Career Options

History provides a broad, liberal arts education that serves as an excellent foundation for careers in almost any industry. Historians learn to gather, synthesize, analyze, and interpret evidence; they become skilled in presenting their conclusions to a general audience in a lucid and logical manner. Learn more about the five key skills the history major develops and that prepare history graduates for a wide-range of careers. The history major at Cal Poly also includes studying a language other than English. Language skills opens exciting career possibilities, especially in government service and international business. 

Majoring in history is excellent preparation for students interested in a teaching career, the legal profession, museums, or advanced work in the discipline. But even more of our alums go on to have exciting careers working in sales, HR, or project management in Big Tech; as change agents in non-profits and government agencies; as communicators and analysts for media and research firms; as public servants in state, local, and federal government; and as administrators in higher education and cultural institutions. Cal Poly history students frequently attend graduate school within a few years of obtaining their BA. They attend programs ranging from museum studies and library science to public policy and business administration (MBA).  The learn-by-doing ethos that permeates the history curriculum helps prepare students regardless of whether they attend graduate school or start their career after graduation.

Career Planning

Majoring in history provides a foundation relevant to careers in almost any industry you can imagine. But the breadth of options available to students can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. Cal Poly’s Career Services, the American Historical Association, and the curriculum of the history major itself helps students explore their options, develop a plan, and pursue their goals.

Cal Poly Career Services

Cal Poly Career Services offers a wealth of resources for identifying, pursuing, and achieving your career and professional goals, whether those involve full-time work or graduate school after Cal Poly.Career Services offer  resources for exploring potential careers, including offering data on career trends, online alumni mentoring platforms (Cal Poly Career Connections), and self-assessments that will help you determine your professional strengths and passions. Career Services can help you craft a  resume and cover letter, search internships or full-time jobs, and practice interviewing skills. They also offer support to students navigating graduate school applications. Career Services organizes Grad School month each October, and throughout the year students can visit Career Services for help identifying relevant programs, exploring funding for graduate school, and drafting a personal statement. 

Students have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Career Counselors. In addition, Career Services organizes a steady stream of events throughout the year, including informational panels with alumni and employers, networking opportunities, and career fairs.

American Historical Association Publications

The American Historical Association recent  “Careers for History Majors” (2019) offers students a thorough and thoughtful guide to the many careers that history majors across the country pursue.

Although older, the AHA’s “Careers for Students of History” is also worth a look.

Career Development within the History Major

The Cal Poly history major has built into its curriculum several opportunities to explore potential career paths, enhance your resume, and build your professional network. In HIST 100 (required of all majors), history students are guided through initial career exploration and encouraged to use those experiences to inform their academic and extra-curricular activities during the remainder of their time at Cal Poly. HIST 100 typically includes a visit from a member of Career Services, discussion of the wide-ranging careers history majors pursue, and opportunities to interact with history alums to learn about their career trajectories.

The Cal Poly history major has a well-developed internship program, that offers majors the ability to earn 400-level course credit for their internships. Research has shown that internships not only enable students to explore potential career fields and build their resumes, but they also increase students’ employability after graduation. One recent survey found that 94% of hiring managers said they would be more likely to hire a recent graduate who held an internship.

The Cal Poly History Department has established internships with dozens of community partners in SLO County including opportunities with Hearst Castle, other local museums, archives, educational institutions, and cultural centers. History majors regularly intern at the local district attorney’s office, the Family Law Self-Help Center, and local non-profits.

Additional Academic Opportunities to Explore

The history major is among the most flexible majors at Cal Poly, because it includes a large number of free electives and upper division electives. History students at Cal Poly are encouraged to use this curricular flexibility to enhance their preparation for the next stage of their professional or educational journey.

Cal Poly history majors often declare a minor, and sometimes even two or three minors. The department encourages strategic minoring: combining the History major with a minor that highlights complementary skills and knowledges. For example, a History major might complete an Economics, Entrepreneurship, Statistics, or Event planning minor. Other popular minors among history majors include English, Law and Society, Political Science, one of the four Science, Technology, and Society minors, and the minors offered by the World Languages and Cultures Department. All minors offered at Cal Poly are open to all students, regardless of their major or college.

History majors have the opportunity to use their many elective units to take professional development courses offered in other departments. BUS 206: Business Professionalism and Career Readiness, for example, is designed for business majors but open to all students. It provides an academic space for students to explore their professional goals as well as cultivate practical skills like resume writing and interviewing. Other courses to consider include BUS 204: Financial Literacy (B4); BUS 212: Financial Accounting for Nonbusiness Majors; advanced coursework in a foreign language, statistics, and courses in the Technical and Professional Communication certificate program.


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