What jobs can you do with an Ancient History or Classics degree?

Contrary to the image I usually project, I do not expect my students to dedicate themselves to a life of poverty in their pursuit of learning Greek or Latin. Instead, I am a firm believer that a course in Ancient History or Classics is only the first step to achieve an illustrious career outside academia. Unfortunately, the direction they may take is not an obvious one. Up to now, when they asked me about the application of their degrees in real life, I tended to joke and claimed that “we are useless to humankind, since all of our customers died centuries ago”. Here I intend to correct this fallacy, and give a list of the professions our graduates follow.

  • Probably the majority of students become educators, after they receive their degree. In my eyes, teaching is not a profession. It is a vocation that can be very rewarding.
  • Because of their love for books, many choose to become librarians. This allows them to continue their avid reading, without having to pay a fortune to bookshops.
  • Historical training and the analysis of ancient processes give the ability to analyse modern events. Journalism, and especially becoming a foreign correspondent, is an excellent application of the skills you would acquire during your university years. However, in order to follow this profession you may need an MA in Journalism. Until then, you may pursuit blogging.
  • You should not dismiss the skills you get, when you write your essays. I always insist on grammar and syntax and all the tedious little details that make a script enjoyable to read. Once you master the English language it will not be difficult to find a job as a copy editor, editor, or technical author.
  • Traditionally, classics graduates in the UK enter public services and become competent administrators. Under the current economic circumstances, this may be an excellent idea. In addition, private businesses (e.g. banks) are always in need of graduates that will become part of their administrative mechanism.
  • If you do not find the safety of a monthly salary appealing, then you can start your own business. For this choice you will need two additional prerequisites: a) a passion for something outside the sphere of ancient history and b) some entrepreneurial skills (which normally cannot develop in a university environment). Since I find this career path especially interesting (albeit difficult), I will talk about this possibility in more detail over the next few months.
  • Working with primary material is another skill that can be turned into a job. Many graduates will opt for becoming archivists or even museum curators, after they receive the appropriate postgraduate training.
  • Politics is another sphere you may choose to enter. Your acumen in the analysis of current affairs (or ancient ones), your eloquence (after all you read Cicero’s speeches) and your ideals (I am sure you did not become an ancient historian because you expected a financial return) will turn you into an excellent professional politician. Also, if you can speak a couple of languages, you may pursuit a career as a Diplomat or International Relations specialist. If you fail in your aspirations to get in the limelight, you can always work as a public policy analyst.
  • Corporate organizations will be glad to hire classicists or ancient historians in sectors such as marketing, human resources and project management. Look for companies with a strong business philosophy in need of graduates with analytical skills and uncommon sense. And make certain that you have some hands on experience in a local company before you apply for such a post. After all, in these cases experience always counts more than any ‘First Class’ degree you may get.
  • The ones who enjoy travelling should definitely follow a career as a tour planner or guide. This way you will get all the free trips your heart desires and you will meet a range of interesting people.
  • Other less known professions, you can follow are: stockbroker, IT programmer, event coordinator, translator or interpreter, police investigator. For all of these you will need additional training but the effort will be worth it, if you heart is at it.

I wish you good luck in whatever you chose! Just make certain that you follow your passions and your future happiness will be assured!

Economic historian and numismatic consultant

48 Comments

  1. I would certainly hire someone with a good degree in Classics, in preference to someone with a mediocre degree in a subject that was directly relevant to the job. (There are exceptions, for example when the profession is medicine or engineering.)

    On public administration, a Permanent Secretary to the Treasury was apparently once asked what his qualifications for running the economy might be. He replied, “A certain ability to compose poetry in dead languages”.

    Finally, it is said that the advantage of a degree in philosophy (and perhaps in Classics too) is that it enables you to despise the money that it prevents you from earning.

  2. Thank you Richard,

    students definitely need some positive encouragement from professionals who know how the job market works. In fact, I hope you do not mind if I ask your advice in the future. My students are desperate for more information.

    On a lighter note I do remember that Sir Humphrey in the series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister was also a classicist. Hence, he excelled at public administration.

    If anyone else can share some positive examples of ancient historians and classicists outside academia, please, do so here.

  3. Clearly, you are writing about job options in the UK or elsewhere, but not in Greece. If you were writing about Greece, you would have to include in your list the following jobs: mobile phone seller, fast-food cook, and allowance-from-mom-and-dad receiver.

  4. A good number of classicists/ancient historians go into journalism, indeed it is one of the first things I would look for. I certainly would never hire someone with a media studies degree.

  5. I have a first class degree in both Classics and History and am struggling finding a job. Thank you for giving some very helpful ideas.

    • Hang on there! When did you get your degree and from which university? Are you employed now? Anywhere?

