what they are doing for a living since they can make decent money while they still don’t have to work much overtime and can also do what they are really interested in.

Promotion Opportunities of Historians

Promotion opportunities for historians are pretty limited.

In fact, once you work in this field, you will do the same job for many years and it may take you decades to get into a leading position within your institution.

Career Levels of Historians

  • Historian intern
  • Junior historian
  • Senior historian
  • Senior historian with personnel or budget responsibility
  • Director of a historian institute

Fields and Types of Historians

  • Historians working at a museum
  • Historians working for research institutes
  • Historians working in the corporate world
  • Research historians
  • Archivists
  • Historians specialized in ancient history
  • Historians specialized in the history of humans
  • Historians focused on the history of the planet
  • Historians specialized in preserving knowledge
  • Historians focused on raising awareness of important historical events

Educational Requirements for Historians

You have to get at least a bachelor’s degree in history or a related field before you are able to work as a historian most of the time.

Hence you will have to spend lots of money and time on education and you should be sure that this is what you want to do for many years or even decades to make it worth the initial investment.

How to become a Historian

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a historian
  2. Get your high school diploma
  3. Inform yourself about college degrees in history
  4. Sign up for your favorite college degree and start college education
  5. Apply for an internship in a historian institute or museum
  6. Make a good impression during your internship
  7. Finish your college degree with decent grades
  8. Apply for jobs in your field
  9. Master the job interview
  10. Sign your labor contract

Character Traits you need as a Historian

  • Interest in historical events
  • Passion for ancient culture
  • Interest in raising awareness on historical topics
  • Willingness to work in a field with many old people
  • Passion for office work
  • Attention to detail helps to figure things out
  • Perseverance helps you solving puzzles
  • You should be interested in doing research
  • You should be willing to work in a rather boring environment

Hard Skills for Historians

  • Knowledge of important historical events
  • Knowledge of ancient cultures
  • Problem-solving skills help as well
  • Good research skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Knowledge of how to archive things for future generations
  • You should know where to get important information from
  • You should be able to evaluate the trustworthiness of sources
  • Digital skills help you get things done quicker
  • Knowledge of how to publish high-quality research papers

Soft Skills for Historians

  • Communication skills help you gather information from colleagues
  • Perseverance helps you solve puzzles
  • Good time management skills help you get things done
  • You should be willing to learn every day
  • Willingness to spend lots of time reading books
  • Good communication skills help you teach people about our past
  • Passion for historical events help you grab people’s attention
  • You should be willing to work hard to really figure things out
  • People skills help you lead a team of historians

Exit Options for Historians

There are not many exit options for historians.

Once you work in this field, you will not learn many things that are needed in the job market right now and this means that you may get stuck in this industry for many years or even decades.

Historian – Similar Careers

  • Museum director
  • Librarian
  • Editor
  • Author
  • Researcher
  • Educational officer
  • Miner
  • Teacher
  • Professor
  • Statistician

Historian Career FAQs

Is working as a historian physically demanding?

Being a historian is not physically demanding at all.

Quite often, you just work with a computer or in a library and apart from lifting some books, you will not have any physically demanding things to do at all.

Consequently, becoming a librarian can make sense for you in case you don’t want to work with your hands but rather want to work with your brain.

Is working as a historian mentally demanding?

Working as a historian can be mentally demanding since you often need to solve puzzles and also pay close attention to detail when it comes to preserving and archiving things for future generations.

Hence, be prepared to stress your brain quite a lot before you decide on becoming a historian.

Is it dangerous to work as a historian?

Working as a historian is not dangerous at all.

Most often, you will just work in a classical office job doing research or studying ancient books.

Consequently, your risk of suffering from accidents at work will be rather low.

How long do historians stay in their jobs?

Historians stay in their jobs for many years and sometimes even decades since they are pretty specialized and have a hard time finding a job in a different industry.

Moreover, many historians also really like what they are doing and have no incentive to search for a different career.

Is it easy for historians to find a new job?

It is relatively easy to get a job as a historian since not many people want to become historians anymore and if you are really good at what you are doing, you don’t have to worry about getting unemployed that much.

Is it hard to switch from being a historian to another field of work?

It is pretty hard to switch from being a historian to another industry since you will often just not learn many skills that are important in the job market right now and may just not find anyone who would be willing to employ you in a different field.

Do historians have a high social status?

Historians have a rather low social standing.

Many people will just not understand your career choice and some people may even make fun of you in this regard.

