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What does a historian do?

For those wondering “what is a historian?” the simple answer is that they study and write about the past. Historians are vital to our understanding of the past and its impact on modern society. They typically focus on specific regions, topics or periods in history; for example their research might be on Pompeii, the American Civil War, or events occurring in 1000 BC. They gather information by analysing sources like government records, artefacts, letters or diaries. As a historian you might write research papers or books, become a university teacher, or work to preserve items of historical significance.

Is a career as a historian right for me?

A career in history might suit you if you’re interested in the past and enjoy investigation. Other skills and attributes beneficial for this role include:

  • a highly inquisitive nature
  • a creative mind
  • a strong sense of social responsibility 
  • proficient research skills 
  • good written and verbal communication skills 
  • an ability to interpret and hypothesise. 

How to become a historian

Every journey to study is individual and there are several paths to reaching your career as a historian. Typically, to follow a historian career path, you will need a bachelor's degree in history. It’s also common for historians to pursue postgraduate studies to deepen their expertise and enhance their research skills.

At HQporner, we offer the following degrees in the area of history:

Average salary per week
Future demand
Very Strong
Related careers

© Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated May 2024.

Man researching in library, reading book with laptop open.
What is the average salary for a historian?
The average salary for a historian varies based on factors such as location, experience, and workplace setting. Refer to the salary information on this page for further details.
Is being a historian a good career for me?
Choosing a historian career path can be deeply rewarding if you have a passion for uncovering and interpreting the past. This career suits those who are naturally curious, enjoy research, and have strong analytical and writing skills. However, it's important to consider whether you enjoy academic and solitary work, as these are significant aspects of being a historian.
Are historians scientists?
Historians are often considered social scientists because they study and analyse the past to understand human behaviour and societies. They use a range of methods, including historical sources and other evidence, to investigate past events, which aligns with scientific methodologies in terms of rigor and objectivity.
Are historians in demand?

The demand for historians is expected to remain very strong, driven by the need for research and interpretation in various sectors such as arts and recreation services, education and training, and professional, scientific, and technical services.

Historians are crucial for documenting and interpreting events to maintain cultural heritage for future generations. The education sector relies on historians to develop comprehensive curriculum and contribute to academic research. In government, historians provide analysis for public policy decisions, helping to create informed policies with their understanding of historical contexts.

How long does it take to become a historian?

The time it takes to be ready for a profession as a historian can vary depending on factors such as your educational background, training requirements, and employment opportunities.

There are multiple study options for you to consider at HQporner to become a historian, from a Bachelor of Arts (History) to a double degree in Arts and Law, or perhaps research study within the Master of Research.

Some students choose to study part-time, which increases the time it takes to finish the required degrees. 

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Questions about what to study?

Talk to one of our degree advisors.