    • I have an MA in Ancient History from Newcastle University and I’m still struggling to find a job. I was thinking about becoming an archivist but it costs almost £9000 to get a degree in the field and no one will hire you without one. I am truly stuck for ideas.

  6. I am in the same situation, I have a first class degree in ancient history and have so far only been able to find a temporary job in a pensions and insurance firm. This article does inspire some hope however…

  7. One might add that some of the early computer experts found strength in a capacity to manipulate the grammar and syntax of well-organised if seldom-spoken languages. I know of at least one high-flyer with the Microsoft Corporation who has a relatively recent M.A. in Classics

  8. Become investment bankers. All you need is self-confidence and numeracy. Earn yourselves a fortune by the age of 30, and then do as you wish.

    Was it Diogenes who was asked whether it was better to be rich or to be wise, and replied that it must be better to be rich, because he always saw the wise hanging around the doors of the rich.

  9. I’m considering taking ancient history as a degree and uni, and it seems like you need to have something else beside a simple Ancient History Degree to pursue a career truely challenging.. Is this true? I don’t want to end up in a library surrounded by books (although I have actually considered being a librarian)

    • You do not need to have something else. The study of ancient history gives you THAT something else.

  10. Pastry chef, DJ, terrorism studies (with a view to joining MI5), international development, tea taster: these are just a few of the jobs I have written references for. Don’t forget Law: always very popular with Latinists.

  11. Hi people,

    I will be studying Classics at the University of Manchester in September mainly because I find it easy and I enjoy it. I believe I could easily do a degree in economics and business management. It is my aim to get a first class honours degree but I feel that I will hinder myself doing classics and not something more specific. I’m having big doubts that I will struggle to find decent employment and a decent wage. Any advice or help would be massively appreciated. Thanks!

    • You sound about very stressed about your future. As I mentioned in the article you have several options you may want to follow. In the meantime, you should concentrate on your studies and enjoy the ride! A degree in classics can be very rewarding!

  12. Hi,

    I find myself stuck. I am seriously considering studying Ancient History at uni next year, but I am terrified by the idea that I would not get a decent job with this, as it doesn’t seem to be all that relevant. Although this article has inspired me I still feel as though I would be trapped with few options and a waste of years at uni.

    Thanks for the article, it kinda helped.

  13. Classics is for personal satisfaction — heard of that?

  14. This is heartening to read; I am currently half-way through an Open University classical studies MA alongside the day-job (will take me four years as I took a side-jaunt off for a year’s graduate diploma in creative writing), and it’s good to know that there are employers who will look favorably upon this.

  15. I’ve always had a great fascination with ancient history- how couldn’t you? They gave us everything!

    To get to the point, I’m giving history serious consideration for university – my high-school friends and their high-paying degrees be damned. However, I have an ageist (to use a silly word) concern. Would twenty-five, twenty-six year-old (as I’d possibly be at graduation) graduates be taken particularly seriously when applying straight out of university with a degree in Ancient History?

    There’s nothing quite as bad as getting the resume cold shoulder from dozens of possible employers.

  16. I graduated from June of 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Classics and am still looking for a job. Seeing this post made me feel so much better! Right now it’s really hard to find a job in the US (no matter what your degree is in), but I feel more inspired after reading this. And to be honest, I wouldn’t trade my degree in Classics for any other major in the world! I studied what I loved, and that experience was priceless to me.

  17. I’m 13 and want to be a doctor so I’ll have to do medicine but can I take a degree in history as well as I love it and don’t want to just drop it. Also would it get me a better chance of finding a job??

  18. I am a mature student – age 26, just about to finish my first year of an honours degree in archaeology and Classics. I took both of these subjects as I love them, and have a major passion for ancient history. The reason why I am posting is because regardless of my passion, it does not keep a roof over my head and put food on the table. I am very seriously thinking about having to leave my degree and get back into full time work, not even a part time job would keep me covered, though there are none anyway, but I have certain skills in sales and such which would get me a full time job, though I hated sales. So now the conflict, leave my passion to live? or continue and struggle and stress?

  19. Don’t do it!!! Don’t throw away your education!!! I loooove archaeology but I’ve heard that it gets yo no where. Is this true? What grades do you need to get into the course and it what subjects?? Please reply xxxx kiara

    • I’ve just graduated with a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology from Nottingham. The universities I applied to wanted AAB-BBC, it depends where you go, but they weren’t very picky abound what subjects you did, generally History is good, and I found Chemistry really useful, Geography might be good too.

      Archaeology jobs in the field are hard to find due to a huge amount of volunteers, however there are quite a few jobs in Lab work and analysis, which can be more interesting than digging up a muddy field. Foreign language skills can be useful if you want to dig areas outside of the UK.

