The Internet is inundated with articles about the decline of the historian profession. When most authorities refer to historians, they of course mean professors holding Ph.D’s. But what about the rest of us, who don’t necessarily want to teach? There are tons of sites out there listing jobs for historians, but they are usually pretty vague and usually require a great deal of specialized experience or schooling. I actually saw “FBI Agent” on a list once. I’m sure historians have become agents, but not without a considerable amount of law enforcement experience first.
So in this post I want to post some of the job titles I’ve come across that seem like a good fit for people with a history background who aren’t lucky enough to have multiple degrees in different areas, with some brief explanations about what they’re looking for and what I think would help you in your search. The biggest problem is that the world IS your oyster if you hold a history degree, but unless you know exactly what to look for, you’re going to be left in the lurch.
I hope the following list helps make your job hunt a little easier and a little more realistic than some of the other lists out there. I will post them one at a time, as I come across them.
I’ve seen this one more than any other. A Historic Interpreter is, effectively, a tour guide or one of those people who dressed up in period costume and plays a character at a historic site, but not always.
Experience: Entry-level. It helps to have specific knowledge of the area you’d be interpreting (i.e. colonial America at Colonial Williamsburg), and also public speaking or acting experience. Having a friendly personality and the ability to multi-task is a must. Likely to be part-time and seasonal, but it’s a way of getting your foot in the door. Some sites are very high-tech and it would help to be comfortable with incorporating audio-visual techniques into your presentations. Intern at one of these in college, or after graduating. Might be harder to get if you have a Master’s, but still worth a shot at entry level.
Where to look: Bigger facilities tend to hire more Interpreters. Historic Mackinac, Colonial Williamsburg, Greenfield Village, Conner Prairie Historic Park, etc. Look for tourism information in areas you want to work, especially on the East Coast and Midwest. Seems like most of the Eastern states have one or two of these kinds of sites.
Also Listed As: Tour Guide, Historic Site Interpreter.