When pursuing entrepreneurial goals, the benefit of a graduate degree — even one in history — is often underestimated.

A History Degree Gave Me the Tools to Live Well and Earn More

A History Degree Gave Me the Tools to Live Well and Earn More

CEE Standard: Earning Income

Do you have a student who is interested in a history degree? Share Cat’s story to help them decide if it would be a good fit or not. Many students go on to careers that have little to do with what they studied in high school or college.

This story will show your students why getting a history degree, or a degree in another field, might lead them to unique and unexpected career opportunities.

I went to graduate school to study American history. My plan at the time was to learn as much as I could about museums so that one day I could be a curator or a historian who helped the public learn more about their past.

While in graduate school, I took countless courses on gender studies, public history, the Civil War, material culture, the history of medicine, and more. I spent hours doing internships at museums, and I eventually landed a coveted job as a historian and interpreter for the National Park Service.

Of course, as you might have noticed, these days I make a living as a financial writer. My entire career path has shifted, and I spend every day thinking about budgets, bookkeeping, clients, and running a successful business. Because of this, I haven’t thought about the Civil War in a very long time, despite my years of training — both in undergraduate and graduate school — to do just that. Do I regret going to graduate school and racking up $39,000 of student loan debt in the process? Truthfully, I don’t regret it, although it’s been a process to get to this point.

Here’s why:

Reading and Writing Experience

If there’s one thing that a liberal arts program prepares you to do, it’s to write. While in graduate school, I wrote thousands upon thousands of words each week. It was also typical to read a book each week, digesting difficult articles on historical theory.

I think that time spent in grad school trained me well to be the type of writer that I am today. The deadlines for school papers prepared me well to meet deadlines for clients, and the fact that I had to constantly push through the night to finish papers on a multitude of topics helped me to learn how to balance demands from different clients.

Research Experience

There is a huge problem with online content in that people often just copy and paste whatever they feel like without properly referencing sources. Heck, most people don’t even know what a primary source is! This leads to a ton of misinformation that is made worse by social media amplifying it..

My history background has allowed me to avoid writing posts that aren’t up to par with journalistic standards. I learned how to research properly, how to delve into studies to find the correct stats and information, and how to present it in such a way as to convey accurate information to my readers.  As a result, my clients trust me and the quality of my work.

Curiosity About the World

This is perhaps the biggest and most important takeaway from my studies. The word history comes from the Greek word historia, which means “finding out.” Historians, by nature, question everything. We cannot help but delve deeper into even the most banal things.

Sometimes the historian in me takes over when I’m writing personal finance posts. I might write about credit cards, only to wonder when the first credit card was issued.

In short, I don’t regret getting that degree — expensive as it was — because I believe it makes me better at my job today. Studying business or finance might have helped me to understand the more difficult topics that I sometimes have to write about, but it’s my history background that gives me the ability to find the answers and write about them in a way that somebody else will actually want to read about.

Although I’m still paying back my graduate school debt, it’s easier to do now that I make four times as much money as I did when I worked at the Park Service. Sometimes I miss studying and learning about history, but in many ways, I know it’s never really left me.

Check List

  • Are you considering a history degree or some other specific degree that people might question?
  • What are some of the transferable skills you might learn from your studies?
  • Do you think that most people only ever work in the field they studied in college?
  • Do you think there is a more general degree that would be better for you?