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What to do with a Major in History

Nov. 18, 2009

In hard economic times, people increasingly start to worry about the value of their degrees. Many cannot afford to pay four years' tuition for a degree that is purely academic. People are looking for degrees that will give them more chances to land a job rather than ones that help them with their academic skills. Often, a poor economy will cause students to shy away from liberal arts degrees, as they question their value. Dr. Julie Sweet, assistant professor of History visited with student recently to answer a few questions about choosing a history degree.

Q: Why did you decide to study history and later decide to teach it?

Dr. Sweet: I have always loved history. My family used to visit historical sites on vacations when I was a kid, so I wanted to learn more. I did some public history first as a national park ranger and as an historical interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, but I decided to become a professor because it gave me more opportunities to engage the material more seriously.

Q: What jobs are open to history majors besides teaching?

Dr. Sweet: There are lots of museums out there looking for history majors. They can do behind-the-scenes work or give tours or do research or design websites or many other jobs. Museums are becoming very popular lately.

Q: Why does the world need people to study history?

Dr. Sweet: While it sounds cliché, if you don't learn the lessons of history, you are doomed to repeat them. Students are always amazed how the same things keep happening over and over again. If we paid better attention, we could make more progress as a nation.

Q: What sets Baylor's history department or program apart from those at other schools?

Dr. Sweet: Baylor has a wide variety of courses and professors, and that variety makes for a good program. So I would say we are competitive with others rather than different, and that's a good thing in terms of academia in general.

Q: How would a history degree better prepare someone for law school or graduate school than other degrees?

Dr. Sweet: History teaches more than just reading; it requires critical analysis and formulation of an argument. It makes you think and question what you read rather than taking it at face value. You look for the flaws, and that's exactly what a lawyer needs to do.

Clearly, there is great value in a history degree, not only for a student's career prospects, but for his or her growth as a critical thinker. If one simply looks past the stereotype of history being only useful for teachers, he or she will find that this degree opens up a wide range of opportunities. Find out more on Baylor's History department here.