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How Do I Become an Economic Historian?

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  • Written By: Gregory Hanson
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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Economic history is an academic field, and anyone wishing to become an economic historian should plan to go through a program of graduate education. An appropriate undergraduate degree is generally required to gain entrance into a graduate program in economic history, although some flexibility may exist for students with exceptional life histories. Upon graduation, economic historians typically work for governments, businesses, or in academia, though specific qualifications vary slightly between these fields.

The discipline of economic history mixes some of the economic modeling techniques and theories of conventional economics with some of the techniques and approaches used by academic historians. The field focuses much of its attention on the development of economic trends and forces in the past and pays particular attention to the history of specific events. This discipline often employs rigorous statistical modeling in the course of its work analyzing past events.

Entry into the field of economic history typically requires a graduate education. Some schools, particularly in the United Kingdom, offer degrees specifically in economic history. Other school systems offer economic history as one area of study that can be pursued within departments of history or economics. Terminal masters programs are available and can be combined with other degrees, such as degrees in business administration.

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Graduate programs in economics select students with a broad assortment of skills. Mathematical and analytical thinking are crucial, but the ability to read and write effectively is needed as well. An undergraduate student looking to become an economic historian should focus his or her studies on both economics and history and demonstrate ability at both mathematical and analytical work. Undergraduate degrees in economic history, which teach precisely these skills, are available at some schools.

After obtaining an appropriate education, a candidate looking to become an economic historian may seek employment in the academic field. These positions are at a premium, and a successful applicant for a professorship will typically have a very strong record as a graduate student, coupled with excellent references from his or her faculty mentors. A history of publication in peer-reviewed journals is also very helpful for a student aiming to become an economic historian.

In some cases, a student working to become an economic historian may not wish to pursue a career as a full-time academic. It is possible for such students to find part-time work lecturing on economic history. Many universities now employ adjunct faculty to teach many of their classes, and are happy to contract with lecturers on a per-course basis. This sort of work may also be suitable for economic historians who are primarily employed in other sectors but are interested in remaining part of an academic community.

Training in economic history can also prepare a student to become an economic historian in the industrial or governmental sectors. The skills possessed by economic historians are useful to businesses for a variety of modeling purposes. Governments, too, can make use of these skills to improve their ability to perform their planning and regulatory functions.

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