History Advising Guide

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What is History?

“Historical knowledge,” historian William H. McNeill stated, “is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory. As such it can both make us wiser in our public choices and more richly human in our private lives.”

The professors in the Department of History agree that history should be taught as a “method of inquiry” in which intellectual skills are honed as students go about the work of acquiring basic knowledge. We also remain committed to the conviction that historical studies “are unique in their ability to reveal the complexity of human affairs” and to illuminate the deeper meaning of contemporary events. The department offers a diverse and rigorous course of study that broadly prepares students for intelligent engagement with the problems of contemporary life.


Why Study History?

“Historians,” stated Professor Harry Miller, a member of our department, “can process information in a systematic way. They recognize patterns that other people cannot.” We look upon history as fundamental to the education of free people and global citizens. A study of history, then, provides students with opportunities to: 

  • Engage in historical inquiry, research, and analysis
  • Learn to read critically and to evaluate primary and secondary sources concerning historical issues and problems 
  • Acquire a general knowledge of the major social, political, economic, and cultural trends of several areas of history
  • Understand the complex nature of the historical record
  • Craft historical narratives and arguments
  • Generate significant, open-ended questions about the past and devise research strategies to answer them
  • Communicate effectively in writing to diverse audiences about historical issues and problems
  • Practice historical empathy
  • Practice historical thinking as central to engaged citizenship


Career Opportunities in History

Numerous studies have shown that an undergraduate degree in a liberal arts field such as history provides an excellent preparation for graduate and professional studies. History majors, for example, gain admission to law schools, medical schools, and business schools. And the department has demonstrated excellent success placing students in highly competitive graduate programs across the country.

In addition, History graduates have found rewarding positions as:

  • Teachers
  • Museum Professionals
  • Archivists
  • Librarians
  • Researchers
  • Historical Preservationists
  • Editors and Copy Editors 
  • Journalists
  • Public Relations Professionals  
  • Business and Industry Employees
  • Consultants

For additional information on careers and opportunities for history majors: https://www.historians.org/jobs-and-professional-development/career-resources/careers-for-


Salary Trends in History

Unlike more vocationally-oriented majors, such as majors in business, engineering, or the health professions, A&S majors tend to study a greater range of topics outside of their immediate major area. This greater breadth provides an interdisciplinary perspective that complements the more linear education in the student’s major area. 

As a result, A&S majors are compatible with a wide-range of career options. A large 2012 survey of employers found that 81% of employers will consider any degree, so most employers do not require a specific degree. So A&S majors typically find post-graduate employment at rates comparable to more vocationally-specific degrees, Furthermore, longitudinal studies which have followed college graduates over time have shown that Arts and Sciences graduates' rates of salary growth often exceed those of more vocationally-specific majors. For example, a 2010 longitudinal survey of college majors after graduation found that:

“Occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth.

Another longitudinal study concluded that:

"Employment across educational fields is almost identical for individuals aged 35-44, and beyond age 45, humanities graduates actually have higher rates of employment than those in other fields. After age 45, humanities and social science majors’ salaries overtake those of counterparts in other fields."

Finally, A&S majors have on average the highest rates of increase from starting to mid-career salary, with Math, Philosophy, International Studies, Physics, Political Science, Chemistry, and Journalism all scoring in the top 10 among all majors in rate of salary growth to mid-career.


High School Preparation

No special preparation is required.


How to Major in History

To earn a degree in History, students must complete a minimum of 36 credit hours in History, including HY 101, 102, 135, and 136; one course in African (HY 362), Asian (HY 103, 104, 212, 366, 367, 368, or 461), Latin American (HY 228, 321, 323, 325, 326, or 461), or Middle Eastern History (HY 364, 365, or 465); one research seminar (HY 441, 442, or 443); and 18 credit hours of electives.


Special Programs, Co-ops, Internships

The department offers directed individual field research for history majors. Students pursue occupational and professional experiences under faculty direction in a defined field of interest, primarily for but not limited to archival, museum, library, or other public history projects.  


History Highlights

The Department of History offers four competitive scholarships annually for undergraduate students majoring in history: the Macy Wims Reid Scholarship, the Montgomery Carlton Stallworth Endowed Scholarship, and the Minnie Lee Wilkins Stallworth Endowed Scholarship. At the end of each academic year, the department awards the scholarships at a special event to which all students and parents are invited.

The History Club and USA chapter of the History Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta, maintain an active presence in the department, the university, and the community. Each year the two organizations sponsor several student-and community-oriented activities, such as research paper competitions and “teach-ins.”  

Fulltime faculty members in the Department of History are highly qualified, research-oriented professionals. They have published books and articles, presented scholarly papers at regional and national conferences, and delivered invited public lectures locally, nationally, and internationally. Because of their broad interests, they can offer students interested in pursuing careers in history a wide introduction to the profession.


Study Abroad Opportunities

The Department of History sponsors study abroad programs to regions such as Eastern Europe, and countries such as Germany, Great Britain, and Japan.

Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience that will contribute to your academic and personal development.  Participating on a study abroad program can be one of the most profound decisions of your college life, and can lead to many new and interesting opportunities.  It can help develop your critical thinking skills, sense of independence, and confidence.  When you depart on your study abroad program, you will go with excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty about the world and your place in it.  When you return home, your deep connection and affection for your host culture will be overwhelming, and will only be matched by a newfound respect and appreciation for your home.

Study abroad is the opportunity for USA students to spend time in a different country while earning credit towards your degree through taking classes, interning, volunteering, and more.  There are many different types of study abroad available to you at USA. They include faculty-led programs, international exchange programs, and direct-enroll and affiliate programs. 

Students on faculty-led programs will travel as a group led by USA professors and take classes in various locations. All courses taken on these programs are USA courses and offer USA credits that will apply to your degree. International Exchange programs are partnerships with specific universities around the world with which USA has a special, reciprocal relationship. Students enroll directly at the host university, and students from the host university attend USA. USA affiliate programs allow students to enroll at a partner university or program through a third-party provider. GPA requirements vary by program.

You should think of the Study Abroad Office as a one-stop shop for information related to your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad (http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/) team is excited to assist you as you navigate through the process of choosing a program, and will help you from the advising stage until you return from your program.  You can get started by coming to meet with an advisor during Walk-In Advising hours. During an advising session, you can gain general information about the many programs available, how the application process works at USA and general guidance on where to begin.

Be sure to visit the OIE Study Abroad website at http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/ to begin your research.  The website contains information on how to get started, financing your program, and a comprehensive list of pre-approved study abroad programs and partners. While researching a passport or visa programs, consider the following: eligibility requirements, location, course offerings, and costs.  You should also meet with your faculty advisor for assistance in selecting a program based on courses related to your degree.

Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of your university career, giving you wonderful and challenging experiences that will allow you to grow both academically and professionally. Where will you study abroad?


Academic Plan

Following an academic plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years. 

To see a sample academic plan for this major, please click here.  Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.

For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.


For More Information

To learn more about a major in history, please contact the Department Chair, Professor David Messenger, at (251) 460-6210 or davidamessenger@southalabama.edu.


If you prefer to visit or write, we are located at:

Department of History

Humanities Building, Room 344

307 University Blvd., N

Mobile, AL 36688-0002  


Department website