History Degree 101
“Simply put, the transferable skills that a history degree helps to develop and demonstrate are invaluable.”
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked what I plan to do with a history degree.
“Oh, so you’re going to teach?”
“Does that mean you’re going to work in a museum?”
It’s frustrating how much people who don’t study history disregard its value, both in life and employment. It was this frustration that inspired this blog post. But rather than dwell on employability, I thought I would take to the internet and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about studying a history degree. I will, of course be answering these based on my own experience at Warwick, and I hope that my answers can be of some use.
What’s a history degree like?
I guess the easiest way to answer this question is give an overview of my experience at Warwick so far!
Starting with an average week in the life of a first year, at Warwick I would have ten contact hours a week, made up of a combination of lectures and seminars. You can study two optional modules in your first year, and all first year modules are 30 CATS, meaning they last the full academic year.
As you progress through your history degree you’ll find that the modules become more specialised, allowing you to really study subjects in close detail. Or you can do what I have done, and mix and match modules based on my interests at the time! It’s really up to you and I have found Warwick to be the perfect place to explore history, both geographically and by era.
You will also notice the number of contact hours reduce as you progress and, as I go into my final year, my course is now solely seminar based, with at least three two-hour seminars a week.
As I’ve alluded to already, the minimal contact hours are a defining feature of history, and many other humanities subjects. You are expected to do a lot of independent work, be that reading for seminars, researching for and writing essays, or revising for exams. You are very much left to your own devices, and this has been one of the main factors that has encouraged me to develop as a person during my time at Warwick.
How hard is a history degree?
Like the subject, this is a very subjective question and is difficult to answer definitively. I have found that, in comparison to my friends studying STEM subjects, it has been a massive challenge to push myself from a 2.1 to a first due to the nature of my degree – there really is no right or wrong answer and the missing marks come down the subtleties of essay writing.
Sometimes, the amount of independent work can prove challenging, too, especially if you’re lacking motivation. It really tests your discipline and time management.
Overall, though, I would suggest that if history comes naturally to you at A-Level then you should be fine at university. Believe me, the jump from the GCSE to A-Level is a whole lot worse than that between A-Level and university.
How is a history degree useful?
Simply put, the transferable skills that a history degree helps to develop and demonstrate are invaluable. Here’s just a brief list of what you can gain from studying history:
- Critical reasoning, analysis, problem-solving, and creativity.
- Independence, time-management, and the ability to work without direct supervision.
- The ability to conduct detailed research.
- The ability to construct and clearly present arguments, both written and orally.
- The ability to approach new problems and situations with an open mind.
- Empathy and an appreciation of different factors that can influence activities of groups and individuals in society.
Where can a history degree lead you?
History’s lack of vocation can be a blessing and a curse. The skills gained as a history student pave the way to a plethora of careers, but often times there are simply too many to choose from. To give you an idea of what a history degree could do for you, here’s a list of the most recent jobs and employers of history students graduating from the University of Warwick:
Jobs: author, broadcast assistant, civil servant, digital marketing executive, NGO programme coordinator, teacher.
Employers: BBC, Barclays, Deloitte, EY, House of Commons, Macmillan Cancer Support, Ministry of Justice, Ofcom, Surrey County Council.
There are also a number of options for further study and conversion courses, including accountancy, journalism, law, librarianship, museum studies, and teaching.
I hope that this has given you some insight into what a history degree is like and what you can do with it after you graduate.
If were pressed to give one piece of advice to someone choosing a subject for university, it would be to pick something that you enjoy! You’ll be studying it for at least three years, after all.
For more information on this topic, see the links below.
Warwick, Department of History: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/prospective/undergraduate/employability/
Until next time,