My History Degree Hasn’t Opened Any Doors, But It Wasn’t a Complete Waste of Time
Hello, fellow history grads. *forms prayer circle*
Your measly, four-contact-hour weeks were the butt of countless jokes made at your expense by your sneering scientific counterparts, and the last three years of your life are difficult to remember seeing as you spent the lion’s share of them wrapped in a blanket in front of your laptop screen as each day blended into the next.
Yet despite these cumbersome travails, you completed your history degree and are now a fully-fledged graduate. Well done, you! But… what next?
Well, if the stereotypes are to be believed, we’re all just going to retreat to the tedious, padded cell security of the classroom to bore the bejesus out of countless generations of utterly uninterested schoolchildren. Or perhaps to a museum, where everything we’ve just spent 3 years learning about belongs.
That’s not strictly true, though.
Lots of us will try to enter into a plethora of different industries only to find that, without any relevant experience, we appear to be utterly unsuitable for everything other than the things we did a degree in order to avoid.
Stop being dramatic, I hear you saying. OK. But before I do, just know that, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, one-fifth of history grads – myself included – end up in retail, catering and bar work.
Not exactly what we thought we were getting out of a history degree.
I could spend the rest of this article moaning, but you’ve got your own problems and probably don’t want to hear me bleating away. So put your violins away and allow me to demonstrate what your history degree has done for you.
1. You’re a don at pub quizzes.
We historians take pride in being what Severus Snape would term “insufferable know-it-alls”. Whether its knowing the year the Magna Carta was produced, the name of the Beatles’ first number one hit, or who was Prime Minister when Theresa May was born, we’ve got it covered.
After all, history is literally the study of everything that’s ever happened, so history graduates are in their natural habitat within the sacrosanct setting of the pub quiz.
You’re highly unlikely to earn a living this way, but you do stand a good chance of winning a fair few hefty bar tabs if you can find yourself a decent team.
2. Reading for pleasure is now a dream.
Lets face it, reading occupied 90% of your study time. The stuff you read was dry, dense, analytic and often soul-destroying.
I lost count of how many times I stared blankly at my computer screen through tear-stained eyes, despairing at the seeming irrelevance of the millions of words before me.
Simply put, after reading forty-page academic articles by some balding middle-aged bloke trying to prove a correlation between seventeenth-century weather cycles in India and uprisings by the natives against their imperial masters, smashing out a chapter of an exciting novel is child’s play for you.
You’ll also find that you can read lightning quick, and that your ability to skim read is almost impeccable. You’re probably even doing it right now without noticing.
3. You can plan stuff easily.
Going back to the pitiful number of contact hours you had, planning your own schedule was absolutely essential. Not doing it would have led to failure, there’s no two ways about it.
In planning slots for reading for one seminar, followed by primary source analysis in the next and so forth, you probably mastered the art of organising your own life.
This is a genuinely invaluable life skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life. So next time a scientist makes a derogatory remark about your lack of contact hours, just let them know that you weren’t spoon-fed with lectures from 9 to 5 every day.
4. You’re a more rounded person.
This probably sounds pretentious at first glance, but hear me out. As the old adage goes, knowledge really is power.
It’s far too easy to reduce the usefulness of your degree to an income bracket. University is supposed to be a time of enrichment and new experiences, and in its own way, a history degree confers this more than most.
Excuse the cliché, but learning about totally differing perspectives, cultures and philosophical outlooks really does broaden your horizons measurelessly. And those that choose to do history aren’t motivated by money in any case.
Despite the gloomy tone we began with, I hope this was a game-changing morale booster for you. Chin up.