student life

Why I chose to study history

I’ve always been interested in history. I performed well in it at school/college and I wanted to take a degree in a strong academic dicipline. So choosing History seemed liked  a natural progression and my time studying it at Sheffield Hallam University has brought many benefits, a few of which I’d like to share.

The Oxford dictionary defines history as “The study of past events, particularly in human affairs.” We humans have been around now for over 2000 years and to put it lightly, we’ve done some pretty interesting things that are really worth studying.

A subject worth discussing

Yes, there’s so much we can learn, analyse and gather from the past but we can also enjoy hearing about it. It’s often the case that the major (and minor) events you’ll study over the course of your degree have a narrative to them, a story and each time you sit down in that lecture hall there’s the potential for something to captivate you.

It may not always be enough to get you out of bed for that 9am but the point being is that history is a subject of immense intrigue and depth. It’s also a subject that encourages opinion, discussion and the chance to put your own stamp on your work. Most of us are just filled with relief when we eventually get to the final paragraph of an essay, but with history there’s often to potential to actually be interested by the conclusion you’ve come to.

On a final note concerning this, always be sure to thoroughly check out what the university’s history course offers in terms of spec and modules so that you can find out what’s going to interest and engage you most.

Various options

“So what are you going to do with that then? Be a teacher or work in a museum?” 

There’s nothing wrong with being asked this. Teaching, for one, is a path that I and many other history students consider. However it is representative of an overriding generalised assumption that a history degree isn’t going to lead anything else specifically. My counter to that would be, why is that such a bad thing? A history degree can open up avenues to all kinds of different careers, whether that be in academia, journalism, broadcasting, publishing, finance, management consultancy, marketing, politics, law, or others.

Likewise, if it’s a graduate scheme you’re after, many of the top employers are happy to accept degrees in any subject. It’s more about you showcasing what you’ve learnt from your degree and, along with displaying personal qualities, applying that to what you want to do. Below are some examples of the types of skills a History degree refines and would prove extremely useful to a variety of career path:

Note: Many of these are extremely applicable when undertaking a dissertation in 3rd year and so utilise that as a good example to employers.

  • Analytical skills and attention to detail
  • Extensive research
  • Organisation
  • Clear, persuasive and fluent oral and written communication
  • Critical evaluation
  • The ability to discuss, question, present and summarises points of view
  • To think objectively in the face of problems and tackle new situations with an open mind
  • Self directed learning and resourcefulness

For the majority of us students the attainment of a degree in our chosen subject is the primary objective of university and rightly so. Yet, if were being totally honest it’s not the sole one, the university experience as a whole encompasses so much more.

History is recognised as one of the subjects where you’re likely to be at the lower end of the scale for hours actually required to be in lectures and seminars each week. This is not to say that you’ll have less to do, on the contrary, it actually means a greater emphasis is placed on your ability to work and research independently as this is a fundamental requirement of studying history.

However, if you can manage that well (the odd painstakingly long reading session in the library will unfortunately be necessary) then history allows for a brilliant balance between work and social life at uni. The ratio of this will inevitably change as you leave the security of first year and the 40 per cent requirement.

Yet, it still remains wholly satisfying when, as I often did, you listen to your law studying housemate complaining about their 25 hours worth of timetabled session a week.

Are you a history student? What were your reasons in choosing to study it? Let us know in the comments below!