Hence, make sure that you have a strong mental and emotional mindset so that snarky comments will not bother you.

Can you help out your family and friends as a historian?

While you can do an important job to preserve knowledge of important historical events, you will not be able to do much good for your loved ones since you will just lack practical skills to do so and while other people who work in craftsmen jobs can fix and install many things around the home, you will be of rather minor value to your family and friends since you will not learn how to do most of those things.

Can historians work remotely?

Many historians are able to work remotely for at least some days of the week since they can just work with their computer using modern technologies and there will no longer be the need to commute to work and back every day.

Consequently, you can save lots of time and money on commuting and rather start your workday from home instead.

Is it easy to find a partner as a historian?

Since you will be able to make decent money while you will still have lots of leisure to spend with your family, you will have a rather easy time finding a partner for a long-term relationship since you will be considered a relatively good provider due to your historian career.

Do historians have to work on weekends?

Historians don’t have to work on weekends.

Instead, you can use those days to make nice weekend trips with your family or to do other things you like while many other people like waiters, train drivers or firemen often have to work during those times.

Do historians have to work on holidays?

You will also not have to work on holidays as a historian.

Instead, you can spend those days with your loved ones on the things you like even more than working.

Do historians have to work at nighttime?

Historians don’t have to work at nighttime. Instead, you will work in a classical 9 to 5 environment and while many other people who work in demanding office jobs will have to work long hours every day, you will come home from work relatively early and can also meet up with your favorite people after work on a regular basis.

Do you have to travel as a historian?

You also don’t have to travel a lot as a historian.

Quite often, you can use our modern technologies to avoid the need for traveling and while many other people like consultants are away from home quite often since they have to go on fancy business trips, you will be able to stay at home and spend time with your family.

Are historian pensions good?

Due to their decent salaries, historians are also able to get decent pensions on average.

However, it might still be a good idea to save and invest enough money during your active career so that you have additional funds once you retire to pay your bills.

Are historian salaries going up?

Historian salaries have not been going up significantly over the past years.

However, you can still make decent money from a historian career if you become really good at what you are doing and become a real expert in your field.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a historian?

While you will do an important job to preserve knowledge of ancient history, you will still not do an equally important job as doctors or other people who can really save lives of people on a daily basis.

How long does it take to become a historian?

It will usually take you 4 years to finish your bachelor’s degree in history so that you are able to work as a historian.

However, if you want to get a master’s or even a doctor’s degree, it may even take you much longer.

Is it difficult to become a historian?

Even though you will have to spend lots of time on education, it is still not that difficult to become a historian, at least if you are willing to study hard and are also really interested in this field.

Do you need to be smart to work as a historian?

You don’t need to be a genius for working as a historian.

However, you should still have some mental capacity to solve complex puzzles and to draw the right conclusion about our past to deliver correct information for future generations.

Do historians have a good work-life balance?

Historians have decent work-life balance.

Since they don’t have to work on weekends or holidays and also come home from work relatively early, most historians are pretty happy with their mix of leisure and money they get from what they are doing.

Do historians have to work many extra hours?

Historians don’t have to work much overtime.

Instead, historians mostly work in fixed shifts and once your shift is over, you will just quit your workday and continue your work the next morning since you will just not have to meet strict timelines and can rather do your work in a pretty relaxed manner without having that much time pressure.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a historian?

The more knowledgeable you become regarding historical events, the more value you can provide to an audience.

Hence, if you want to maximize your chances of being able to work as a historian, you should study hard and also get some practical experience through working as an intern.

Can historians work part-time?

While historians are often able to work part-time, many historians work full-time since they really enjoy their work and also need the money from a full-time job to cover their bills.

Do historians work indoors or outdoors?

Historians work indoors most of the time.

Consequently, you don’t have to worry about adverse weather conditions outdoors as construction workers, roofers or welders have to do on a regular basis.

What does the workplace of a historian look like?

Historians often work in libraries or research institutes and you will therefore be surrounded by books quite often while you will also do some computer work.

Hence, if you want to work with your hands in a physical manner, you should not become a historian but rather go for a craftsmen job like being a carpenter instead.

Do you have to look good for working as a historian?

Your looks don’t matter for your success as a historian at all.

What’s much more important than looking good is that you have excellent expertise regarding historical events and that you also know how to make those things interesting to your audience.

Is a historian career beneficial for your private life?

