Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

Careers in History

History teaches us to think historically, to see issues and societies in historical context. Just as we learn about individuals through their personal stories, so we become familiar with issues and societies through their histories. History leads us to a realistic appreciation of our own time by studying the past and enabling us to measure it against other times and societies. From history we develop a desire, and a method, to understand peoples and cultures, a mentality of great importance in our own pluralistic society and global world. History instructs us about the complexity of human affairs and helps us avoid oversimplification and stereotypes in our thinking. These are only a few of the educationally liberal attitudes and values that the study of history imparts. They enrich us as human beings and are valuable in any career or profession.

History and the Professions

The study of history develops precisely those skills of evaluation and analysis that will provide a firm foundation for any professional career. The work of the historian is to present analyses and conclusions based on evidence gathered and evaluated on the basis of established principles. No other undergraduate discipline will provide more practical experience in presenting and defending written and oral arguments. While other disciplines develop writing skills or understanding of political behavior, history combines the skills of these other disciplines with the added dimensions of the vast time span of human existence, and the breadth of view of a global perspective.

Superior Pre-Professional Preparation

In conjunction with the university's widely respected Core Curriculum, a major in history will provide the pre-professional student with a superior background for the pursuit of a career in any profession that requires skills in evaluation and analyzing evidence and data, as well as the ability to present one's analysis concisely and convincingly, both orally and in writing. These are the skills of the historian.

There are many options available to students who graduate with an undergraduate major in history. Whether in the public or private sector, historians can use their liberal arts training in a variety of situations and careers. Trained to be effective communicators, history graduates will have gained sharp critical thinking, analytical and writing skills.

Transferable Skills

Many of the skills historians develop while in school benefit them in the workplace. Research skills are just one example. Researchers need to formulate questions, create methods to find the correct answers and apply the findings to contemporary society. These skills are essential to the history profession, but also serve other careers in the public and private sectors. Historians with these qualities can find placement in the corporate setting, in a private history firm or as a journalist, for instance. Historians also are taught to be effective communicators, and good writing is essential in any profession. Below you will find more specific career paths for those with history degrees.

Business and the History Major

Of Loyola's history graduates, 39 percent have followed careers in business and management. A history major's training includes practice in the clear oral and written formulation of problems and solutions, analyses of causes and effects, experience with concise written arguments supported by empirical evidence and a sensitivity to different social and cultural points of view: all important skills and attitudes for a business career. The Loyola history major has a specific opportunity to study the modern urban cultures in which many contemporary businesses operate.

Students interested in both history and business, or in pursuing a business career while majoring in history, might consider a minor in the Quinlan School of Business. The following courses, recommended by the School of Business, would give history majors an attractive grounding for business employment:

  • Accounting 201: Introductory Accounting I
  • Economics 201: Principles of Economics I, and/or
  • Economics 202: Principles of Economics II
  • Information Systems 247: Computer Concepts and Applications
  • Finance 332: Business Finance
  • Legal Environment of Business 315: Law and the Regulatory Environment of Business
  • Management 301: Managing People and Organizations
  • Marketing 301: Fundamentals of Marketing

History Major for Pre-Law Student

A major in history provides you with an outstanding background for a career in law. Listen to the words of several lawyers (and former history majors) practicing today:

"The study of history enhanced my skills as a lawyer by requiring close reading and careful writing, and teaching me that, in arguing a point, eloquent phrasing is no excuse for inadequate support."
—J. T., Chicago lawyer, bankruptcy and insolvency law
"Much of the law is based on precedent, reviewing and analyzing what previous courts have done under similar circumstances. A lawyer has to understand the decisions of those prior cases, appreciate the context and trace the development of the law through to its current holdings. This is the historical method, par excellence, for which the undergraduate study of history provides, if not the only, then the best preparation."
—T.D.R., Chicago lawyer, intellectual property law
"My undergraduate study of history served me well in law school--and beyond. It required me to consider a particular set of facts (or, in many circumstances, competing versions of "facts"), draw conclusions as to their causes and effects, explain away or, at least, criticize alternative theories, and articulate my thoughts in writing."
—E.D.J., Chicago lawyer, professional liability insurance

Loyola's Department of History provides an excellent background for both law school and the legal profession. History 372 and History 373 are devoted to American constitutional and legal history. Moreover, apart from specific courses, historical research in every history course is very close to legal research; in history you use "primary sources" from the time period you are studying; in law, you work with the "case law" of the past to argue your present points. Close reading of texts and the analytic skills needed to make sense of them are the same for both. This is probably why history majors have among the highest admission rate to law school.

