Where do historians work in Australia?
Bring the past to life. Inspire the present. Give insight to the future. Want to put your historical passion into practice? Find out where you can work as a historian in Australia.
So you’ve decided to take your penchant for the past and transform it into a career for the future. But where do historians actually work in Australia?
The good news is, lots of places. And many, you may not have even considered. Let’s take a look.
Types of historians
Historians have meticulous research and communication skills. Not only do they produce evidence-based interpretations, they also piece together stories, artefacts, memories and images like they’re part detective, part storyteller.
Professional historians are sought by a range of organisations and can work for governments, historical societies, cultural and heritage organisations, media agencies, law firms, film production studios and more.
They can be commissioned as independent consultants to provide historical research and produce their findings in a book, report, exhibition, a website or digital history.
Professional historians can also engage with allied professionals such as archaeologists and archivists to provide advice.
For many planting the ‘I want to know everything I can about [insert fascinating historical period] seed’ our first contact with history is usually at primary or high school.
To become a qualified historian, an undergraduate degree is essential—and many historians will continue to specialise with a master degree or PhD. Historians can work in tertiary institutions as a lecturer and turn their expertise to develop interpretations and texts that are used to teach history in secondary schools.
This can lead to an enriching career as a history researcher and teacher, like Richard Broome who has worked for over 40 years as a tertiary lecturer and professor.
“I left school to become a history teacher, inspired by my own teachers – and while I became an academic instead, I still remained very much a teacher.”
Over his extensive career, Richard has written, co-authored and edited over 30 books; including texts used in high school classrooms on Australian and Indigenous history.
And as a historian who has both taught and researched, Richard has enjoyed, “a wonderfully diverse career.”
Richard Broome is Emeritus Professor in History, La Trobe University and the President of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.
Curators are the ‘bringing the past back’ specialists. A carefully crafted exhibition about a period of history is the closest thing you can get to a time machine.
A curator oversees a collection, tells its story and designs the experience for an audience—after an extensive research period, of course.
They are also responsible for managing the acquisition, preservation and display of objects and can work in galleries, libraries, museums or cultural institutions.
Archivist, archaeologist and more
Historians can specialise as archivists preserving objects and managing records for libraries, museums, local, state and federal governments and corporations. Or, they can literally dig deep into history on excavation sites as archaeologists, and are often engaged by engineering and environmental consultants as well as mining and resource companies.
Historians can also turn their expertise to help and educate the community as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, cultural heritage officers, social workers, sociologists or secondary teachers.
How much do historians get paid?At the time of publishing, the average salary for a historian ranges from $80,0000 to $90,000, according to SEEK.
How to get a job as a historian?
1. Start studying
Begin with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree. You can choose to specialise in your area of interest, as there are as many history majors as there are moments of history.
Depending on the course and university you choose, you can usually select from the following specialisations:
- Ancient history
- Applied history
- Australian history
- Asian history
- Indigenous history
- Women’s history
- Economic history
- Environmental history
- Medieval and Renaissance history
- Public history
- Modern history
- History of nations
Through Open Universities Australia, you can study a range of history courses from leading Australian universities online—allowing you to maximise on flexibility and topics.
2. Add to your skill set
Consider continuing study with a masters or doctoral degree. This will bolster your knowledge and allow you to flex your historian muscles with further research—showing those in the industry that you’re one to watch.
3. Consider teaching
Decide whether you’d like the option to teach history in secondary schools. If this is something you’re interested in, you’ll need a postgraduate education qualification.
The good news is, because you have studied before at this stage, these courses are generally shorter in length. You’re simply adding the ability to teach to your existing historical knowledge. There are a range of postgraduate education courses available to study through Open Universities Australia.
4. Immerse yourself
Read. Explore local history. Attend exhibitions. Visit cultural institutions. Repeat.
By continuing to follow your interest in history, through reading, listening to podcasts or visiting museums or charting your own history tours of your community (and beyond) you’ll grow your understanding of what a historian’s work is.
4. Embed in your historical community
Join and volunteer for a historical society in your community or state. By connecting to your local area and its history with a historical society, you’ll learn about your community’s history, source materials, be inspired and network.
5. Join professional associations
Become a member of a Professional Historians Association. Once you’ve completed your tertiary degree, you can join this association to find employment and professional development opportunities.
There you have it. Your path to making a passion for history a paying job – and more than that, an enriching and important role in our society. Go get ‘em.
Keen to find the course to get you there? Through Open Universities Australia, you can choose from thousands of courses with leading Australian universities—all in one place. Our history courses page is a great place to start.