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  • Best Field of History to Study

    I figure this would probably be the right place to ask this. I'm currently looking at graduate schools for history, but it's in my nature to be a bit indecisive. I can't seem to focus on one aspect of history I'd like to study.

    Of course, I have my natural interests. I know a lot about American history but so does everyone else and I'd imagine jobs would be especially hard to come by in this category.

    For a while I wanted to do diplomatic history with a focus on the Caribbean, but I had to be honest with myself. I knew very little about the Caribbean and wasn't sure it would be interesting enough long-term.

    Atlantic studies has become popular of late, and some high profile historians are advocating for it, but to me it seems like it'd be another field that "everyone" does.

    I'm juggling my interests with career viability.

    For reference, I'd like to pursue a career in researching, or perhaps some government positions or working for think tanks. My BS is in history and political science (International Relations), so I'd love to work in the field of diplomacy or foreign relations. Lord knows we need some smarter people in those areas.

    I also have a high level of interest in military history. It seems like this field would have the least viability in the academic world but the most in the popular "real world."

    Can anyone give me some suggestions on fields of study that would be good to look into? Maybe some areas that they know employers are looking for more than others?
    Check out my e-book: The Spanish American War: A Brief History, available at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other retailers.

  • #2
    Welcome!!

    I would look at becoming an archivist to give yourself a broad view of what is out there. Military history has been down-played by most universities, which is unfortunate and unusual since military action has shaped our world more than any other man-made event.
    If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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    • #3
      I've been told some horror stories about military historians in universities, btu to be honest I would only consider a professorship as a fall-back career. I'd rather be out there making real contributions, whether it's doing research, advising a government official, shaping public perceptions, etc.

      It's not so unusual when you think about it. Most universities are overwhelmingly liberal and it seems that most military historians are at leats somewhat conservative. Combine that with the elitist feeling that "anyone" can teach military history, then it's easy to see why colleges don't feel the need to hire a military historian.
      Check out my e-book: The Spanish American War: A Brief History, available at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other retailers.

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      • #4
        Supply and Demand make it a tricky field to get into

        Most of the Hitory majors I have met drive trucks for a living, I took my education and became a librarian, working in conjunction with the History Channel locally. Being 30 minutes from Gettysburg made a big diference.
        "America has gone to hell since John Wayne died". - Al Bundy

        "One finger is all any real American needs"

        "A gesture is worth a thousand words - but you usually only need two"

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        • #5
          Yeah, location is important. I currently live in Mid-Michigan and have no illusions about pursuing a history career here. I plan on moving to the Pa/Md/Va part of the country. I figured if I can find work anywhere in the country doing history, it's going to be there.
          Check out my e-book: The Spanish American War: A Brief History, available at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other retailers.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Freightshaker View Post
            Welcome!!

            I would look at becoming an archivist to give yourself a broad view of what is out there. Military history has been down-played by most universities, which is unfortunate and unusual since military action has shaped our world more than any other man-made event.
            concur... but or in lieu of MS concentrate on a mil area and it's fundamental importance in world history...you can do this under the cover of a generalist and get it done with either an MA/MS/MLA in History or Political Science. I have the latter and the thesis both written and oral defence was in reference to Napoleon as a 'Combat Mentor".

            Been 16 years since i did that and it's only yesterday to me.

            good luck.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mojolocobell99 View Post
              Most of the Hitory majors I have met drive trucks for a living, I took my education and became a librarian, working in conjunction with the History Channel locally. Being 30 minutes from Gettysburg made a big diference.
              I'd have to concur with this approach. You're best bet is to become a librarian or even an independent scholar in regards to history. This is the path I'm trying to pursue right now.
              "To be defeated and not submit, is victory; to be victorious and rest on one's laurels, is defeat."
              --Marshal Józef Piłsudski

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              • #8
                Good question, and a forward-thinking one. A US history focus would be more employable (even a military history one) for certain career paths. A big source of employment for historians is consulting under the National Historic Preservation Act. It's like environmental consulting but for historical buildings, sites, etc. Obviously a US focus is useful there.
                But if international relations is more your goal, then a different regional emphasis would be better. There also more general, widely-applicable topics that could translate into marketable understanding but without limiting you to a particular region--histories of technology transfer, economic development, government programs, etc.
                Every 10 years a great man.
                Who paid the bill?

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                • #9
                  What is the competition like for work under the National Historic Preservation Act?

                  I suspect many (not all) history majors who can't find work only try to find work in their local museum or university. I'm hoping maybe I'll have better luck since I'm not necessarily trying to find work within academia.

                  I'd like to do consulting work, and independent scholarly work. How is that possible? Does anyone have any tips on breaking in? Places to look for work? Skills they look for, etc.

