Do you have good research skills and an interest in history, human behaviour and politics? If yes, a career as a historian might be ideal for you.
Historians study, research, and analyse historical artefacts and documents. They prepare findings and present them in an interactive and easy-to-understand way to a wide range of audiences.
To work as a Historian, you need an undergraduate bachelor's degree in history, like a Bachelor of Arts (History). Postgraduate and doctoral studies in history are also common to work in this profession.
Keep reading to discover the role, daily responsibilities, skills, education, earning potential, and the steps to pursue a historian's career.
1. What Is A Historian?
Historians research past human behaviours and activities, including the history of countries, people, organisations, buildings, cultural heritage, periods, particular events, and issues or ideas.
Historians have expert skills in identifying, amassing and comprehending research materials. These include historical documents, newspapers, photographs, records, diaries, books, films, letters, and artefacts to discover new facts.
They share their findings on historical events in suggestive and accessible ways to audiences in a book, an exhibition, a report, promo material, a display, a heritage guide, a collection of oral histories, or a website.
2. What Does A Historian Do?
The duties of a historian vary based on their specific area of expertise, their employer, the type of historical research they conduct, and the mode of conducting research.
Their most common day-to-day duties include:
Assess the authenticity and accuracy of historical sources
Evaluate and interpret historical, sociological, political, linguistic, and anthropological data
Examine historical sources and evidence such as artefacts, diaries, archives, reports, statistics, manuscripts, images, artworks, photographs, newspapers, magazines, journals, court records, letters, historical indexes, catalogues, and archives.
Plan questions and record interviews
Record conclusions in history books about places, times, people, and other history-related topics
Write scholarly articles to be published in academic journals.
Attend seminars and conferences to present findings
Present findings through books, reports, journal articles, the media, walking tour app, museum exhibitions, websites, information pamphlets, and lectures
Study the works of other researchers and historians
Perform research and teaching at academic institutions
Act as a consultant or an adviser to the government, private organisations, commercial organisations, churches, individuals, and societies
Listen to transcripts and recordings from primary sources.
Prepare educational coursework
Work as a history tutor or lecturer at a public school, university, or community college using research-based teaching methods.
Liaise with professionals in the field
Undertake thorough research
3. What Skills Do You Need To Be A Historian?
The skills and attributes of a professional historian are vital in documenting, understanding, and presenting history on various levels and in a wide range of areas.
Here are the most desirable skills to work as a historian:
Enjoy interpreting data to recover historically significant information
In-depth working knowledge of history and archaeology
Excellent academic writing skills to write about their findings
Attention to detail
Comprehension reading skills to analyse historical records, artefacts, and documents
Good Analytical skills
Strong research skills
Able to think abstractly
Curiosity for historical matters
A detailed approach to problem-solving and research
Good communication skills
Able to evaluate conflicting historical accounts
Software skills to create presentations and use archival databases and reference software
Information cataloguing and retrieval skills to maintain artefacts and records properly
4. Historian Qualifications In Australia
Do you want to know how to become a historian researcher? To work as a historian in Australia, you need at least an undergraduate Arts degree in history.
Most historians also pursue a master's qualification to explore a specific topic/ field in more detail and gain a competitive edge.
17 years or over
Obtain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education in English
Complete a Bachelor of Arts qualification in history (such as Australian, European, or Asian History). Complete an honours year to gain professional recognition upon graduation.
Earn a master's or doctoral degree by researching and preparing a thesis on a chosen subject. Though optional, it can extend your research, writing, and analysis skills and improve your career prospects.
Seek out internships and placements to gain work experience. You can contact museums, government institutions, and heritage associations.
Joining Professional Historians Associations can help you stay updated with the latest developments in your area of expertise.
5. Steps To Become A Historian In Australia
Step 1: Become A Passionate Reader
Students at all grade levels should develop a habit of reading a wide range of historical texts and records on a broad array of topics and thoroughly comprehend their meaning.
With constant practice, they will learn how to synthesise information from various sources, read between the lines and formulate ideas about how people used to live in the past.
Step 2: Find A College And Complete Formal Education
High school graduates should research schools and universities with highly regarded history departments. Some universities also provide financial assistance, scholarships, grants, and loans to help students cover their shortfall in financial resources.
To be a professional historian, you need an Honours degree or equivalent from a recognised tertiary institution.
Undergraduate students can choose from history fields that interest them, such as Australian, European, or Asian history. The course helps develop essential research or practical skills indispensable to this role.
Step 3: Gain Work Experience
The job market for historians is highly competitive. Due to this, aspiring historians studying for their bachelor's degree should look for internships, volunteer work, or paid work in the field.
It will equip them with the work experience, information, and skills they need to enter and thrive in this profession.
There may be few opportunities to get paid for entry-level positions. Still, volunteer work and internships in the field are relatively easier to find.
Some of the potential sources for internships include museums, historical research organisations, living history sites, and county historical societies.
Step 4: Complete A Master's Degree
Fewer jobs are available for historians with a bachelor's degree in history. That is why it is beneficial to undertake a master's or Doctorate.
It improves your employment prospects and equips you with historian skills in specific fields such as digital history, museums, radio, film and television, and heritage.
Do you want to know how to become a historian in a museum? You need to undertake a master's degree program in any of the following subjects:
Conservation of historical artefacts
Management of archives
Step 5: Join Industry Bodies
Become a member of the Professional Historians Association after graduating from your tertiary history course.
It is a thriving and dynamic community of professional historians trained in historical research methods and who possess expertise in various historical subjects.
Professional membership with PHA will benefit you in various ways, such as access to professional advice, a professional support network, the latest industry trends and developments, and, most importantly, accreditation for your qualifications.
Moreover, state and territory Professional Historians Associations also advertise employment opportunities for their members. It can help improve the chances of landing a job.
Step 6: Find Employment
Professional historians may work as contractors, consultants, or employees in government departments and organisations.
Opportunities for short-term, medium-term, and long-term consultancies and contracts are available in government bodies, archives, museums, heritage practices, and more.
6. Historian Courses in Australia
Considering a rapidly evolving job market, you must have the right skills.
Bachelor's and master's degree courses in history help candidates upskill or reskill to take their careers to the next level.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
Bachelor of Arts (History and Global Politics) – The University of South Australia
Bachelor of Arts (History) / Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) (History) - The University of Western Australia
Bachelor of Arts (Major: History) - The University of NotreDame Australia
Bachelor of Arts (History) – University of Southern Queensland
Post-Graduate Degree Programs
Doctoral Degree Programs
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in History and Archaeology - The Flinders University
Graduate Research Degrees in the School of History - ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
7. How Long Does It Take To Become A Historian?
You can become a historian with just a 3-years full-time bachelor's.
However, as many positions require a master's degree, you must complete a 3-year Master of Arts (History) qualification and gain work experience to work as a historian.
8. How To Become A Historian Without A Degree?
You need to have at least a Bachelor of Arts degree in the field of history to enter this profession.
To advance your career, you will need work experience as a historian and a Master's or a Doctoral degree in a specialised field.
9. Work Environment Of A Historian
Historians work full-time indoors or conduct fieldwork at a historical site.
It depends on the research they are involved in. Still, they may collaborate with government agencies, media consultants, and private/commercial organisations. The job requires travelling to carry out research.
10. Where Do Historians Work In Australia?
Professional historians work in a wide range of work settings, such as:
Public secondary schools and colleges teach history to students
Local, state, and federal government agencies and departments in research, administrative, and policy roles
Research organisations undertaking legal research
Media, creative or communication agencies
Public record offices
Cultural and Heritage organisations
Production studios - TV, film, and sound
Private and Commercial organisations
The profession allows historians to work independently on contract-based projects across various historical subjects. Self-employed historians work as:
Freelance writers who write histories for companies, interest groups, and schools
Independent consultants to conduct commissions for historical research and advise allied professionals such as archivists, archaeologists, town planners, valuers, and architects.
11. Historian Jobs In Australia
A career in history is vast and diverse. It comprises various fields such as modern history, ancient history, public history, women's history, history of nations, Indigenous history, Asian history, economic history, medieval and Renaissance history, environmental history, and applied history.
Based on their qualification, professional Historians can get hired in the following history degree jobs in Australia:
Cultural Heritage Specialist
Gallery or Museum Curator
Editor or Publisher
12. Areas Of Specialisations For Historians
Historians can advance their studies to work toward their ultimate career goals.
They can specialise in a specific geographical region or period or study aspects such as culture, law, politics, ideas, sociology, economics, archival science, library science, or museum studies.
Their study option depends on their interests and the facility they want to work in. Gaining specialised skills and knowledge can pave the road to a great variety of career paths:
University lecturer or College History Professor
Archivist or Archival historian
Museum Curator / Museum Conservator
Museum Exhibit Designer or Museum Content Creator
Federal, State, and Local Historians
Architectural Historians or Historic Preservation
13. How Much Does A Historian Get Paid In Australia?
The historian's salary and employment prospects largely depend on their qualification, experience, and the capacity they choose to work in as a historian.
The average historian's salary in Australia is $107,999 per year, equivalent to $55.32 per hour. Campbell ACT is the only city in Australia that pays the highest for Historians, i.e. $90,010 per year or $46.11 per hour.
14. Job Prospects For Historians In Australia
Entry into the job market is highly competitive as many historians compete for a low number of ancient history jobs in Australia.
In the coming years, some occupations in history will increase faster than the rest of the field. Technological advancements create higher demand in the museum industry and the archival field.
Thus, more career growth opportunities will be available for archivists, museum curators, and museum technicians compared to trained historians in other areas.
Historians in Australia work in various regions, particularly the Australian Capital Territory, which has a large share of workers.
The top industries that recruit historians include Professional, Scientific, Technical, Arts and Recreation Services, including Education and Training.
Around 49% of workers work full-time for 44 hours per week. With 63% of workers female, the profession offers favourable career prospects for female aspirants. The average age in this profession is 53 years which is high compared to the industry's average of 40 years.
Being a historian, you come across great life experiences that lead to self-realisation and personal growth. It is also fun to learn about prominent people, styles, cultures, and technology, represent diversity, and provide a perspective on the world.
The profession requires deep interest, professional training, impeccable historical research skills, and experience to evaluate past events and evidence critically.
Completing relevant formal studies at university is the perfect route to start your professional journey as a historian.
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