Number of history majors decline; lowest level in ten years

tags: history education, AHA, AHA Perspectives, Robert Townsend, undergraduates



Robert Townsend is the AHA’s deputy director, and the author of History’s Babel: Scholarship, Professionalization, and the Historical Enterprise, 1880–1940 (Univ. of Chicago Press).

During the 2010–11 academic year, the number of undergraduate students earning degrees in history dropped—albeit by a small percentage—for the first time in a decade, even as the number of students earning degrees in all fields continued to rise. As a result, the history discipline's share of degrees earned in 2011 declined to the lowest level in 10 years (fig. 1).

According to new information from the Department of Education, history programs conferred 35,059 bachelor's degrees in the discipline, and another 3,588 students earned degrees with history as their second major. Together, 0.6 percent fewer students earned history degrees this year compared to last.1

Even with the decline, the number of students earning degrees in the discipline remained exceptionally high. The discipline broke the 35,000 mark in degrees conferred for first time on record last year, and remains above that mark. But this occurs at a time when an unprecedented number of undergraduate students are earning degrees in other fields, so history's portion of the student population fell for the fourth year in a row. History accounted for 2.24 percent of the degrees conferred in 2007, but only 2.02 percent in 2011, which is lower than all but five of the past 25 years....




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