The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study history?

History is one of the more prominent subjects in the humanities and yet it isn’t always that well understood. We take a look at what studying history is like, why we study it and where a qualification in history could lead you.

share image

Why do we study history? There are multitude of complex reasons and motivations for the study of history. However, what is certain is that a history degree continues to catch the attention of international students. Whether you wish to have a better understanding of modern geo-political relations or wish to understand how certain events in the past have shaped contemporary society, studying history can help. We’re here to answers your questions on the importance of studying history, what you’ll learn in a history qualification and what you can do with a history degree.


What is history?


Let’s start by investigating exactly what history and its associated academic discipline is. At its heart history is the investigation, analysis, critique and interpretation of what has happened in the past. Part of the study of history is trying to understand what motivated people to make certain decisions and how certain societies were set on a particular trajectory.


As a discipline history allows you to both explore particular time periods, cultures, societies, locations and topics or have a much more global overview. You’ll get a sense of how past events can echo over centuries and still influence the way we think about certain issues or represent aspects of our culture. Some of the top reasons to study history include:


  • The development of key and transferable skills for the future such as critical thinking, argumentation, logic, analysis and communication.
  • The development of independence and the nurturing of specific areas of inquiry
  • A diverse and often multidisciplinary curriculum
  • The development of cultural understanding and awareness
  • Understanding the contemporary world and being able to identify trends, behaviour and possible developments.


How long does a history degree take to complete?


One of the questions you’re probably thinking about is how long a degree in history usually takes. You will most likely major in history as part of a Bachelor of Arts qualification and therefore will spend on average three to four years completing a degree in history. Remember that you do have an honour’s, master’s and doctoral degree avenue open to you if you choose to pursue a postgraduate route in the subject. 


A master’s degree in history will take a year of your time to complete full-time, or two years part-time. For a PhD in history you will be looking at about three to four years full-time and about six years part-time.


Explore some of the places you could study history in the UK:



What are the entry requirements for a history degree?


If you have an interest in the study of history and are thinking about lodging an application, take time to verify what the entry requirements for your course are. Generally, to gain admission to a history degree as an international students you will need:


  • A good academic record, B average or above.
  • Minimum IELTS score of 6.5, but can be as high as 7.0, with no section score below 6.5.
  • A minimum of a B grade for English for GCSE English / C grade for A-level English / or equivalent.
  • International baccalaureate English minimum of 6 to 7 (SL) / International baccalaureate English literature and language 5 to 6 (SL)
  • 3.00 to 3.25 GPA / SAT above 1290 (650 or above for three subject tests)


If you don’t meet the entry requirements for a degree, especially the English language requirements you can undertake a pre-sessional English course or sit for the IELTS Academic test.


Check out some of the top institutions for history in Canada:


What will I study in a history degree?


The curriculum for a history degree will not be exactly the same at every institution and you’ll likely have combination of core compulsory modules and then some elective modules. Remember that history is generally taken in combination with another major subject from within the arts and humanities discipline. You may be interested in pursuing something closely aligned such as anthropology or politics, or you could study a language or linguistics.


Some of the modules that you could come across when pursuing a history degree include:


  • Historical methodology
  • The modern world
  • European and world history
  • Classical civilisation
  • Medieval history
  • American history
  • Chinese history
  • Imperialism, colonialism and slavery
  • War, politics and society
  • Specific historical movements and periods (e.g. the civil rights movement / French revolution)
  • Historical literature and art
  • History of subjects (e.g. medicine, engineering, science)
  • Historical identity politics


An undergraduate history degree is delivered as a combination of face-to-face lectures and seminars, however there is often a significant amount of independent study and research required of you to meet the requirements for the degree. You’ll sit for exams two to three times a year, submit assignments and essays and you will also probably have to submit a final year thesis or honour’s dissertation.


Find out more about where you can study history in Australia:



What are the postgraduate history degree options?

If you have successfully completed an undergraduate degree in history and wish to continue studying the subject at a postgraduate level, then you have the option of a master’s degree in history and a doctoral degree in the subject.  A master’s qualification in history can be classed as an MA, MSc or MRes degree depending on the specialisation you choose to undertake.


Remember that history at a master’s level requires you to choose a particular topic of interest and specialise.  History courses at this level may be a combination of coursework and research, or can be research only degrees (MRes), where you’ll write a single dissertation for examination. It is also possible to study a history degree online or via distance learning at this level.


For a PhD in history you will need to have received a master’s degree in the subject or a related discipline and received a minimum of a B-average for admission. In your doctoral studies you’ll work with a supervisor to develop and fine-tune your ideas in a specialist area of history with the view of making a unique contribution go the field.


Explore your options of studying history at a university in New Zealand:



What can you do with a history degree?


Along with the question of what the importance of studying history is, comes another common query. What is it exactly that you can do with a history degree? It’s likely you’ve heard some disparaging remarks about the graduate prospects for history students, however these are particularly misplaced. A history degree equips you with many transferable and highly coveted skills that can see you working in a variety of areas and fields that include:


  • Education
  • Government
  • Politics
  • Law
  • Engineering
  • IT
  • Marketing and communications
  • Charity sector
  • Heritage sector
  • Travel and tourism


In fact, data shows that 85 per cent of history graduates are either employed or in further studies after graduation.


With a better understanding of why we study history and what it’s importance can be, you’ll be able to decide if it’s a subject you may wish to undertake. While you’re here you supplement that knowledge by reading up on the types of bachelor’s degrees there are, the top humanities degrees for international students and what to expect when you study humanities.



Must read

Top subjects for international students 2020

Take inspiration from other prospective international students when choosing what subject to study at university. The following five courses are currently the most popular, based on the research of 7.6 million students on Hotcourses Abroad since the start of 2020. We’ve also looked at the top countries for each course so you can make an informed decision. So, if you’re feeling lost about what you should do next, take a look at the subjects to see what stands out for


What are professional degrees?

When evaluating your study options and doing your research you’ll probably have come across qualifications that are categorised as professional degrees. Perhaps you’re not entirely sure what this means or what differentiates such programmes and courses from academic degrees. You may also be asking yourself if they have a particular impact on your career trajectory. We take a closer look at professional degrees for you and examine what they’re all about.  


Engineering degrees: What to expect

Engineering is undoubtedly one of the most popular degree choices. With a range of specialisations and very good career and professional prospects, engineering degrees rank in the top five most searched qualifications by international students. Nobody can deny that there is certain prestige that is attached to having completed a degree in the field. However, have you ever taken the time to investigate exactly what an engineering course entails and what you’ll be