The study of history is vital if you want a fuller understanding of the events shaping the world around us. It is also the basis of many other subjects you will explore as an undergraduate. As a history major you study all aspects of the human experience.
Historical study includes everything from political leadership to the advent of popular music, from the study of constitutions to the study of families, and from what happened yesterday to what took place in the very distant past. The study of history is far-reaching, yet it involves all of the individual things that make people and their times distinct and captivating.
The Department of History is a part of the College of Arts and Sciences. When pursuing a major in history you will study with faculty who are respected scholars from a wide variety of historical fields. Learn about their research, scholarship, journal articles, and books by visiting the Department of History homepage, or by visiting the display case of recently published faculty books outside the department's main office.
The history faculty includes specialists in African diaspora, ancient history, gender and sexual history, diplomatic history, late antique and medieval Europe, Latin American history, Russian political history, social and cultural history, South Asian intellectual history, and more.
The department also offers an undergraduate minor for students pursuing other majors and degree programs.
Depending on your level of preparation, you begin with introductory courses at the 100 or 200-level, or even advanced courses at the 300-level. Some 100 and 200-level classes are large-scale surveys of a particular type of history, while others offer a close examination of a particular topic, such as the mafia, American empire, Western medicine, or the family.
During the first year of university study, you should also plan to study a foreign language and complete other general requirements outside the major.
All history majors take HIST-H270: What is History?, a valuable introduction to historical methods and theories.
Tracks and concentrations
History majors may select courses in order to concentrate on a particular region or time period, or they may study a broad variety of topics. The academic advisor will help you select the best courses to suit your interests.
All history majors take at least one course from each of three, broad regional and chronological categories. You may choose from a range of historical studies, including but not limited to the United States, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa, from antiquity to the present. Specific courses also cover issues, themes, or special topics, such as gender history, world cultural contact, empires, medicine, twentieth-century history, and Jewish history.
Upper level coursework
As a history major you must take several 300-level courses, as well as two required seminars. Seminars are considered by many students to be the highlight of the program. Seminars are focused on specific topics, often related to the professor's ongoing research.
Seminars help you to develop your professional, historical skills through a variety of assignments, including longer essays, presentations, and research research using primary-source documents. You typically produce an original research paper, exhibition, presentation, or oral history project, making use of primary and secondary research, source criticism, and/or bibliographic essays.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
Your major represents about one quarter of your degree requirements. With the help of your academic advisor, you can expand your interests and complement your primary focus area by pursuing additional majors, minors, or certificates. Many fields can contribute to the skills you learn as a history major, and they can provide different perspectives on important topics. Some of the options include Political Science, Philosophy, English, Economics, Religious Studies, Criminal Justice, and foreign language study. The Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP) and the Political and Civic Engagement Program (PACE) are commonly selected certificates.
Professional schools on campus also offer an opportunity to earn minors and certificates:
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a degree in History, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
You can get involved in research as early as your freshman year. Many incoming freshmen apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker.
HIST-X 490: Undergraduate Readings in History is an opportunity to conduct intensive, individualized research under the guidance of a professor. This type of course typically culminates in a major research paper or another challenging assignment. Talk to your academic advisor or instructors about this possibility.
Students may also apply to the Departmental Honors Program. If accepted, you will have the opportunity to:
- Complete an honors research seminar with other highly-motivated students
- Receive guidance for serious historical research from the Director of Honors
- Explore the practice of history more deeply within a specialized area
- Design, research, and write a fully developed historical project, paper, or thesis
- Work closely with a faculty research mentor who guides, critiques, and suggests resources
- Develop the skills and knowledge needed for future graduate work in fields such as history, law, public relations, and business
Each semester Phi Beta Kappa invites a select group of students into their national honorary society.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
The Department of History, the College of Arts and Sciences, and other schools and departments of Indiana University offer many scholarship opportunities to qualified students. Some scholarships have open applications, while selection for other awards is based on academic achievement.
- Department of History Annual Essay contest
- Department of History Scholarships
- College of Arts and Sciences Scholarships
- Indiana University Office of Scholarships
- Boren Awards for International Study
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.
The department of History provides the opportunity to earn academic credit while conducting an internship. You may want to consider the HIST-X 473: Internship for History Majors course. Many students find local opportunities with these organizations:
- American Historical Review
- Journal of American History
- Mathers Museum of World Cultures
- Monroe County History Center
- Organization of American Historians
- Wylie House Museum
- Bloomington Department of Housing and Neighborhood Development
- Bloomington Restorations, Inc.
