The History major is offered by a department within the College of Arts & Letters.

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

The Department of History offers a major and a minor designed for students with an interest in studying the past to inform the present and the future. History bridges the humanities and social sciences, and students gain practical skills through research, fieldwork, internships, and the laboratory application. The department offers opportunities for undergraduate research, independent study, study abroad and a concentration in public history to foster greater understanding of the resonance and relevance of history to our society today. Courses are taught by faculty specialists in all geographic areas and chronological periods from the ancient worlds to the present. The program provides a broad background for careers in business, nonprofit, industry, government, and tourism, and prepares students to continue studies in education, law, medicine, or other professions. The Department of History also offers and supports interdisciplinary minors in Africana Studies, American Studies, Asian Studies, Classical Studies, Environmental Humanities, Family Studies, Historical Archaeology, Social Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Middle Eastern Communities and Migrations, Modern European Studies, Russian Studies, Science, Technology, and Society, and Women’s and Gender Studies. 

More About the Field 

A knowledge of history is at the core of civic society and forms the foundations for informed and ethical civic engagement. The study of history involves asking critical questions and accepting the richness of interactions of societies and communities across the world. Historians narrate stories of the past and interpret them for the present and the future. They analyze cause and effect relationships. They explore the complexities of human experience. History is linked to every field; everything has a past. Historians seek to uncover those pasts and to provide signposts to engage the public and the academy on the path to the future. 


Historians may specialize in a specific country or region; in a particular period; or in a particular topical field. They may concentrate their research in a variety of methods from biography and cultural history to quantitative meta-history and digital history. They may specialize in public history and engagement or focus on a specific approach to historical studies from intellectual history to military history, from gender studies to history of science and technology. At JMU, History majors may choose to focus on public history or on licensure for public school teaching.  

Complementary Majors and Minors 

History is everywhere, always, and all encompassing. It bridges studies across the academic spectrum and combines with most disciplines as a second major or a minor with most disciplines. Some recent minors and majors students have combined with history include: Africana Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Asian Studies, Communication Studies, Conflict Analysis and Intervention, Criminal Justice, Cultural Communication, Economics, English, Environmental Studies, Geography, Middle Eastern Communities and Migrations, Global Religions and Global Issues, Health Sciences, Historical Archaeology, Human Resource Development, Humanitarian Affairs, International Affairs, International Business, Justice Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Management, Marketing, Modern Foreign Languages, Political Communication, Political Science, Public Policy and Administration, Russian Studies, The Natural Sciences, Sociology, Art, Urban and Regional Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication. 

Characteristics of Successful Students

Students enrolled in the History Program develop strong research, writing, analytical, and oral communication skills. They work in digital technologies, laboratory settings, and in the field. They develop abilities to solve problems and do independent research. Through their study of the past, history students gain perspective on the contemporary world and find the keys to solve real world problems. 


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive. 

  • Academic Counselor
  • Advocate
  • Archivist
  • Art Historian
  • Biographer
  • Business Executive
  • Citizen Outreach Director
  • Community Relations Director
  • Consultant
  • Consumer Advocate
  • Corporate Counsel
  • Credit Analyst
  • Cultural Affairs Director
  • Economist
  • Editor
  • Employment Consultant
  • FBI/CIA Agent
  • Film/Television/Media Historian
  • Financial Services Specialist
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Genealogist
  • Government Official
  • Health Service Manager
  • Historian
  • Historical Archaeologist
  • Historic Preservation Specialist
  • History Teacher 
  • Investigator
  • Lawyer
  • Legal/ Litigation Assistant
  • Legislative Assistant
  • Librarian
  • Lobbyist
  • Management Trainee
  • Market Researcher
  • Museum Curator
  • Museum Interpreter
  • News Reporter
  • Paralegal
  • Physician
  • Police Officer
  • Professor
  • Public Administrator
  • Public Affairs Director
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Publishing Assistant
  • Recruitment Officer
  • Regulatory Analyst
  • Researcher
  • Supervisor of Historic Sites
  • Technical Writer
  • Television Consultant
  • Wellness Coordinator

Who Employs Graduates?

Archives, Art Galleries, Banks, Book Publishers, Colleges/Universities, Corporations , Federal Government Agencies, (i.e. FBI, CIA, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), State/Local Government Agencies, Financial Services Companies, Historical Associations and Societies, Historic Preservation Offices, Insurance Firms, Intelligence/Security Agencies, Law Firms, Libraries, Magazine Publishers, Market Research Firms, Museums, Newspapers, Non-Profit Organizations, Private Foundations, Public/Private Schools, Public/Private Research Institutions, Religious Organizations, TV/Cable/Motion Picture Companies, and Travel and Tourism Companies. 

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

Practica, internships, and other forms of individual study are available to all students who are both interested and qualified. Students are encouraged to submit their research projects to regional and national competitions. Others regularly participate in programs sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta, Madison Historians, and The National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Students should contact faculty coordinators in their areas of interest to gain further information. History students have gained practical experience in a wide variety of settings ranging from museums, archives, and preservation organizations to publishing and historical research firms. Students should also consult the information on History Department Internships, and contact Dr. Kevin Borg, Internship Coordinator at 540-568-5761 or borgkl@jmu.edu. 

View our list of  internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Anthropologists and Archeologist
Curators, Museum Technicians, and Conservators
High School Teachers
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Middle School Teachers
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to career@jmu.edu

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