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Careers in History

The study of history serves as excellent pre-professional training in a wide range of career fields that require skills in processing and presentation of complex information. Research, analysis and writing skills, together with intercultural understanding and the ability to come to balanced judgments of conflicting claims, are perhaps better developed by the study of history than by any other discipline. For these reasons, the major in history is highly valued as a foundation for graduate coursework in fields ranging from law to business and public administration. When combined with the appropriate technical skills, the study of history provides a superior foundation for a lifetime of achievement in almost any professional career.

Additionally, Oakland University's Department of History trains numerous students to serve as professional historians employed as teachers in high schools and colleges. Careers in college teaching and other forms of professional historical scholarship require post-graduate training.

I’m fascinated by the past. I’m fascinated by how people lived, what their lives were like. I’m really interested in what the past can teach us. I’m Nancy Zimmelman Lenoil. I was appointed by the Secretary of State to be the first woman to be State Archivist in California history. It didn’t take me very long to fall in love with Sacramento. It’s just a historically rich city. It’s the terminal point of the Transcontinental Railroad. It’s also very vibrant because it is the state capital. I think archivists perform a very valuable, valuable service. The records that any archives is preserving is something that’s gonna be used for five, ten, fifteen, fifty, a hundred years from now. There’s a tremendous ability to have long term impact. I still to this day enjoy having the ability to do my own research. More often than not, if I have the time, I will go look it up myself, I will go into the stacks, I will pull the information to find the answer that I’m looking for. It’s often, you open a box, you open a book, and you find something you don’t expect. The sense of discovery has never gone away. At Oakland University I was a history major. It certainly gave me analytical skills. I think probably the most important thing it gave me was research skills. It planted the seed for getting me to the point I am now. Because of my history degree, I’m accomplished.

Most history majors obtain jobs in the business world. History majors offer employers a broad range of skills: the ability to write effectively, research thoroughly, organize materials effectively and solve complex problems. The Department of History encourages students to combine their major with courses in pre-law, statistics, computer science, accounting and economics. Joined with technical skills in such areas, the traditional skills developed by the major in history provide a solid foundation for success in the job market.

The following is a sample of the career fields in which Oakland University history majors now work:

  • government service
  • university teaching
  • business management
  • the law
  • banking
  • research, political and statistical analysis
  • journalism
  • health care management
  • sales and marketing
  • insurance
  • the ministry
  • translation work
  • library management

To read about the successful career paths of just a few of the Department of History's distinguished alumni, see our alumni profiles.

Students are strongly encouraged to consider plans for summer internships and to begin working with Oakland University's Career Services office early in their educational program.

For additional ideas, you may want to check the following books:

Department of History

Varner Hall, Room 415
371 Varner Dr.
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-3510
fax: (248) 370-3528