What Is A Historian?

"I love history and learning about the many time periods of our past. I would like to pursue a career in history, and have heard of history majors becoming historians. What is a historian?"

asked by Jessica C. from Washington, D.C.

Making the decision to pursue a career in history is already an achievement in itself! If you enjoy history, then looking into a career as a historian may be a smart choice for you. A historian is a person who is has a very high level of knowledge in history, usually a focused time period or specific type of history, who researches and writes about the past. A historian has options for various occupations and generally has a graduate degree. Beginning your study of history and earning a bachelor’s degree in the area of history is the stepping stone to becoming a historian, as you will need to continue your educational path to receive the title of historian. If you love history, then you will be pursuing your dream occupation if you choose to become a historian!

A historian must have the knowledge of the past and have a deep understanding of the purpose of events in many different time periods and how they have played a role in today’s world. They hold a highly respected title, and they have earned it through their study of history in undergraduate college, and then graduate college, as most historians have a master’s degree or a doctorate degree. They are involved with the endless, systematic, and logical research and ideologies of our past and how it has contributed to present events.

Without historians, we would never know about key events and individuals that shaped our world today. Without historians, we would not have the understanding of different cultures and traditions around the world, and the effects in which they have on us.

In addition to having an all-encompassing knowledge of history, a historian also has a more acute and more intense understanding of a specific type of history. Historians focus on time periods of history from the ancient to the present, from all over the world. They also focus on types of history, such as political history, social history, cultural history, and economic history. Many historians delve in local history in the area in which they live in, such as genealogy and archeology. Whatever the historian is passionate about, they will find a way to study it and communicate their findings with others!

Historians also have certain methods of investigating and analyzing the past events. They want to find out answers to what happened, why it happened, and what role it had on shaping our lives today. In order to be successful in doing this challenging work, they must seek out and respect their sources. Historians have the knowledge to treat all sources with respect, always use researched-based and scholarly consideration in their studies, look at all evidence and do not allow personal feelings or emotions interfere with the process, never omit any document entries or parts of documents, and use their comprehension and understanding of authenticity of all sources.

Historians are indeed professionals, although many people regard them as enhanced storytellers. This is true, they do tell the stories of what happened and why it happened, but much research must be done behind the scenes before this can occur. Historians are also collectors of data and evidence, expert document handlers, educators, and trained authorities in the areas of what we would consider “the unknown.”

If you have a passion for history, and would like to study this subject in college and beyond, then this may be the perfect profession for you. Keep in mind, a historian’s work is never complete; once they finish their master’s degree and even their doctorate degree, the rest of their career consists of researching, analyzing, and synthesizing data. A historian is continuously learning, but is also proud of the achievements and findings, and is even more proud to share them with the world!

Career Spotlight: Historian

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