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Guide to studying History

Studying History will develop your ability to think critically about what happened in the past, and how this shapes people's lives around the world.

Old Cyrillic Manuscript on Church Pulpit


  1. What's History?

  2. Why study History?

  3. What jobs can you get as a History graduate?

  4. What do graduates do and earn?
  5. What qualifications do you need?

  6. What degrees can you study?

  7. How will you be assessed?

  8. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

What's History?

On a basic level, History is the study of what happened in the past. Historians use evidence to try to understand why people believed what they believed and why they did what they did.

Studying History, therefore, helps you uncover just how different society, culture, beliefs, and politics were in the past and how we got from then to now.

You can study a wide variety of History degrees, including those filtered by region, period or topic. 

Why study History?

Whether it is the role of charismatic dictators like Caesar through to Hitler, or the significance of religion in human conflict, humans have the habit of ignoring obvious factors which can lead to war and oppression. As a historian, you’ll study particular patterns in human history to identify where we have been going wrong, comment on it, and attempt to avoid it in the future.

Read our six reasons to study History for more information on why you might choose to study this subject area.


Berlin West, Germany, 1958. At the Brandenburg Gate

What jobs can you get as a History graduate?

History equips you with the transferable skills that are highly prized by a range of employers.

Graduates go on to careers in teaching, government, financial services, arts and media, marketing and consultancy, tourism, retail, manufacturing and engineering, law, libraries, archives and museums, voluntary and social services, IT and communications, medicine, the police and armed forces.

Many graduates decide to progress to postgraduate studies, often entering into research and teaching positions.

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of History have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate History students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively. 

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

What qualifications do you need? 

A Level History (or equivalent) is usually necessary, but requirements depend on the university or college.

Be sure to check the grades and other requirements for the institution and course you're interested in.

What degrees can you study?

  • History
  • History and Politics 
  • English Literature and History
  • French Studies and History
  • German Studies and History
  • Spanish Studies and History
  • History, Philosophy and Politics 
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • History and International Relations
  • History and Religious Studies
  • History and Philosophy

How will you be assessed?

When studying for a History degree, you're likely to be assessed via a mixture of coursework and exams.

Typical coursework assignments include essays, literature reviews, short tests, critical reports, poster sessions and oral presentations. Formal examinations include short answer questions, essays and data analysis. Students often produce final year project reports and dissertations.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  • History MA
  • History MPhil/PhD
  • Graduate Diploma in Historical Studies
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Regional and Local History

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