The American Bar Association advises against specifically "pre-law" courses. Instead, history majors prepare for legal careers by developing their research, writing and analytical skills. The small size of the department's 300-level courses allows close interaction between students and faculty, which is very useful when you need letters of recommendation.

History majors interested in law school are strongly urged to engage in law-related internships during their junior and senior years. Some such internships can gain academic credit through the Internship in History Program. Such work experience (1) helps you decide whether you really want a legal career, (2) makes it easier to find legal work after graduation and (3) helps you get into a good law school.

A number of organizations in the Chicago area have student internships in law and government. They include:

  • Government agencies, such as the US State Department; the Mayor's Office's Department of Policy; Cook County State's Attorney; US Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Legal Assistance agencies: Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago; Loyola University Community Law Center and Child and Family Law Clinic; Centro Romero (immigration assistance); Cabrini Green Legal Aid Center

In order to obtain the most desirable internships, you should plan ahead. History majors interested in a pre-law internship should meet with the department's internship coordinator as well as their departmental advisor for assistance in finding an internship and preparing a resume.

Sample History program for those planning on a career in law:

Freshman Year

Fall European History Core (HIST 101, 102 or 106) 
Spring American History Core (HIST 103, 111, or 112)

Sophomore Year

Fall Non-Western History Core (HIST 104 or 108)
History ___ (300 level Pre-1700 European History)
Spring History
History ___ (300 level elective)

Junior Year

Fall History ___(300 level course in U. S. History)
History 291 (Junior Colloquium)
Spring History ___ (300 level Post-1700 European History)
LSAT Preparation: Send in your registration for the June
LSAT by April; take a course in LSAT preparation (optional)
Summer Take LSAT in June; Release college transcripts to LSDAS; Request applications from law schools.

Senior Year

Fall History ___ (300 level course in Africa, Asia. Latin America or the Middle East)
History ___ (300 level elective)

Last chance to take LSAT or retake LSAT

September—solicit three faculty members to write letters of recommendation on your behalf.

October (if possible)—submit law school applications
Spring February—File forms for financial assistance; Check law schools to be sure your application is complete.

Important Pre-Law Links

  1. Loyola-recommended timetable for pre-law majors
  2. Recommendations for prelegal education from the American Bar Association
  3. Information about the LSAT exam, including online registration and sample exam: Law School Admission Council
  4. Legal Resources Guide links to many pre-law Websites, including several related to financial aid, law school rankings and LSAT commercial preparation programs.

Secondary School Teaching and the History Major

Students interested in teaching history at the secondary or middle school levels can complete their State of Illinois Secondary Teaching Certificate at the same time as their history major. (Note that secondary certification in Illinois requires a major in an academic discipline such as history.) Students who do so will be qualified for a teaching job immediately after graduation.

It takes careful planning to complete certification and a major within four years. If you're interested, speak with your department advisor and contact Charles Tocci at the School of Education at 312.915.6865 or ctocci@luc.edu as soon as possible.

Advanced Degrees in History

History majors should also consider graduate study in history at Loyola. Loyola's graduate history program includes master's and doctoral level degrees in American and European history. Students may also want to consider a career in Public History, a discipline which entails the application of the skills and methods of history to the study, management, preservation and interpretation of historical records and artifacts. Public historians put their skills to work in a variety of professional situations: archives, museums and historical societies, historic preservation and cultural resource management program, local, state or government research, or neighborhood and community projects. Recipients of advanced degrees in history can teach at the secondary, high school or university level, and have the option to apply their master's or doctorate to any number of professional careers.

For more information on careers in general, and for help with resume preparation, visit Loyola's Career Center.