In a world accelerated by technology, where the future seems to become the present faster than ever, the study of history can sometimes seem quaint, or even irrelevant. What can analysis of the past tell us when the story of human civilization seems more unpredictable and chaotic than ever?
In fact, the rapid pace of change in today's society is exactly why the study of history is more important than ever. Despite all of the ways that technology has transformed our daily lives, our fundamental nature and motivations as human beings have changed surprisingly little. History is the only lens that allows us to understand how the present is rooted in our past, and the ways that many questions surrounding contemporary culture and politics have been asked (and answered) in previous eras.
History is also essential to understanding how to build a better future. That's because history isn't just a static description of how things were in the past - it's also a framework for examining the processes and drivers underlying periods of change in previous eras, which can provide a roadmap for catalyzing transformations in our society today.
The study of history can be a pathway to a surprisingly diverse range of future-focused careers. While those with a love for diving deep into past events may wish to become a historian or professor, there are plenty of opportunities to leverage this expertise to pursue other types of jobs as well.
For example, many lawyers have bachelor's degrees in history, or took history courses as undergraduates. That's because law is an inherently historical subject, based as it is on legal precedents, and an understanding of how law has changed over time can be a critical advantage in the courtroom.
A knowledge of history can also be essential for professionals in the arts and humanities who are responsible for making cultural works of the past (or present) relevant to today's audiences. Museum curators, literary critics, ethnomusicologists, and other experts in the arts rely on backgrounds in cultural as well as political history to add depth and context to their analyses.
Regardless of your goals, the study of the past can be a springboard for your career as well as a guide for creating the change you want to see in the world.
Online courses aren't only for learning computer programming anymore. Today, online education platforms can leverage video lectures, live office hours, and other tools for collaboration and engagement that can bring the study of history to life.
With Coursera, you can take courses taught by high-quality instructors at top-ranked universities, allowing online learners to get the same education as their on-campus counterparts on a more flexible schedule and at a lower cost. You can take courses in art history, world history, US history, ancient history, or even internet history from institutions like the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of London.
People who are best suited for roles in the history field are curious about how past events have influenced the present. They are passionate about uncovering mysteries and using critical thinking skills to theorize and fill in the gaps in our recorded history. People in this field enjoy thorough research and are imaginative enough to try to understand how our ancestors viewed their developing society and interacted with one another.
Some common career paths for someone who studies history include museum curator, archivist, archeologist, college professor, and journalist. Some of these paths involve combining knowledge of history with another subject. For example, to follow the archeologist career path, you'll need to spend time training for laboratory and fieldwork, while a college professor career path will require you to obtain a doctoral degree and gain experience leading a classroom.
Topics that are related to history include archeology, anthropology, and historical linguistics. Archeology involves examining ancient artifacts and sites to piece together a clearer view of human history. Archeology also involves the study of humanity's history, including the ways in which ancient people behaved, formed cultures, and physically evolved. Historical linguistics involves studying the origins of languages and uncovering how those languages changed over time. Studying an artistic topic such as painting, sculpting, songwriting, or fiction writing may also introduce you to elements of history, as you'll learn about notable artists of the past and examine how their works were shaped by world events.
People who study history may find employment in museums, schools, and universities. People who follow the archeologist career path may even find themselves working in laboratories as well as excavation sites on various continents.