How to become a Historian

Historians conduct research into past human activity, including the history of countries, organisations, periods of time, buildings, cultural heritage, particular events, people, and ideas or issues.

Personal requirements of a Historian

  • An inquiring mind
  • Interested in human behaviour, society and politics
  • Interested in the lessons of the past
  • A thorough approach to research and problem-solving
  • Good written communication skills

Education & Training for a Historian

To become an historian you usually have to study history at university, preferably at honours level. Most historians then undertake a masters or doctoral degree, where they conduct research and, in most instances, write a thesis in their chosen subject area. Subject areas are diverse and include ancient history, Asian history, women's history, Indigenous history, environmental history, economic history, medieval and Renaissance history, public history, applied history, modern history and the history of nations. To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. Most universities in Australia offer degrees with a major in history. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Historian

Historians may perform the following tasks:

  • examine, assess and interpret evidence of past events by consulting and studying the works of other historians and researchers, using sources of information such as archives, diaries, manuscripts, reports, statistics, artefacts, images, works of art, photographs, letters, newspapers, magazines and journals, and interviewing people
  • organise information, check it for accuracy, interpret details, suggest theories and make conclusions
  • present findings and conclusions through reports, the media (digital and print), journal articles, books, lectures and museum exhibitions
  • act as an adviser or consultant to government, commercial and private organisations, societies, churches and individuals
  • perform research and/or teach at institutions such as universities and schools.

Employment Opportunities for a Historian

Historians are often self-employed, working on a contract basis on a succession of projects across a range of historical subjects and fields. Others are employed as lecturers, tutors and researchers by universities, research institutions, heritage organisations, libraries, museums, archives, advertising agencies, businesses and public record offices. Many work in local, state and federal governments in administrative, research and policy roles where they can use their research and social data analysis skills. Some undertake further study to gain employment as teachers in secondary schools. Historians usually specialise in a particular geographical region or period of time and study aspects such as politics, culture, law, ideas, economics or sociology.

Additional Information
After obtaining a degree in history, it may be possible to have your qualifications recognised by Professional Historians Australia. Visit their website (www.historians.org.au) for further information.
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