Are you thinking about studying History at degree level, and possibly at Kingston University? We’d love to have you at Kingston! A big question on your mind might be: ‘What can I actually do with a degree in History?’
At this time of year History staff are regularly asked this by prospective new students (and their parents!), who are keen to learn about the value and uses of a degree in History. Employers are also deeply interested in what key skills a History student can offer them. The short answer is: lots!
So, with this in mind, here’s some brief food for thought, summed up in five easy and bite-sized portions…
1. It’s a Stepping Stone: A degree in History can be an excellent ‘stepping stone’ to a wide variety of careers and professions, ranging from the top job in British politics (a recent Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was a History graduate), through to teaching in the public sector, journalism or working as a researcher in the media, or acting as an archivist in a major museum or library. Our graduates have gone into the public or private sectors, such as working in public broadcasting or as acting an advisor at the National Archives, or providing research support for a large company or national (or international) lobby or charity group.
2. It Gives You Valuable Skills: History and the study of the past at degree level provides students and graduates with a wide variety of what we call ‘transferable skills’. History students receive truly invaluable training in being able to understand and analyse key issues and events, both in the past and in the present, to a very high level of competence. You also become very confident in being able to offer potential employers a good range of other highly marketable skills, such as a talent for clear expression; putting ideas and arguments forward in a concise and professional manner; collecting, investigating and assessing complex bodies of material; the ability to synthesise and communicate effectively, packaging such information into accessible forms; generating new ideas and informed conclusions based on original research; and organising material in a logical and coherent way.
3. It Develops Your Critical Thinking: A training in the study of History enables you to think critically and independently, either as an individual or as part of a team. Taking the lead-role in a team, for example, is a highly-prized skill for employers and they often look for evidence of this on your C.V. In response to this, History students at Kingston University are also encouraged to think about and gain experience in the ‘hands on’ practical skills of presentation and public communication, such as debating, report-writing, speech-making, pod-casting, website design, and film-making. Phew! I could go on…
4. You Become Calm Under Fire: To employers who recruit graduates in any discipline, such skills will often be more important than the actual subject a student has studied. On the other hand, I would argue that History students, because of the very nature of the subject they have become experts in over the course of three years, can often bring to their workplace important additional skills which other graduates simply lack: considerable self-discipline (gained through hours of patiently working your way through primary documents or weighing up one historian’s interpretation against another); the ability to be ‘calm when under fire’ i.e. deal calmly with tight deadlines when under stress (efficient time-management, planning and multi-tasking become almost second-nature to a History student!); and a highly flexible approach (which comes from our History students being strongly encouraged to view topics from a variety of different and exciting perspectives and angles, gained through writing essays, or blogs, or reports, or completing projects).
5. A History Degree Will Boost Your Career Prospects: So… where do Kingston’s History students end up when they step out into the wider world? A significant number opt for careers in the heritage sector, teaching, the civil service, local government, public sector administration, publishing, advertising, retail, business, the police and the Armed Forces. Common professions also include banking, journalism, and law. The legal profession, for example, simply loves History graduates. Why? Because they are prized for their analytical and critical reasoning skills, which are highly valued, and their ability to make a case in favour of or against something.
If you have a passion for the past, love a challenge, and enjoy communicating and debating, then a degree in History is a great choice. And Kingston University, with its river-side location near the Thames, it’s closeness to historic Hampton Court, and being just a stone’s throw away from the lovely Richmond Park (and also just a few miles away from central London), can be a real passport to a wonderful career. Check us out!
Dr. Steve Woodbridge is Senior Lecturer in History at Kingston University