Being a historian is not that beneficial for your private life since you will just not learn many things on the job that would be useful at home and while craftsmen can fix many things around the house, you will have a rather hard time in this regard and may also have to spend lots of money on those services.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a historian?

You need at least a bachelor’s degree in history or in a related field before you are able to work as a historian.

Consequently, you have to spend lots of time and money on education and you should really make sure that you are fascinated enough in this area so that you want to work in this field for quite a long time to make it worth the initial upfront investment on education.

Do you need to be certified to work as a historian?

Apart from a college degree, you don’t need to get any certifications as a historian.

However, you will still have to publish many research papers if you want to work for a research institute and you will therefore become a true expert in your field, even though you might not get an official certificate for your efforts.

How much does it cost to become a historian?

Since you will have to go to college for many years, you will also have to spend lots of money on tuition and other expenses related to college.

Consequently, you should be willing to invest lots of money in education and you may also have to take on student loans to finance your studies.

Is being a historian a good career?

If you are really interested in history, being a historian can be a great career for you since you can make decent money while you will still have good job security and you will also have a pretty solid work-life balance.

Is it easy to start your own business as a historian?

It is pretty hard to start your own business as a historian since you will be pretty specialized in a field where people usually don’t spend lots of money.

In turn, you may have a hard time starting your own business since you will just not be able to provide enough value to make people pay for your services.

Can historians teach themselves?

Historians are also able to teach themselves most things they need.

In fact, you will learn most things on the job and it will be on you to hone your craft.

However, you still need a college degree for working in this field and teaching yourself will therefore not be enough to start a career as a historian.

Do historians make good money?

Historians can make decent money from what they are doing.

However, most historians still make significantly less compared to people who work in demanding office jobs as financial analysts, controllers or investment bankers and you should therefore rather go for a career in the financial industry if your goal is to make really good money in the long run.

Is it ever too late to become a historian?

While it is never too later to start your career as a historian, you will still have to spend many years on college education and the earlier you start, the longer you can benefit from your education from a professional and monetary standpoint.

Hence, it still makes sense to become a historian relatively early in your life.

Do historians have to quit their careers early?

Most historians don’t have to quit their careers early since they don’t have to work in a heavy physical manner and will therefore not have to stress their bodies as much as construction workers or welders who often suffer from back pain or other spinal issues sooner or later.

What is the most challenging thing about working as a historian?

The most challenging part about being a historian is that you will often have to solve complex puzzles and it may take you quite long to find explanations for complex relationships.

You may also get criticized by other historians quite a lot and a stable mental and emotional mindset may help you deal with comments in this regard.

Can you provide for your family by working as a historian?

If you are really good at what you are doing and also work for a renowned institute, you may have an easy time providing for your family as a historian.

However, many historians still struggle to provide for their families, especially in case they live in regions where rents and living costs are pretty high.

Will historians suffer from old-age poverty?

Since historians often get decent pensions and can also save money on the side, they often don’t suffer from old-age poverty.

However, this also greatly depends on the individual case and whether you might get into financial trouble once you get older also depends on your spending habits.

Can historians retire early?

Most historians are not able to retire early since they don’t make enough money during their active careers and will have to work until they reach official retirement age to be able to pay their bills.

Do historians get a fixed or variable salary?

Historians usually get a fixed salary.

Even if your salary consists of a variable component, this variable fraction will be rather small compared to the fixed portion of your income.

Can you get rich as a historian?

It is quite unlikely that you get rich as a historian.

If money and luxury are really important to you, you should rather become a doctor or investment banker instead.

Do historians need a second job?

While many historians are able to make a living from what they are doing, some historians still don’t make enough money to provide for themselves and their families and may have to work a second job, especially if they live in regions where rents are quite high.

Do you get continuous training as a historian?

You don’t get continuous training as a historian.

After getting your degree, it will be on you to work hard and to become a real expert in your industry.

Do you get sick pay as a historian?

While many historians get sick pay, some historians don’t benefit from those perks and you should therefore have a close look at your labor contract or ask your colleagues in this regard.

If you don’t get sick pay, you may also want to have an emergency fund that you can use in case you get sick and are not able to make enough money to cover your bills anymore.

Do historians have a high level of responsibility?

Historians don’t have a high level of responsibility.

While you do important work to preserve history, you will still not have the same high level of responsibility compared to doctors or other people whose mistakes could take away the lives of many people.

Can historians work abroad?

Historians are also able to work abroad.

