`For Real': Top Jobs for History Graduates: David Nicholls Analyses the Potential Job Market for History Graduates. (Opinion Forum)

Article excerpt

`What's the use of that? What sort of job will it get you? Couldn't you do something more useful?' How often has someone said, or implied, something to that effect when you told them you intend to study history at university? What follows will give you the ammunition to answer them. For not only do history graduates enter an extremely wide range of careers, many rise to the very top. As Ali G, just one of many such successful history graduates, might say, `For real'.

Employment Prospects

Within a few months of leaving university, all but six per cent of history graduates have some form of employment, broadly in line with the average across all degree subjects. These are often temporary jobs that do not require a degree qualification. The main areas of employment six months after graduation are, in descending order: clerical and secretarial; commercial, industrial and public sector managers; retail assistants, catering, waiting and bar staff; business and finance; other professional and technical; marketing, sales, PR and advertising; clerks and cashiers; creative, design and sports professionals; nursing, health and childcare; IT; teaching; armed forces and public profession services; and engineering. However, a history degree is a sound basis for further career development and 30 per cent of its graduates pursue a postgraduate qualification (well ahead of the average of 19 per cent across all subjects) in vocational subjects such as law, accountancy, journalism, librarianship, teaching and IT.

Three years after graduation most history graduates are in more settled employment, in jobs that require their degree and in which they are using skills acquired in the course of their studies. Those who took a postgraduate qualification will be joining the professions for which they have trained. Only two per cent will still be unemployed. Hence, although a history degree is not job specific, its graduates have the skills that enable them to pursue a multiplicity of careers demanding a wide range of talents, and they do so extremely successfully in an open and competitive jobs market. This success can be illustrated with examples of those who have achieved fame in their chosen careers.

Famous History Graduates

Key positions in the media have been colonised by historians. They have a penchant for sports journalism--practitioners include the BBC TV correspondents Jonathan Legard, Martin Tyler and John Inverdale and the Radio 5 Live presenters Alan Green and Simon Mayo, previously a Radio 1 DJ. Regular TV appearances by news and current affairs presenters have made several history graduates household names: notably, Jeremy Bowen, Brian Walden, Bill Neilly and Dermot Murnaghan. We might reasonably add Jon Snow, though he was unfortunately sent down in 1970 following an over-zealous engagement with student radical politics. In addition, there are several history graduates in the entertainment media, such as Louis Theroux and Jonathan Ross, and the children's TV presenters Simon Thomas and Timmy Mallett. Behind the scenes are senior managers, such as James Moir, Controller, BBC Radio 2; Alan Watson, chair of the Corporate TV Network; Rachel Attwell, Deputy Head BBC TV News; John McCormick, Controller BBC Scotland; Lesley Anne Dawson, Head of the Press Office at ITN; and Sir Marmaduke Hussey, chair of the BBC Board of Governors from 1986 to 1996. There are also many academic historians who front or appear in programmes that popularise history, such as Michael Wood, David Starkey and Simon Schama. Keeping a watchful eye on much of this activity is Suzanne Warner, Deputy Chair of the Broadcasting Standards Commission. The press also boasts a fair number of historians. Two are particularly well-known: Peter Wilby, editor of the New Statesman, and David Montgomery, Director of News UK.

Many historians have attained distinction in politics. …