Military History Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career in military history? Get real job duties and education requirements to see if a career in military history is right for you.
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Careers in Military History

The field of military history includes the compilation and analysis of military practices, events and culture throughout history. Among the many careers in military history are historian, archivist, history professor and political scientist. Here they are, at a glance:

Military Historian Archivist History Professor Political Scientist
Career Overview Military historians analyze historical data and may present new evidence about military events. Archivists preserve historical documents for public use. History professors teach and research historical information. Political scientists analyze national and international government operations and public policies.
Education/Training Requirements Master's or doctoral degree Bachelor's degree Master's degree, but preferably doctoral degree Master's or doctoral degree
Program Length 2-6 years after undergraduate education 4 years 2-6 years after undergraduate education 2-6 years after undergraduate education
Certification Not applicable Voluntary certification through Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA) Not applicable Not applicable
Job Outlook for 2014-2024 Slower than average growth (2%)* Fast-as-average growth (7%)* Faster-than-average growth (13%)* No projected growth (-2%)*
Median Salary (2014) $55,870 (for all historians) $49,120* $66,840* $104,920*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Military Historian

Military historians research how historical events and trends related to the military or warfare influence society. According to the BLS, most general historians are employed by government or historical societies. In the case of military historians, many might be employed at historical societies devoted to the study and appreciation of military history. Like other historians, military historians may work full-time, including performing fieldwork at historical sites, such as battlegrounds, military archive buildings or military bases.

Requirements

According to the BLS, historians need to hold a master's or doctoral degree in order to work in their field. Graduate programs in history include courses on historical research, managing and using historical documents and courses in a specific historical concentration, such as military history. These courses help with communication and analytical skills, which prepare you to study historical data and argue persuasively about military affairs. Many military historians work with sensitive military documents and thus jobs in this field often require a security clearance.

Based on November 2012 job ads, some employers looked for the following:

  • A Hawaiian military institute wants to hire a military historian for a Prisoner of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) project. The historian will investigate historical documents from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War to identify soldiers who are considered POWs or MIA. The candidate must have a master's or doctoral degree.
  • An Arizona military facility needs a military historian to develop and direct military history programs and to act as a representative for military history awareness. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree or higher in history.
  • A Washington, D.C. museum needs a director to manage the historical exhibits related to the Air Force. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree and must be able to demonstrate knowledge of military history. The candidate must also have business management experience, be eligible for the Senior Executive Service and have a top secret security clearance.

Standing Out

Many military and historical associations have volunteer opportunities that can help you gain experience with research and exhibit work. In addition, many of these associations maintain a network of professional connections and job openings across the country. The BLS indicates that outside government work for historians, such as work for historical societies and museums, is expected to increase the demand for historians across the 2010 to 2020 decade.

Archivist

An archivist is a professional who has specialized training to handle, preserve and organize historical documents and artifacts. Many archivists work for colleges, universities, museums and historical societies. Archivists who specialize in working with military documents may work directly for a particular military installation or for a government agency. Both full and part-time jobs are available in this field.

Requirements

The BLS states that most archivists have a bachelor's or master's degree in history, library science or records management. Some history programs have archival training courses, while other programs include classes on digital archives. These courses help you organize data and work within complex archival systems.

Based on November 2012 job ads, some employers looked for the following:

  • A U.S. military installation in Washington, D.C. is looking for an archivist to preserve and manage historical naval documents. Duties include digitizing documents and long-range planning for the archives. A bachelor's degree and a top secret security clearance are required.
  • A government contractor in Washington, D.C. needs an archivist to work in the library and information services of a federal agency. The archivist must have a master's degree in archival or library science. The candidate must be able to coordinate with the reference department staff in researching and implementing the best referencing system for the archival data.
  • An historical society in Arizona needs an archivist to help with processing historical records. The archivist needs to handle historical products and categorize them properly within the society's catalog. A master's degree in history or library science is required and the historical society prefers a candidate with ACA certification.

Standing Out

One way to expand your professional horizons is to gain certification provided by the ACA. This certification is voluntary and is available for archivists with a master's degree. In addition, joining archivist organizations and taking part in conferences may open networking opportunities. The BLS indicates that working toward a doctoral degree may also help you stand out in the field.

History Professor

A history professor teaches college-level courses to undergraduate and graduate students. Military history professors also conduct research and publish academic papers or books concerning historical events and trends related to the military. The BLS states that in 2010, about 70% of all history professors taught at colleges and universities. The remainder taught at community and junior colleges. Although professors usually have flexible schedules, time spent teaching, researching, helping students and working with your history department can consume several hours in the week.

Requirements

Professionally, most history professors have a doctoral degree in history and can have specializations, such as in military history. If you want to teach at a junior or community college, a master's degree in history may suffice. During graduate school, doctoral students have the opportunity to teach classes to undergraduates. This teaching experience can provide training that most universities and colleges require.

Based on November 2012 job ads, some employers looked for the following:

  • An Oklahoma college needs a history professor with expertise in military history. The candidate must be able to teach a 12-hour semester and provide evidence of classroom experience. Besides military history, the candidate should have a grasp on U.S. history and world civilizations.
  • A Tennessee college needs a chair for their history department. The history department provides undergraduate degrees in history, as well as a master's degree in military history. The candidate needs to have five years of teaching and academic administration experience.
  • A New Jersey college needs a history professor who can teach about the history of the Mediterranean region. The candidate can hold expertise in the military history of the region, particular Islamic political and military history in the Mediterranean. The candidate must be fluent in Arabic.

Standing Out

Having a dissertation in military history and teaching experience would highlight your interest and expertise in the area and thus may help you stand out among history professor job candidates. When you become a professor, the next level of competition is for tenure within the department. This is attained through teaching, completing research projects and doing administrative work. Volunteering your time for departmental administrative duties, as well as continually publishing peer-reviewed works in military history, may help you with your case for becoming a tenured professor.

Political Scientist

Political scientists study phenomena and trends in politics, public affairs and government. Political scientists analyze a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to make projections concerning political and policy trends.

As of 2010, 53% of political scientists worked for the federal government, while the remaining percentage worked at research groups, think tanks, lobbying organizations, non-profits and political interest organizations. Most employers provide full-time work for political scientists.

Requirements

To assess public affairs adequately, most employers require political scientists to hold a master's or doctoral degree in political science, public policy or public administration. Besides a master's in political science, there are several degree programs tailored toward government management, such as a Master of Public Administration (MPA) or a Master of Public Policy (MPP). Those who want to examine the impacts of U.S. military policies may take classes in international relations during their degree programs.

Based on November 2012 job ads, some employers looked for the following:

  • A global institution based in New York needs a political scientist to work in the peacekeeping operations department. This position is focused on Africa, and the political scientist must demonstrate their expertise of the continent. The candidate must have 15 years of professional experience working in diplomacy, political analysis or peacekeeping.
  • A Washington, D.C. science association needs a political scientist to analyze public policy proposals for science and technology investments. The association wants a political scientist who knows about science and technology policy and how international governments invest and develop their technology sectors. The candidate needs to demonstrate their comprehension of engineering, scientific and technological terminology.
  • A Florida college is looking for an adjunct faculty position in political science. The candidate needs to hold a master's degree in political science. The position is for an international relations class, so the candidate must be well-versed in world politics.

Standing Out

The BLS states that competition for political scientist jobs, whether in academia, government or non-profit sectors, is expected to be high over the next decade. Therefore, one of the best ways to stand out, besides gaining academic credentials, is to have experience researching, analyzing and writing policy. Entry-level positions at research firms and non-profits or work on political campaigns and government agencies can enhance your real-world experience in policy matters.

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