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The Employment of History Graduates

March 2011 UPDATE

David Nicholl's has completed an update to his work on 'The Employment of History Graduates', revealing developments since the original report was produced in 2005 and in light of concerns about the significant changes ahead in HE.

Listed below is some background information on the two reports already completed by David in this field which has been extensive, exploring the relationship between a history education, skills and employment. In 2005 this led to two publications, 'The Employment of History Graduates', concerned with the jobs and careers that History graduates enter, andThe Employability of History Students', which focuses on the preparedness and capacity of history students for employment. Taken together, the two reports provide clear information for students, teachers, careers officers and employers on the skills that are typically developed by a history education and the careers open to those who have pursued such an education.

Both earlier publications and the 2011 update can be viewed together in our elibrary.



In conjunction with two other Humanities Subject Centres, History has carried out a search of high achieving graduates to help inform the updating of David's publication and help teachers and academics to answer the regular question ... what famous people studied history?

The full datasets of High Achieving Graduates can be found in the 'About' section of this project website


There are three main parts to the 2005 report on The Employment of History Graduates:

  • The employment of history students six months after they have left university is examined using the first destination statistics produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
  • The second section discusses the employment prospects of graduates three years after graduation by which time the majority have found settled careers that better reflect their qualifications.
  • In the third part, the investigation of the longer term career prospects of history graduates is supported by reference to the many and varied careers pursued successfully by famous history graduates. The part played by personality in explaining their success, especially in business, is tentatively explored.

Finally, the report concludes with observations on the relationship between the history curriculum and employment prospects, and with pointers for further research, some of which are taken up and considered at greater length in The Employability of History Students.

The project behind The Employability of History Students uses empirical evidence to provide a more forensic examination of the skills cultivated by a history education. The three main parts of this report are:

  • The examination of the rise of the employability skills agenda and its impact on higher education, together with a critique of the pedagogoy that underpins it.
  • An analysis of data on the skills development of history students using questionnaires completed by A Level students, third year undergraduates, graduates of 2000 and famous graduates.
  • The relationship between personality-type and employability, based on self-reported charactersitics, is tentatively explored.

The report concludes that history teaches many of the key employability skills and that graduates of the discipline are generally well-prepared for the jobs they enter, but that their employability could be enhanced by a few relatively simple changes to the curriculum.

View the full reports on the History Subject Centre website.

Find out more about teaching and learning resources on a variety of topics by visiting the main History Subject Centre website.


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