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Why Study History?

As a central part of a liberal arts education, the study of history prepares students to conduct thorough and accurate research, to analyze data carefully, to draw intelligent evidence-based conclusions, and to present their findings in a way that makes them accessible to a larger audience. These are foundational skills which have led our graduates to success in a wide variety of careers. TCU graduates in History and Geography over the past twenty years have found employment in the following fields:

Undergrad employment graph

Career possibilities:

Terrence Hood, Assistant Director of Career Services, is also the AddRan history/geography liaison with the Career Services office. Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment with him to discuss networking, career contacts, resume and interview preparation, and job hunting for positions well suited for history and geography majors. Contact him at (817) 257-2222 or t.hood@tcu.edu.

Thoughts on history from the professionals:

The mystery in history brings out the detective in us; there are countless unsolved crimes and riddles and unresolved debates. I'm nosy enough to want to put my two cents in, and I'm concerned enough to care.

— Robert Blackey, California State University at San Bernardino

A degree in history opens the door to a variety of professional careers, such as law, journalism, and historic preservation. In addition to teaching and writing, historians can have a significant impact on public policy. Service on public commissions and committees, for example, requires the research skills and human perspective of a trained historian. Administrative and elective positions make good use of a historian's ability to place events and issues in their appropriate context. 

— Nadine Ishitani Hata, El Camino Community College

In part, the attraction is intellectual, almost a game, in which questions from the past call out to the student for answers. But what also is involved is the belief that something worthwhile is being done, maybe not in dollars and cents, but for the life of our society.

— David Brody, University of California at Davis

At college my love of history was reinforced by politics. It was right after World War II, and a small group of friends and I wanted to create a peaceful world, stop racism, and put an end to what we saw as the ravages of capitalism. I was fascinated by what I was learning about the past. How did change come about, I kept asking in all my courses, and why did the great revolutions of Europe turn to dictatorship? By then I was focusing on the early modern period. Here is where it all began, I thought, capitalism, modern rational criticism, the modern competitive personality.  More than 30 years have passed since I earned my PhD…. But I still find history full of wonders; I still find in the differences in past societies a way to take stock of the present—a source of sober realism, but also a source of hope.

— Natalie Zemon Davis, Princeton University

A word of caution to those who think history should be their career choice. If you are looking for easy answers to important questions, then history is not a good choice. To be a historian is to be engaged in endless discussion and debate. History changes; that is, what we think happened, what we think is important, what we think the reasons are for what happened, and what we base our beliefs of good and bad on, all change. A historian adopts a moving target, one that will not allow itself to be tied down to a set of perceptions and conclusions. 

— Robert Gutierrez, Miami Sunset Senior High School

One of my most unpleasant recollections of high school concerns an assignment to memorize all the names of the presidents of the United States and their terms in office. I squirmed to find a way out of the task, but failed to do so. I also failed to pass the test.  It was only some years later I learned that history should not be the tortuous study of irrelevance… Why are we, as a people, as a nation, as a nationality, or whatever, the way we are? How did those who came before face and meet challenges, questions, and feelings similar to those we face in our individual lives today, unique as we think they are? Ultimately, the study of history is essential to me if I am to gain any understanding of what I am today. 

— Gordon H. Chang, Stanford University

By 1968 I had been working for two years in federal antipoverty programs, trying to change the living and working conditions of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. But ironically, that work experience impressed upon me the difficulties involved in trying to change the present and build a future world, when we did not sufficiently understand the past… The longer I studied that project, the more it seemed to me that it was missing something important about the heritage and lived experience of the people we were working with. These frustrations sent me back to graduate school with a newly discovered intuition that there might be something in the stories of the past relevant to understanding the present and to envisioning the future. My particular hope is that in studying and writing about the history of race and racial phenomena generally, and about the African American experience especially, I will learn and be able to teach something important not only about the world I came from but for the world I would like to see created.

— Thomas Cleveland Holt, University of Chicago

*Excerpts from “Why Become a Historian?”, an online essay collection edited by Robert Blackey and published by the American Historical Association. The essays may be found in their entirety on the AHA website.