Why Study History?

What Does History at Emory Offer?

A focus on how to think, not what to think

History is a liberal arts major. The point of a degree of history is not for professors to tell you what you should think but for you to develop the skills that allow you to comprehend things and articulate convincing interpretations of your own. Its approach to learning -- from rigorous quantitative analysis to close textual reading; from encouraging students to work with primary materials to helping them better acquaint themselves with some of the important cultures of the world; from insistence on excellence in communication to mastery of research methods -- prepares students for the challenges of a rapidly-changing world.

Archival Collections at EmoryHistory's approaches are wide-ranging and its topics almost unlimited. Even a casual glance at the course offerings in the history department reveals a class for every taste and interest, from the history of money to the persistence of memory and the alchemy of identity. With more joint-majors than any other discipline at Emory, history is the interdisciplinary approach par excellence.

In a world transformed by the powerful tides of globalization, History provides an intellectual toolkit for dealing with complex international realities. Our students' immersion in place-based knowledge and understanding of how unintended consequences shape our lives help them to understand an increasingly complex world. At Emory, the history department takes this responsibility seriously. Through our Cuttino Scholarship and Jack Award our best majors are able to undertake major research initiatives within the U.S. and abroad between their senior and junior years.

What can I do with an Undergraduate Degree in History?

More than you would think.

C. Vann WoodwardSince history trains the student in a broad range of humanistic and social science skills, history majors find a multitude of careers open to them. You might find yourself following in the footsteps of:

  • C. Vann Woodward, one of the most influential historians of the last century (Emory BA, 1930).

  • Ely Callaway, a legendary entrepreneur: and founder of Callaway Golf (Emory BA, 1940).

  • Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (Emory BA, 1965).

  • U.S. Senator Max Cleland (MA, 1968).

  • Joseph Beck, a leading attorney at Kirkpatrick, Stockton (Emory BA, 1965).

  • William Hamilton, a prominent doctor and director of the Medical College of Georgia Neuroscience Center (Emory BA, 1987).

  • Mark J. Rovner, leader of the prominent NGO, the World Wildlife Fund (Emory BA, 1977).

Recent Emory graduates have not only gone on to careers in academia and law (the classic pursuits for history majors) but have also pursued careers in medicine and public health, government, education, journalism, business, and, occasionally, the military and the hard sciences. Our majors have been accepted into top-ranked post-graduate and professional programs at schools such as Harvard, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Toronto, and Virginia. They have also taken on real world challenges as writers for ESPN, adjudicated claims for Nazi-era insurance fraud, and have served in our nation's armed forces. Our graduates have been honored with major post-secondary academic grants and world-wide responsibilities. We are deeply proud of all of them.

Other careers open to history majors include: advertising executive, analyst, archivist, broadcaster, campaign worker, consultant, congressional aide, editor, foreign service officer, foundation staffer, information specialist, intelligence agent, journalist, legal assistant, lobbyist, personnel manager, public relations staffer, researcher, teacher . . . the list is almost endless. In short, there is almost nothing a history major can not do!

How can Emory's History department help me achieve these goals?

Historians as Educators (in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education as well as public history such as historic sites and museums).

Emory offers and encourages qualified students to participate in internships in the discipline. The department has a long-standing relationship with such institutions as the Atlanta History Center and the Carter Center that gives undergraduates an opportunity to share their passion for history with others.

Historians as Researchers (museums, cultural organizations, NGOs, historic preservation, public policy think tanks).


Emory offers a rigorous academic training in historical research, not simply in the transmission of historical knowledge. The department has long placed research at the heart of its mission. The undergraduate major requires the completion of two independently developed research papers written in colloquia (upper-level seminars) that offer our majors the rigor of a graduate program. With a faculty respected around the world for its rigorous research and with independently administered funds to promote undergraduate research (the Cuttino Scholarships), Emory's history department produces not simply undergraduates who know history, but historians who can apply their research skills to any number of enterprises.

Historians as Communicators (writers, editors, journalists, documentary editors, multimedia).

Emory's history department emphasizes historical exposition, as well as research, and in our writing-intensive and media intensive classes students expect and receive detailed instruction on polishing their communication skills. Journalism is a natural co-major with history and the many alumni who have prospered in fields that require facility expression, such as law and journalism, indicate our success in instilling both communicative skills and confidence.

Historians in Business.

Through such classes on such subjects as money, industrialization and globalization, the history department has introduced its students to how people have sought to manage real-world economic problems. Given our attention to the whole context of economic life -- from the political, and social to the cultural, rather than simply the quantitative -- many of our graduates have found their training invaluable in the age of an information economy. We are proud to have trained through our own program leaders of business who are wise enough to see beyond the bottom line.