                  You guys are being a great help and I'd appreciate any more input you guys have.
                  Check out my e-book: The Spanish American War: A Brief History, available at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other retailers.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MV64 View Post
                    What is the competition like for work under the National Historic Preservation Act?

                    I suspect many (not all) history majors who can't find work only try to find work in their local museum or university. I'm hoping maybe I'll have better luck since I'm not necessarily trying to find work within academia.

                    I'd like to do consulting work, and independent scholarly work. How is that possible? Does anyone have any tips on breaking in? Places to look for work? Skills they look for, etc.

                    You guys are being a great help and I'd appreciate any more input you guys have.
                    I've thought about it (NHPS) but more from the surveying side. Surveying skills and historical knowledge would make a good background.
                    If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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                    • #11
                      MV64, I'm originally from Michigan also (Livonia) and now live in the Panhandle of WV, only minutes from the Antietam battlefield and within an hour or so of several other Civil War/Revolutionary War battle site's as well. I currently am obtaining a Master's degree in Military History. I have no idea what I'm going to do with this, maybe teach. I'm also a veteran and have applied for archive/historian/librarian jobs with the Federal Govt., to no avail so far. Currently I do freelance research and write the occasional article as well. My advice would be to make contacts in the history field when you can. I've found some research jobs helping some British historians that way.

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                      • #12
                        To Pyles Heroes,Ive written several magazine stories about Law enforcement.Want to write larger stories or maybe even try a book.However I want to write on Military history.How would you go about finding a subject to write about?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MV64 View Post
                          to be honest I would only consider a professorship as a fall-back career. I'd rather be out there making real contributions, whether it's doing research, advising a government official, shaping public perceptions, etc.
                          I would recommend studying the history and culture of one of the emerging powers - Brazil, India or China, or perhaps the study of Islam.

                          But please do us all a favour - don't just move from academia into public policy!

                          Spend some time doing a "proper" job - making a product or delivering a service that people actually have to choose to spend their money on.

                          I studied modern history, economics and politics. After 25 years in business, I can tell you for sure that a large part of theoretical economics is junk when you get to the coal face. I expect the same is true in most disciplines.

                          There is no substitute for real world experience. One of the worst features of the 20th century was the rise of the professional politician/public administrator.

                          Baldric

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by madmike View Post
                            To Pyles Heroes,Ive written several magazine stories about Law enforcement.Want to write larger stories or maybe even try a book.However I want to write on Military history.How would you go about finding a subject to write about?
                            Madmike,

                            When I start writing about something, I make sure that the subject is of interest to me first. Whether you are interested in weapons, strategy, tactics, medicine, or any of the other thousands of topics that involve military history, learn all you can about it. It should also have some appeal to other's, which usually isn't a problem since someone out there will obviously share an interest. Military history is such a broad subject, there's thousands of years behind it, so trying to find something to write about shouldn't be too difficult. What I've found to be difficult, from my experience, is that I concentrate mainly on America's role in military history, especially in the Second World War. This isn't a bad thing, if I have something new and interesting to say, but there are hundreds of people writing about America's role in the war also, and they may have already covered what I wanted to (and usually do a better job of it). So maybe what I'll have to start exploring is, for example, Italy's role in WWII more, or delve into some topic of the First World War comparing it to the Second. But just read all you can on what you're interested in, and look at the source material the author's use. If you disagree with what a certain author has to say, maybe you can write something that looks at the topic from another point of view, but make sure you can back it up. It's not a sin to go over and do what's already been done, or to even have a new view about it, but if you don't have anything new to say, it will make the subject matter seem old and stale.

                            As far as finding something new goes...well, that can be tricky. If you have an interest in modern era military history for example, find and talk to veterans who were there, see if there is anything in their story that maybe noone has heard of before. I recently interviewed a navy veteran from WWII that had Joe Rosenthal (the guy who took the famous Marine flag-raising photo) on his ship and played poker with for three months before the battle on Iwo. He had been interviewed before, but his life after the war wasn't covered. What I found out was that he used to be friends with celebrities like Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rooney, and Doris Day and dated some young actresses in Hollywood. That's a pretty interesting life that nobody really knows about.

                            So just go with what you're interested in and explore it and think on it and write your own views on it and see where that leads.

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                            • #15
                              To the OP, I am going of to univiersity next year and I will be studying history. Personally I like military history, and I know that Norwich University in VT offers a masters in military history (seen the ad on this site.) As for jobs, I plan on joining the British Army after school, but I think that the best route would be to think about high school histroy teacher or something along that line.
                              The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.
                              Ulysses S. Grant

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