- Indiana Department of Natural Resources
The Walter Center for Career Achievement can also help you to find and apply for internships. Students who wish to use their liberal arts background in history to enter business after graduation may find a management, marketing or business analyst internship helpful. Those wishing to pursue legal internships can look for positions with law firms, political parties, or state and local governments.
Recent history students who used the Walter Center for Career Achievement have found internship opportunities with organizations such as:
- National Museum of American History
- National Park Service
- Student Conservation Association
- Boca Raton Museum of Art
- Voice of America
- Indiana Historical Society
- Indiana House of Representatives
- Indiana State Museum
- Cato Institute
- Royal Academy of Arts
- Eli Lilly & Company
- Newfields Museum
- Planned Parenthood of Indiana of Indiana and Kentucky
Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.
Foreign language study
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.
Here is partial list of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. History students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:
- Aix-en-Provence-IU -- France
- Adelaide-IU -- Australia
- Athens-CYA -- Greece
- Bologna-IU -- Italy
- Canterbury-IU -- England
- Freiberg-IES -- Germany
- Legon-CIEE Arts & Sciences -- Ghana
- Lima-IU -- Peru
- Nagoya-IU -- Japan
- Seoul-CIEE -- South Korea
- Vienna-IES -- Austria
The College of Arts and Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with history faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.
History majors are involved in a wide variety of campus clubs and organizations: student government, fraternal and honorary organizations, professional societies, and social clubs. History majors founded the History Undergraduate Student Association ("HUSA"), a club for any Indiana University student who is interested in history.
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- Bloomington Worldwide Friendship
- Bridges: Children, Languages, World
- IU Corps
- The Monroe County Public Library
- Student Involement & Leadership Center
- Volunteer opportunities at I.U. Cinema
To learn more about local opportunities and organizations, sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network.
Several IUB history faculty members are affiliated with the Organization of American Historians, located at 112 N. Bryan Avenue in Bloomington. Their publication is the Journal of American History. Undergraduate membership is also available to majors interested in American History.
National and state historical organizations and societies include:
A comprehensive list of Historical Preservation Societies may be found at the Preservation Organization and Resources.
- Build your skills
Through the major
The major in History provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- Historical knowledge: Understand the forces, ideas and actions that have shaped human history in more than one geographical, chronological or thematic field
- Historical argument: Produce cogent written or oral arguments based on evidence, and understand historical arguments made by others
- Historical research: Evaluate potential sources of information, to distinguish good sources from bad, to extract usable material, and to shape information into coherent knowledge
- Writing skills: Present your ideas clearly in writing, adapting your writing to different formats and audiences
- Public presentation skills: Communicate your ideas clearly in an oral form, taking into account the purpose of the presentation and the audience
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take Initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.
Maximize your career preparation with a career course. History majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Social and Historical Studies provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!
The job market
The employment outlook is postive for students with a degree in History. Many industries value the analytical and communication skills that History majors possess, and new opportunities abound in technology, healthcare, marketing, and other growing job sectors.
Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many sectors: federal and state government, military or civil service, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, the cooperative job sector, education, research and policy think tanks, banking and business.
History majors can become researchers, information analysts, linguists, policy advisors, educators, translators, tourism advisors, businesspersons, security personnel, journalists, or aid workers, among many other options.
Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!
Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:
- Cultural Vistas
- Global Experiences
- Go Abroad
- IES Abroad
- Peace Corps
- Teach for America
Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as:
- Center for International Education Exchange
- Institute of International Education
- Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program USA (JET)
Using these and other resources, your career coach can help you craft a unique post-graduate short-term experience, whether in the United States or abroad.
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.
Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
- Cultural Vistas Professional Fellowships
- Institute of International Education
- USAID Payne International Development Fellowship
- Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships
- James Madison Memorial Fellowship Program
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you will need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
A History B.A. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, including history, European studies, information studies, Jewish studies, museum studies, secondary education, public affairs, non-profit management, international relations, and business.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.
If you are interested in post-graduate study in History, you should make a point of meeting with professors in your field(s) of interest as early as possible in your undergraduate career, to discuss requirements and expectations for graduate study.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.
Students who pursue graduate studies in history have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, archives, communications media, consulting, historical associations and societies, libraries, museums, publishing, nonprofit organizations and education.
Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:
- Department of History
- Maurer School of Law
- School of Education - Transition to Teaching
- Department of Information and Library Science
- School of Global and International Studies
- School of Medicine
- O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
- Kelley School of Business MBA Program
The College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts and Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The History B.A. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:
- Interest in the people, places, events, and issues that have shaped human experience
- Confidence in their writing, reasoning, and communication skills
- Desire to develop their abilities in relation to historical research standards and scholarship
- An inquisitive nature, capable of careful analysis and study
- Willingness to develop comparative and creative thinking skills
Contact the history academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address