History

History as a field of study is concerned with understanding and interpreting societies’ changes over time. Western Michigan University's Department of History has approximately 25 full-time teacher-scholars whose areas of specialization range from antiquity to the present and include the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. If you decide to major in history at WMU, you will gain research and communication skills while learning how humans have organized their lives in multiple historical contexts.

You can choose from among three majors.

  • The history major provides well-rounded preparation for many occupations. It requires broad preparation in history, but also provides you with an opportunity to develop areas of special interest.
  • The public history major provides professional and technical training for occupations in museums, archives, historic sites and organizations, government programs and consulting.
  • The secondary education program includes courses in the College of Education and Human Development, and meets State of Michigan certification requirements. If you choose this program, you will focus in either history or social studies.

Beyond the classroom

As a history student at WMU, you will be eligible to qualify for a number of different honor societies and fellowship opportunities. The department has an active chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the international history honors society. Outstanding students may also become eligible for Phi Beta Kappa. Within the department, students with strong academic records can also graduate with honors in history and qualify for an Emeriti grant for independent research and internship opportunities.

After you graduate

Many of the students in WMU's history program are preparing to be secondary teachers. WMU began as a normal school in 1903 for the purpose of training teachers and it continues to be one of the best places in Michigan to prepare for this career. But, there are other options. There are teaching opportunities above the secondary level, in junior colleges, colleges and universities. Our faculty members are actively engaged in research and graduate education and can prepare you for graduate school and help place you at other institutions around the country. We also have a strong program in public history at the undergraduate and graduate levels, to prepare students who wish to work in museums, archives and public programs.

Government agencies and private businesses alike are turning to their past in order to develop better policies for the future. Many federal departments and state and local governments are now mature enough to have historical data banks on which to draw, to analyze the impact of past programs and policies as a basis for new legislation.  Business executives are increasingly aware of the need to organize their archives and corporate records, and to take more initiative in public relations by developing museums and related outreach activities.

For history majors at Western Michigan University, these developments translate into an unprecedented variety of opportunities to practice history professionally. 

WMU graduates with degrees in history are qualified to work in many different industries and types of organizations, including:

  • Administration and legislation
  • Advertising firms and agencies
  • Broadcasting
  • Bureau of the Census
  • Campaigns
  • Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Correctional facilities
  • Department of State
  • Health and human services
  • Highway and street construction maintenance firms
  • Housing and community development organizations
  • Law firms
  • Libraries and archives
  • Media firms
  • Museums
  • Parks and recreation
  • Peace Corps and Vista
  • Police and fire protection
  • Political parties
  • Public interest groups
  • Research foundations
  • Schools and universities
  • Social and welfare service organizations
  • State and local government
  • Transportation companies
  • Travel and tourism

Sample job titles, some requiring advanced degrees, include:

  • Anthropologist
  • Archeologist
  • Archivist
  • Biographer, writer, author or editor
  • Clergy
  • Congressional aide
  • Counselor
  • Criminologist
  • Demographer
  • Economist
  • FBI or CIA agent
  • Foreign service officer
  • Genealogist
  • Government official
  • Historian
  • Historic preservation specialist
  • Historic site tour guide
  • Historical society staff member
  • Indicter
  • Insurance agent or broker
  • Intelligence analyst
  • International relations specialist
  • Journalist or foreign news correspondent
  • Lawyer, legal assistant or paralegal
  • Lecturer
  • Librarian
  • Lobbyist
  • Market research analyst
  • Media consultant, public relations specialist or community relations director
  • Museum curator, technician or specialist
  • Park ranger
  • Peace Corps or Vista worker
  • Political scientist
  • Psychologist
  • Research assistant
  • Sociologist
  • Teacher (social studies)
  • Travel agent
  • Urban planner or administrator

Where is this program offered?

  • Kalamazoo