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Why Major in History? Because of What Employers Want From College Graduates

The most recent survey of businesses by the National Association of Colleges and Employers provides a stark reminder of why the History major and History courses remain vital to the economic health of the United States. Asked about the competencies they would like their employees to bring into the workplace, respondents ranked skills central to the History major as the top four: communication by writing and speaking, a capacity for critical thinking, the ability to engage in teamwork, and a knowledge of and a commitment to equity and inclusion (Table 1).

Table 1: Employer Career-Readiness Competency Ratings

CompetencyWeighted Average Rating*
Communication4.49
Critical Thinking4.46
Teamwork4.37
Equity and Inclusion4.29
Professionalism4.23
Technology4.03
Career and Self-Development3.81
Leadership3.65

But are college graduates actually learning those competencies? The answer would seem to be: not as much as employers want. Writing and speaking falls from first in the list of needs to fifth in the readiness rankings. The lesson? Students need to take more History courses and more should major in History.

Table 2: Employers Rate Recent Graduates’ Career-Readiness Competency

CompetencyWeighted Average Rating*
Technology3.98
Equity and Inclusion3.97
Teamwork3.84
Critical Thinking3.62
Communication3.50
Professionalism3.46
Career and Self-Development3.41
Leadership3.22

History is interesting and important. You will enjoy the courses you take as you practice the skills employers want. The demand for those skills we teach in fascinating courses is an added bonus of majoring in History.

Need more information? Send an email to history@iastate.edu

*5-point scale, where 1=Not at all important, 2=Not very important, 3=Somewhat important, 4=Very important, 5=Extremely important
Data from National Association of Colleges and Employers, Job Outlook 2023 (NACE, October 2022), Tables 44 and 45.

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Undergraduate Study

The History Department offers curricula leading to either a B.A. or a B.S. degree in History. Want to be a teacher? You can earn a secondary-education endorsement at Iowa State.

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Graduate Study

Graduate program options include a Master of Arts degree (MA) in history and a Ph.D. in Rural, Agricultural, Technological, and Environmental History.

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