Career paths for history graduates

While many of those who chose to study history at third level do so due to an immense interest in the subject, it is also timely to consider the wide range of highly employable skills that such advance studies impart. It is increasingly recognised that the jobs of tomorrow don’t exist today, in fact it is claimed that current students will have on average 10 to 12 jobs by the age of 38 (HEA, 2019) and that graduates need high levels of critical thinking, adaptability and a range of so-called ‘soft’ skills to meet the demands of the contemporary and future workplace. These skills are central to the study of history and enable students through a study of the past to understand the multitude of factors that shape the present. This is not only useful in negotiating contemporary society, business and politics but also in appreciating cultural and social differences in national and international contexts. Hence, history graduates (as will be seen in the biographies accompanying this project) are well placed to operate at the highest level of business, government, charitable, international, and policy-making organisations.

What you will learn during your studies

  • Advance written and oral presentation skills
  • A substantial body of historical knowledge
  • Ability to analysis vast amounts of information and produce concise reports
  • Ability to critique claims and counterclaims
  • Critical thinking, problem solving, creativity
  • Ability to construct logical, coherent and evidenced arguments
  • Through the study of past cultural, social, economic, and political events develop the ability to fully assess the range of factors that are or may influence such events in historical and contemporary contexts
  • The efficient use of ICT and information retrieval technologies
  • Digital literacies
  • Essential research skills that will enable you to find, organise, and utilise data and information
  • Advance teamworking skills
  • Time and project management skills, including the ability to work independently
  • Ability to analysis numerical data and apply this to problem solving
  • An appetite for and the critical tools to engage in lifelong learning

What employers want—defining employability

According to Linkedin soft skills are becoming more important due to the rise of AI ‘as they are precisely the type of skills robots can’t automate’ (Linkedin, 2019). What is viewed as essential employability skills has evolved past technical skills to include a broad range of attributes including transferable skills or soft skills, generic and life skills. In a rapidly changing work environment the ability to adapt and learn is increasingly important. Employers recognise that even in areas were subject specific skills are required that these are no longer enough for success. Hence, it is essential that today’s graduates have the ability to engage in lifelong learning in order to maintain their employability in the future (Ibec, n.d.).

The range of skills sought by employers include

  • Subject knowledge
  • Numeracy
  • Communication skills
  • Logical and analytical reasonin
  • ICT skills
  • Languages and intercultural awareness
  • Business and customer awareness
  • Creativity and problem solving
  • Strategic thinking
  • Team working
  • Self-awareness
  • Ability for reflection and improvement
  • Decision-making capacity
  • Ability to deal with ambiguity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional intelligence
    • (Linkedin, 2020; Ibec, n.d.).

As highlighted above these are exactly the type of skills that history graduates obtain. It is also important to realise that a large proportion of graduate positions are open to any discipline and that the transferable skills learnt during your degree will be applicable in a range of industries. The study of history will provide students with ample opportunity to acquire and refine these skills. History graduates are in a prime position to operate in roles that require a high degree of written and oral communication, record management, research, and team working.

Such studies also provide a sound basis for further studies and this is an increasingly popular pathway for graduates, thereby equipping themselves with both technical skills and the adaptability required for future employment. Postgraduate studies can be at Masters or Ph.D. level allowing for specialisation in an area of history or other areas such as:

  • Accountancy
  • Teaching
  • Law
  • Librarianship
  • Archiving
  • Museum studies
  • IT
  • Business

Where history graduates work

History graduates are found in a range of professions including:

  • Academia
  • Accountancy, finance, banking.
  • Charity sector
  • Civil service
  • Development
  • Heritage, museums
  • Industrial relations
  • Law

Career prospects

The early career prospects for humanity and arts graduates is promising. In a survey of the 2017 graduate cohort 63% were working or about to start a job, while a further 24% were in further studies. In fact only 6% of the cohort described themselves as unemployed and looking for work (HEA, 2019; HEA 2020).

Career planning

While it is the job of your chosen third-level institution to help educated you, it is also important that you are proactive in planning your career. It is important to make contact with your institution’s Career Development Centre early in your studies.


HEA (Higher Education Authority), Graduate outcomes survey, class of 2017, available at HEA ( (2 Feb. 2020).

HEA, An analysis of labour market earnings for higher education graduates in their early careers. Graduate cohorts: 2010-2017 (2019), available at HEA ( (10 March 2019).

Linkedin, The skills companies need most in 2019, available at Linkedin (–and-how-to-learn-them) (5 Jan. 2020).

Ibec, Smater World, Smarter work. Future ready: improving graduate employability skills (N.D.), available at Ibec ( (7 March 2020).