Imagining New Careers in Public History

A working group

Careers *for* historians, or careers *as* historians?

An appreciation of long-term perspective and the source-critical analytical skills public historians have worked to attain are useful in many fields, especially in our ‘knowledge economy’. (I also think Will’s suggestion of project management is a great one.) In the longer term, as Michael says, perhaps the bigger problem is how historians can realistically break into these other career paths. This will involve ourselves and our professional bodies doing a better job of letting other fields/industries/professions know ‘what we can do for you.’

But I’m struggling a bit with thinking about ‘specific paths’. There seems to be another question here. Are we discussing careers *for* historians, or careers *as* historians? I’ve met historians that absolutely love history and can’t think of doing anything else outside traditional conceptions of ‘being a historian’, and historians who love the process of creating history but can’t see where they could translate and use these skills elsewhere.

So for me, this is not simply a question of ‘new careers’, but also what historians see as ‘working in history’. Is bringing our historical skills to other careers enough? Or are we also concerned with preserving our identities as historians?

I know the vphd website was mentioned before, but it features accounts of humanities graduates successfully working as;

business analysts,


corporate researchers,

grant writers

all taking advantage of historians’ skills. But are these professions where public historians are ‘most needed right now’? Probably not. But are these jobs that historians can realistically get right now? I think so.




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5 thoughts on “Careers *for* historians, or careers *as* historians?

  1. angifullerwildt on said:

    I’m glad that you brought this up. I did think that our group would be imagining new careers for public historians “as” historians rather than in other fields when I first read about this working group topic. I think that many, if not most, of my fellow students intend to find work as public historians. While their skills are certainly applicable in the fields mentioned, I would like to see if we can put our heads together to brainstorm about new areas where they could work in their field.

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