A History Degree Gave Me the Tools to Live Well and Earn More

A History Degree Gave Me the Tools to Live Well and Earn More

•  3 minute read

When pursuing entrepreneurial goals, the benefit of a grad school degree - even one in history - is often underestimated.

From 2009 to 2011, I went to graduate school to study American history. My plan at the time was to learn as much as I could about museums so that one day I could be a curator or a historian who helped the public learn more about their past.

Catherine Alford with six of her fellow park rangers working at a museum in Richmond, Virginia.Catherine Alford with six of her fellow  park rangers working at a museum in Richmond, Virginia.[/caption]


While in graduate school, I took countless courses on gender studies, public history, the Civil War, material culture, the history of medicine, and more. I spent hours doing internships at museums, and I eventually landed a coveted job as a historian and interpreter for the National Park Service.


Of course, as you might have noticed, these days I make a living as a financial writer. My entire career path has shifted, and I spend every day thinking about budgets, bookkeeping, clients, and running a successful business. Because of this, I haven’t thought about the Civil War in a very long time, despite my years of training – both in undergraduate and graduate school – to do just that.


So do I regret going to graduate school and racking up $39,000 of student loan debt in the process? Truthfully, I don’t regret it, although it’s been a process to get to this point.


Here’s why:


Reading and Writing Experience


If there’s one thing that a liberal arts program prepares you to do, it’s to write. While in graduate school, I wrote thousands upon thousands of words each week. It was also typical to read a book each week, digesting difficult articles on historical theory.

I think that time spent in grad school trained me well to be the type of writer that I am today. The deadlines for school papers prepared me well to meet deadlines for clients, and the fact that I had to constantly push through the night to finish papers on multitude topics helped me to learn how to balance demands from different clients.


Research Experience


There is a huge problem with online content in that people often just copy and paste whatever they feel like without properly referencing sources. This leads to a ton of misinformation that is made worse by social media.


My history background has allowed me to avoid writing posts that aren’t up to par with journalistic standards. I learned how to research properly, how to delve into studies to find the correct stats and information, and how to present it in such a way as to convey accurate information to my readers.


Curiosity About the World


This is perhaps the biggest and most important take away from my studies. The word “history” comes from the Greek word “historia,” which means “finding out.”




Sometimes the historian in me takes over when I’m writing personal finance posts. I might write about credit cards, only to wonder when the first credit card was issued.


In short, I don’t regret getting that degree – expensive as it was – because I believe it makes me better at my job today. Studying business or finance might have helped me to understand the harder topics that I sometimes have to write about, but it’s my history background that gives me the ability to find the answers and write about them in a way that somebody else will actually want to read about.


Although I’m still paying back my graduate school debt, it’s easier to do now that I make four times as much money as I did when I worked at the Park Service. Sometimes I miss studying and learning about history, but in many ways, I know it’s never really left me.