However, before you move to a foreign country, make sure that you inform yourself about working conditions and about the salary you can expect in this country to avoid any unpleasant surprises in this regard.

Is it stressful to work as a historian?

Working as a historian is not that stressful since you don’t have to work much overtime and will also not have to meet strict timelines.

Instead, you will work in a pretty relaxed manner and will often have enough energy left after work to spend on your hobbies.

Is it boring to work as a historian?

Working as a historian can be boring if you are not passionate about history and about raising awareness of important historical events.

In such a case, you might be better off with a different career since you would most likely not stay motivated as a historian in the long run.

Is being a historian hard?

Being a historian is not that hard since you don’t have to work in a heavy physical manner and will also have more than enough leisure to recover.

Hence, while many other people have to deal with lots of stress at work on a regular basis, you will have a rather relaxed time in this regard as a historian.

Are historians at risk of burnout?

Since historians enjoy decent work-life balance and also don’t have to deal with lots of stress at work, they are also not at great risk of burnout.

Instead, most historians are often pretty passionate about their work and don’t report many issues in this regard.

Is there a dress code for historians?

There is no dress code for historians.

Instead, you can wear whatever you feel most comfortable in while many other people who work in demanding office jobs have to wear fancy suits or dresses.

What kind of historians are paid the most?

The more experience you have in this field, the more you can make as a historian.

Historians working at research institutes often also earn much more compared to historians who just work in the library.

What percentage of historians are women?

While around 60% of historians are women, only 40% are men.

However, you will still have decent chances of becoming a historian as a man if you are equally passionate about history as your female colleagues.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a historian?

You don’t need a mentor to succeed as a historian.

Instead, you should just become a real expert in your industry and instead of needing a mentor yourself, you can in fact become a mentor and a role model for many people out there.

Will you be personally liable for mistakes as a historian?

You will not be personally liable for mistakes if you work as an employed historian most of the time.

However, if you want to be 100% sure in this regard, you should consult a lawyer or you may also get proper insurance in this regard.

Do historians have a high life expectancy?

Since historians are not at great risk of suffering from serious accidents at work, they also have a pretty decent life expectancy.

Moreover, since historians are able to make decent money, most of them are also able to get proper health insurance and are covered in case of serious health problems.

Do historians suffer from sleeping problems?

Historians don’t suffer from sleeping problems related to their work since they don’t have to work at nighttime and can maintain a steady sleeping pattern.

In turn, historians are able to get more than enough good sleep and will have quite a lot of energy during the day.

What states are best for working as a historian?

Since there are not that big differences in salaries of historians across states, you should choose a state and a region where historians are in high demand but living costs are still low so that your historian salary will be enough to pay your bills and you don’t need a second job.

Who do historians work with?

Historians often work alone for days or even weeks.

Hence, if you are an outgoing and extroverted person who loves to talk to people, working as a historian in a research institute may not be for you and you should rather go for a job in a more client-focused industry instead.

Is working as a historian cool?

Many people out there don’t consider being a historian cool.

Instead, many people will make fun of you and may not consider what you are doing for a living a real job.

Can you start a side hustle as a historian?

It is pretty hard for historians to start a side hustle since they often don’t learn many skills that would enable them to make money on the side.

Do you have to be creative as a historian?

You don’t need to be overly creative as a historian.

Instead, you need strong problem-solving skills and also attention to detail to solve complex puzzles and also to motivate people to learn more about history.

Do historians suffer from being overweight?

Since historians work in a classical office environment most of the time, they also don’t work out that much and don’t burn lots of calories at work.

In turn, many historians suffer from being overweight.

How employable are historians?

Historians have decent job security and are also pretty employable since you can work in many different fields and not many other people want to work as historians anymore.

Consequently, you will not have to deal with high levels of competition and may find a job relatively easy.

Are historians happy with their jobs?

Many historians are pretty happy with their jobs.

Even though they don’t make really good money from what they are doing, they are still really interested in what they are doing for a living and also have more than enough leisure to spend with their loved ones.

Is working as a historian exciting?

Working as a historian is not exciting at all.

Most of the time, you will just read ancient books or archive things for future generations and if you are not really passionate about working in this field, you may get bored and unmotivated with it pretty soon.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a historian?

You will not have a significant positive impact on our environment as a historian since you will just deal with historical issues while your impact on the future will be rather limited.

What are the pros and cons of working as a historian?

If you are still interested in becoming a historian, you should also have a look at additional pros and cons of a historian career.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historian

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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