Why History?


Why should I study history?

Studying the past will help you understand who we are – as individuals, as members of societies and as participants in the human condition. By looking at how people lived and thought in the past, you will gain context for reaching thoughtful conclusions about current political, social and cultural problems. As a “distant mirror” historical study will provide you with a way to consider how past societies dealt with questions of work, family, politics, faith, thought, the arts, gender and sexuality and the like. With this basis, historical training will prepare you to participate in the work force, in your local community and in the wider world with informed reasoning and sharply-honed social, cultural and political categories of analysis. By pursuing historical studies, you will also develop written and oral communication skills that are valuable in a wide range of careers. Through intensive reading, documentary research, textual analysis, critical thinking and extensive writing you will learn how to employ logical and clear reasoning in communication and analysis when dealing with whatever the world throws at you.

What can I do with a history degree?

A history major opens doors to many careers. Most directly, you might choose to pursue educator licensure at the secondary level. You might begin a career in public history, a field that involves museums, archives, historic preservation and other areas outside of teaching. Historical training will also prepare you for entry to law school or to postgraduate education in history itself. The skills you will acquire in a history major will prepare you for work in a wide variety of careers in the business world. Many CEOs and entrepreneurs have humanities degrees in subjects such as history, and they want to hire people who can reason, grapple with ambiguity, collect information and communicate it effectively to others. History majors learn to appreciate the diversity of the present by contending with the variety of the past, a skill valuable in nearly all jobs. Instead of narrow preparation for a career that may disappear, you will gain skills in research, analysis, written and oral communication and collaboration that will last a lifetime. 

Why is NIU’s undergraduate history program so special?

NIU’s history program is the perfect blend of the close attention you might get a small liberal arts or community college and the faculty expertise in research and teaching that’s available at a large public university. Your classes will be taught by world-renowned experts in their fields of study. Many of those classes will have fewer than thirty students. Because we are a large department, you will find a wide variety of courses that are relevant to many different areas of interest. You will work closely with a faculty mentor who will help you meet degree requirements, discuss opportunities and challenges and guide you toward an eventual career. Via History Club, the Phi Alpha Theta honor society and other extracurricular activities, you will find friends among your fellow history students and make connections that will live long after you walk across the stage to receive your diploma.


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Department of History
Zulauf 715

Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., except for a daily lunch break from noon-1 p.m.

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