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About Our Program

Why Study History at SIU?

Some people find it fun because they enjoy detective work and like to solve puzzles. others are fascinated with certain periods and places, with some of history's great dramas, or with the ebb and flow of events. However much we may want to, we cannot escape the relevance of history to our lives. Perhaps William Faulkner summed it up best when he commented, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." The past lives, and we study history to connect our past with our future and to give meaning to our present.

Here are some specific reasons why you will find studying history at SIU enjoyable and rewarding:

  1. You will study under a number of award-winning teachers
  2. SIU's history majors learn to "do history" with distinguished scholars, and earn credit with internships at local museums, law firms, legislative offices, businesses, non-profit organizations, here and abroad
  3. SIU has an active chapter of Phi Alpha Theta--the international history honor society
  4. SIU hosts the annual Southern Illinois Regional History Fair--the largest in the state—and students help with judging
  5. SIU's History Department offers a number of scholarships and prizes for deserving undergraduates
  6. The History Department publishes Legacy, a journal of undergraduate student scholarship
  7. SIU's history program helps prepare students for careers in:  education, research, writing and editing, information technology, government agencies, business, museum administration, and archival work

What Can I do with a History Major?

One of the most widespread assumptions among students and parents is that studying history only prepares future teachers.  A degree in history can prepare you for a career in teaching, if that's what you desire, but it can also equip you for a wealth of other careers.  The American Historical Association makes this point clearly in its pamphlet by Barbara J. Howe entitled Careers for Students of History.

This pamphlet is organized into seven chapters, the first one focusing on "Historians as Educators".  Here is a discussion of teaching opportunities at every institutional level, as well as at historic sites and museums.  The remaining six chapters, however, explain the many other kinds of jobs history majors most often obtain.  They include:  research work with museums, historical societies, or preservation societies;  writing and editing;  information managing in archives, libraries, or other records repositories;  advocacy work with public policy institutes, state legislatures, or grant agencies;  business;  and law.

Statistics about SIU's history alums support the above information.  A questionnaire was recently sent to all history students who graduated from SIUC in a five year period.  Of those who responded to the questionnaire, only one third were working in education.  The others were employed in a variety of occupational fields, including marketing, business, writing/editing, law, archival work, and financial services.

The main point made by these alums is that studying history teaches not only knowledge about the past, but also certain skills that are crucially important in most areas of the workplace.  In particular, history majors develop writing, analytical, organizational, and research skills.  Such skills are as important in business and government as they are in the classroom.

An interesting story confirming this point concerns a young history graduate who is now making $10,000 a week selling Belgian style French fries in New York [see Christian Science Monitor (9 November 1998) B7].  When asked to explain her success, she cited the research skills she learned as a history major.  These skills allowed her to identify social trends, and to compose a business plan whose thoroughness amazed Chase Manhattan bank.

For more information on careers in history and to see how many different careers a history major prepares you for, please visit:   http://www.historians.org/pubs/Free/careers/Index.htm.