History – undergraduate degrees

history degrees

By Lauren Letch,

History is a subject that all UK students will be familiar with from as early as primary school, however, when taking it to university level, there are many options and various courses to be considered.

History is considered a traditional academic subject, yet this does not mean it is not an asset to your CV in the practical world of work. Studying history does not necessarily lead to being a historian or a history teacher as many are led to believe. As well as continuing into academic research, graduates often go into law, archives and politics as well as entering banking and the business sphere. This is due to the range of transferable skills developed in a history degree. An undergraduate history degree is about far more than knowing how many wives Henry VIII had, or the dates of the two World Wars. In actual fact, it has very little to do with knowing dates and names. More important are the analytical skills developed, your ability to effectively scrutinise sources and the ability to conduct your own effective research.

What type of history courses are available to you?

You can study straight history, but if there is a particular aspect of history that interests you, or perhaps a history related course not available to you at school, university is your opportunity to start looking into it. The study of classics and archaeology often comes under the school of history in many universities. Similarly, you can often take an undergraduate course in a more specific type of study, including economic history, social history or war studies. Likewise, history complements many subjects as a joint honours degree including languages, English literature and many other humanities and social science subjects such as economics and politics.

Studying history is will typically entail less contact hours than many other subjects (around 10 hours a week), yet this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work just as hard! History includes a lot of private study and lots and lots of reading so you need to have some self-motivation. University library resources across the UK are extensive and will usually stock what you need so don’t be too hasty to spend all your money on buying books. Assessments for history includes both essays and exams with most UK universities requiring a dissertation before graduation (excluding Cambridge which offers the option to take extra exams instead.)

Undergraduate history course examples

Below are some examples of degree that you can take in history and many closely related subjects you might come across whilst looking for a course,

LSE International history (BSc)
University of Glasgow Scottish history (MA)
Warwick University Renaissance studies (BA)
University of Reading Archaeology (BA)
Oxford Classics
University of York Double major history & another subject (BA)
University of Edinburgh Islamic & Middle Eastern studies

History courses in the university rankings

The Complete University Guide League Table 2014 - history

  1. Cambridge
  2. Duhram
  3. London School of Economics
  4. Oxford
  5. St.Andrews
  6. Warwick
  7. University College London
  8. Exeter
  9. Bristol
  10. Leeds

Guardian University Guide 2014 - history and history of art

  1. Cambridge
  2. St.Andrews
  3. Brunel
  4. London School of Economics
  5. Courtauld Institute
  6. Duhram
  7. Oxford
  8. University College London
  9. University of East Anglia
  10. King’s College London

Careers you can opt for with a history degree

History is a highly versatile subject that shouldn’t be written off as too academic for skills in the real world of work. The transferable skills developed are valuable in a wide variety of job positions, and the extensive study options available within the subject field of history means it is a subject worth considering for those who may want to study more than dates, monarchies and wars.

History graduates often go on to work in libraries, archives and museum exhibitions. Similarly, a move into politics and public policy is also highly accessible for those with a history degree.

However, beyond the more academic field of history, there are also opportunities to go into teaching and a very popular choice for graduates is to continue into law. These careers will entail some extra courses of study after your undergraduate degree is completed, such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or various law conversion courses including the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

In law careers there is no evidence that those who study the practice as a postgraduate are at all disadvantaged. In actual fact many employers will favour the diversity of your abilities acquired through a history degree. Perhaps more surprisingly, many history graduates also pursue jobs in the banking and finance sectors, business and even accountancy.

Ultimately, the skills acquired through studying history are extremely adaptable to various job opportunities and career paths. This is evident just by looking at the statistics. The average starting wage for a history graduate in the UK is £19,918 (The Complete University Guide 2010-2011) with 85.4% who study history entering employment in the first six months following graduation; making it the tenth best subject in regards to employment. (The Telegraph, 2013). So, if history is a degree you think you will enjoy, there is no reason not to pursue it!