Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, Conan O’Brien, Martha Stewart, and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar; what do they all have in common? Besides being famous, each person listed majored in history during their undergrad college years.
History is commonly thought of as “the boring subject,” with seemingly endless names, dates, and events to memorize. An information overload often leads students’ minds to wander to the inevitable question we have all asked at some point or another: Do I really need to know this?
Well, it may not be important for YOU, the pre-med or graphic design major, to know exactly which route Hernando de Soto took on his conquest of the Southeastern United States, but it is important for somebody to know it. Historians are changing the world and how we view it every day, little by little, whether you realize it or not.
Think about it: How do you know that revolutionary ideas came about in the American colonies decades before the actual war? Did you go back and read through diaries from the 1700’s to see how colonists built towards revolution? Would you? Trust me, digging through stacks and stacks of barely legible old-style cursive and crinkling paper is not the easiest thing to do.
So why do Historians do it? We do it so that you can have a textbook to read about these events and ideas and how they evolved. Historians are the ones responsible for your stereotypes of The Dark Ages, Victorian England, and even The Old South. They did the research and reported their findings so that we, today, could have an idea of where we come from.
Being a history major does not mean you have to be a historian or a teacher, though. My typical conversation goes along these lines:
John Doe: “Oh, you’re in college? What are you studying?”
Molly: “I’m a history major at MC!”
John Doe: “Man, I loved/hated (it’s always either one or the other) history. What do you want to do, teach?”
Being outside the field, I can see where you non-history majors see there is nothing to do outside the field besides teach; what else is there?
There is an array of jobs for history majors, and they are not just limited to teaching! I mean, look at Conan or Kareem! When I graduate, I plan to go on and earn my Master’s degree in American History. After that, I can choose to teach, or I could be a Chief Executive Officer of a company. I can name ten major corporations whose CEO’s were history majors, and for a very good reason.
Being a history major at the bottom of a company gives you an edge. In school, you learn to be more inquisitive than the people around you, consistently asking “why?” or “how?” The workload at the “bottom of the food chain” would be nothing new for a history student. It is only two months into the semester and I have read five history books and written… I lost count of how many papers.
Speaking of which, being a history major requires you to be extremely efficient and resourceful. Being able to retrieve the important parts of an article/book (or in the business world, a report) saves the company time, money, and effort; this is something your boss will notice.
Besides enhancing my reading and writing skills ten-fold, being a history student has also boosted my communication skills. An idea or information about a historical event in your head is good and all, but it is virtually worthless unless you can communicate it and its importance.
You have to be able to catch an audience’s attention and hold it; this is something many history teachers today lack.
I am not trying to say that history is the greatest major a student could have; everyone is made for something different. However, I adore my field of study.
I enjoy reading about those who came before me, how they chose to live their lives, how they viewed society, miracles, devastations, and what it all meant to them. It is story time in history class, so listen up! It is the story of Alexander the Great, Christopher Columbus, JFK, me and you, and everyone in between. It is OUR story.
– Molly Conway, Contributing Writer