What Can You Do with a Degree in History?
Just about whatever you want to do. The analytical and expository skills that the study of history develops are essential to success in virtually all lines of work or study. The career choices of recent Northwestern history majors include broadcasting, business, consulting, finance, foundation work, international relations, journalism, law, medicine, the military, museum management, philanthropy, politics, public service, publishing, research, and teaching. The liberal arts are the best training for a leadership role in life, and no discipline is more central to the liberal arts than history.
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Why Study History?
Individual reasons for studying history vary. Some people look to the past to answer moral or political questions. Others are curious about a particular topic or period they have encountered in high school classes, books, movies, or museums. Still others are driven by questions about their family's background or their own identity. All are valid reasons for studying the past.
History provides one of the most wide-ranging and varied courses of study. You can select topics ranging from Early Modern Britain to American Slavery to Twentieth-Century China. Methods for studying history include everything from reading novels to using economic models. This area of study is therefore one of the best foundations for a broad liberal education. Our major and minor encourage students to study a range of areas and periods while providing plenty of opportunities to pursue specialized interest and individual research.
The study of history is one of the best ways to acquire fundamental intellectual skills. In your classes you will discuss questions such as: Why did a revolution happen in this country rather than another one? Why were women denied the vote for so long? How did people understand death in the Middle Ages? Answering such questions, whether in class or in papers and examinations trains you to do research, to organize information into an argument, and to present your conclusions in a clear and logical fashion.
A history degree offers excellent preparation for graduate or professional school. A small number of our majors go on to become professional historians. For most majors and minors, training in history provides a strong background for further study and careers in such fields as law, teaching, journalism, or business.
Who Studies History?
Each year more than 4,000 students from every school at Northwestern enroll in history courses. Most of these students are non-majors who wish to satisfy their historical curiosity, and the History Department offers courses suitable for students of all skill levels.
100-level courses are seminars designed to introduce students to the techniques of historical analysis. 200-levels are survey lecture courses, designed to introduce students to the substance of large historical fields. 300-level courses cover smaller fields and are distinguished from 200-levels mainly by being narrower in scope. Many 300-level courses require a higher degree of sophistication in skills and knowledge; thus, students who are unsure of their background in a field should consult the course description and/or the instructor. In most cases, though, it is not necessary to take 200-level courses before enrolling in 300-level courses, and students who have excelled in AP History should feel confident taking 300-level course offerings. 400-level courses are designed for graduate students, but on occasion exceptionally well qualified undergraduates may take them if they have received the permission of the instructor.