Thoughts on Readings: Careers

This week’s readings were both simultaneously depressing and encouraging. Exploring the Bureau of Labor statistics website it appears that a job in the field of history is interesting, fun, and is compensated with a nice salary, however, reading a little further we find that all these jobs, especially that of historian, are highly competitive with only 4,000 jobs for historians in 2010. Further, with federal, state, and local governments employing 57% of all historians in the country there is definitely a need for historians to get creative with their job prospects, just like Guillebeau recommends. The BLS website included the fact that “because of the popularity of history degree programs applicants are expected to outnumber positions available.” This seemed to be a common thread for all history related jobs listed on the website: the occupations of Curators, Museum Technicians, Conservators, Archivists, Anthropologists, Archeologists, and of course, Historians all had more applicants than available jobs. However, with all of this gloom and doom, the BLS does offers some encouraging words for those of us in the MAHR program by stating that “those with practical skills or hands-on work experience should have the best job prospects. Also, encouraging is that historians’ broad training in writing, analytical research, and critical thinking will be beneficial in many different occupations.

The best part of the reading for this week was the blog posts from Public History Commons. There were many things that struck me as important. After reading Bob Beatty’s piece it is a little disheartening that Boise State, through the MAHR program, cannot provide a practicum for all graduate students. Internships in Boise, in the field of history, are extremely limited and with public history work being a hands-on endeavor it is important that students have the opportunity to practice these skills, like Beatty wrote, “public history work is often messy and disjointed;” and sometimes the only way to appreciate and learn about this element of public history is by actually doing the work, not just reading about it.

Scott Stroh made some of the best points about public history that I have read in a long time. He lays out some important things for cultural organizations to consider in his assertion that “cultural organization’s greatest value rests with its ability to change the world, and that cultural organizations must seek to provide experiences that:
1. Inspire, challenge, and question;
2. Nurture, inform, and educate;
3. Offer dialogue, discourse, and debate;
4. Provide opportunities for reflection and action, and
5. Offer enrichment through authentic interaction with people, place, and heritage.

It seems that all of us in class share similar assertions and realize public historians’ role in accomplishing these kinds of experiences. From class discussions there also seems to be a consensus that “instead of focusing on career specializations or subject matter expertise, professional development, especially beyond academia, must focus on the development of people—civic minded citizens—able to lead, inspire, and engage community based on an appreciation, knowledge, and love of history.” The advice that Stroh offers to public history students is encouraging and practical, and I am glad it was the assigned reading this week.

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