“What are you going to do with a History degree?” For History majors, this question is all too familiar. The prevailing attitude towards the major is often one of confusion or even contempt. If you are not planning on becoming a historian, how can majoring in History possibly help you in the job market? Well, as it turns out, being a History major can be the first step toward a rewarding career in a number of different fields.
At a recent Berkeley Connect in History event, students met with a panel of successful alums. They shared their experiences in the workforce, which were quite varied and fascinating. One alum, Kelsey Blegen, chose to attend law school after graduating from Berkeley, and is now a practicing attorney in San Francisco. Another, Roy Button, works at a tech startup selling software. Brinton Williams works in the video game industry. And finally, Camille Villa works on the Berkeley campus in IT, serving as a go-between for academics (professors and graduate students) and the IT staff. This position, she said, allows her to balance the two worlds she is interested in: humanities and technology.
A student asked the panel, “Put yourself back in the mindset of being an undergraduate History major. Would you be surprised by your job now?” Most of the panelists agreed that their younger selves would have been shocked. “If you had told me my current job, I wouldn’t have believed you,” confessed Villa. She recalled how she became a History major in spite of her father, who worked in IT – and strangely enough, now she’s working in IT. Blegen shared a similar experience: “I came to Cal thinking I would do something different from my parents.” However, her dad was also an attorney who worked in estate planning. “I’m doing the exact same thing as my dad,” she mused. “But that’s life, and I love it.”
“What do you think your training as a history major does for your job now?” asked another student. Though none of their jobs relate directly to History, the alums all agreed that the skills they learned were still valuable to them. “I’m better at my job,” said Williams of his work in the gaming industry. “Not because of what I learned, but how I learned.” Villa added, “Being a History major teaches you to speak diplomatically and concisely.” She has found these skills very useful in the work she does currently. Blegen, on the other hand, found her skills applicable in an even more direct way. She found that taking history classes gave her an advantage in law school, especially in history of law courses. Also, she explained, “I’m constantly using my analytical skills at work, and doing a ton of research.”
While these History alums may not have gone on to become History professors, their happy and successful careers gave reassurance to History undergraduates who may be feeling doubtful about their futures. As it turns out, there’s hope and prospects out there for History majors, after all.
Posted by Madeline Wells, Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant