If you graduate from Cambridge with a good degree result (a First or II.1) you will have proved yourself and acquired a range of skills that will make you very attractive to Britain's, and the world's, top employers:
- First, you will have delivered results in a challenging and at times pressurised environment;
- Secondly, you will have learned to work independently and with huge efficiency, sifting and prioritising an enormous amount of complicated information quickly and effectively;
- Thirdly, you will have made critical, unerring decisions and answered difficult questions well;
- Fourthly, you will have communicated your judgments clearly and persuasively both orally in supervision and, crucially, on the page via your essays.
In short, an employer will be able to plunge you into a complex working environment safe
in the knowledge that you have the ability and confidence not only to cope but to prosper,
right from the start. Indeed, almost all Cambridge History students seeking employment have secured excellent and well-paid jobs within just a few months of graduating.
What sorts of careers do historians enter?
They go into a very wide range of professions. The most popular of these are currently law, business and finance,national and local government, non-governmental organisations (both national and international), journalism and publishing, teaching, library and museum work, and research-based careers of all kinds.
One of our students did his third-year dissertation on J F Kennedy and the Civil Rights movement. Now he reports from Washington for BBC TV news. Another did hers on Virginia Crawford, a Victorian feminist. She is working as a child psychologist in a North London NHS Trust hospital.
Here is what just a few of our graduates had to say about how History has been useful to them in their careers:
- Elizabeth Day, journalist: feature writer for The Observer
“I came to History knowing that I wanted to be a journalist. While I toyed with the idea of doing a career-specific degree, I ended up thinking that I would be far better served studying a subject I truly enjoyed which would give me an area of expertise that I could draw on in the years to come. I never for a moment doubted that my degree would be worthwhile. I was confident that a degree from Cambridge would always be worth a great deal because, for many people, it represents the highest level of academic achievement. History is particularly well suited to journalism because many of the research skills are the same. A familiarity with libraries and computer archives is incredibly useful, as is the ability to sift through, analyse and organise material into a coherent argument. I learned an enormous amount about writing newspaper articles from constructing my history essays. I was also encouraged to develop original ideas and to defend them when challenged - again, a very useful skill in a career that relies largely on fluency and eloquence. History, like journalism, teaches you that clarity is all. But there is also a more intangible benefit in that it teaches you about human nature and cycles of behaviour. It gives you a context for understanding current events and appreciating the world around you. It heightens your perception about people and their motivations.”
- Becky, secondary school teacher
"Reading History at Cambridge gave me the confidence to go into a classroom and teach. The vast choice of papers meant that I could look at areas I was particularly interested in while also developing the skills to approach an unknown period. Most importantly it has made me challenge the way I see the world."
- Mark Rawlinson, solicitor: partner and head of graduate recruitment, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (international law firm), London
"When I studied History at Cambridge I didn't think I'd end up as a partner in a major City law firm like Freshfields. But that's what happened, and I found that I wasn't alone in my firm in having taken up law after studying history as a degree subject. Now, I'm in charge of recruiting students to train with us, and we are still finding plenty of compelling candidates who come from a history background. Lawyers need to assimilate information and put forward arguments, and that's just what history students learn to do. My advice to anyone would be: if you are interested enough, go for it!"
How much can History graduates earn?
Obviously this depends on the type of job they do. As an example, typical starting-salaries for our students entering careers in law, business and finance are in the range £28,000-£35,000 p.a., rising to circa £35,000-£50,000 in the second and
third years of work.
Do many people go on to do further research?
Around 40% of Cambridge History graduates go on to complete, at some point, a further degree: sometimes a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) but more commonly a History Masters or Ph.D. While with us, they've got the history bug good and proper! Some of them progress in due course to careers as academic or popular historians.
Want to find out more?
If you would like to learn more about the career paths taken by historians from a range of UK universities, you will find useful information on the Prospects UK site.
Cambridge University Careers Service also has information pages for school and college students considering applying to Cambridge.