  20. Lovely and apt parphrasing from Diogenes. IF you are looking to make a living for yourself I would recommend from my direct experience that you should never read Ancient History as a means to that end, because employment prospects are distant, protracted and poorly salaried. I graduated with an 2:1 MAhons in Ancient History from St Adnrews and 10 years later not only am I barely earning my age, but also my greatest preoccupation in life involves dodging slings and arrows of outrageous workplace developements initiated by much less well educated protagonists who are nevertheless better paid and more senior to me. A generalist, unspecialised career using “thinking” skills you may have gained whilst pondering the Peloponnesian Empire, whether fastidiously or not, may not be all you are hoping for right now. Are you truly happy to graduate and tehn spend extra 2-3 years and thousands of £ before anyone would even consider you for a job? Would it not besimpler to express your love for the Greek and Latin world in private and earn a quick degree which actually qualifies you to have an expert opinion on something that employers are interested in?

    If however you are independantly wealthy, none of this will apply, by all means read Ancient History and take pride and pleasure in being so very clever and rarefied.

    The reminder of you rest advised that the world of employment is unforgiving and anyone can sell you a pipe dream

  21. Follow your dreams and do what you like. If you truly have a passion for classics and a desire to succeed within the field, all you need is a bit of perseverance and determination to accomplish what you truly wish to. William Feather once said “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

  22. Beautiful!

  23. You give so many options here and make it sound like there is a wealth of possibilities. But I was disappointed to find that a post about what “jobs” one can do with a Classics degree is actually answering the question what “Careers” one can attempt. I did not actually study Classics, but my partner did. We both went to UCL, he received a 1st in Classics, I studied History of Art. Neither of us can find any job outside of service industries – bars, cafes, etc. Even though I have a year’s experience editing a professional student magazine (http://www.mouthlondon.com/), I am deemed not capable of performing the most simple of office tasks. Any advice on the next step?

  24. I am currently a Classics Student with a minoring degree in Political History at the University of Georgia in the States. As an occupation, teaching would not be displeasing to me at all, although I have been advised by individuals in my chosen field and by my academic adviser that such a degree accompanied by the minor in P.H. would be prime for a career in the field of political analysis or if i would like, the opportunity to become a public official myself. If there are any other ideas I would love to hear them. I love the Classics, their language, cultures and philosophy; this is the only field for me. Euge!

  25. I studied Classics at the University of Washington and graduated with a very high GPA a few years ago. My dream of a lifetime came true when I got into grad school and got awarded with grands. Unfortunately I had to quit it due to financial uncertainties. I am a part time teacher at the moment and it goes without saying that I’m struggling to find decent employment. Nonetheless, I would never trade my degree for any other degrees available.

  26. I know that it’s kind of early for me to be thinking about this, but I absolutely love Latin And Greek and pretty much any kind of mythology or religion thing, but at the same time I dont want to waste years of school(because im not just doing four) and get stuck with a lousey teacher salary

  27. I am pursuing a undergraduate BA degree in museum studies and possibly also major in a specific area of ancient history as well. The job prospects with this combination appear to be quite appealing. Just need to stick it out for the next few years.

  28. Sky Kelley 3-3-2012 4:45 p.m. / Reply

    I will have my BS in Social Science this summer and then I will take a month off for some R&R, then I will start working on my Masters in Ancient World History. Iam so excited, I love , love classsical and ancient world history. I read you artical and was very impressed in having a masters in Ancient World History where it can take you. Thanks for all of the info…. But I do have one question, at am over 65 y/o unmarried and can do more or less what I wish. My concentration will be on Italian History. Do you have any suggestion for me? I would welcome them with open arms and mind. Oh I just wanted to tell you you I am an “A” student. If that helps any =)

  29. I’m still at high school so it’s very early but I’m just looking around. I seem to be developing more and more interest in ancient history. I would probably go for a career in something like law though.
    I was looking on the Oxford website at a degree called (classical archaeology and ancient history) which sounds great. In the careers section it says: Graduates have started their careers in museum curation, heritage management and education, as well as in finance, advertising, publishing, the Civil Service and law.

  30. I love ancient history and I especially find ancient beliefs fascinating. I love traveling and I have traveled since I was young. However, being American and unable to afford schooling overseas, I feel that I am at a slight disadvantage to those countries with more history, since America is so young. I am starting to learn French and have lived with Hispanic neighbors so I am able to hold a conversation in Spanish, and I consider myself fairly skilled at learning new languages. I am also familiar with many African languages since I was born there. I have currently lived in four countries and I am hoping to move to Europe so I can further study ancient history in places that actually have it. I would love a job involving ancient history, but unfortunately, most of the jobs don’t appeal to me. The rest, my father disapproves of, not that I will let that hold me back from my love of politics and archaeology. I would really like some input as to any other jobs that might play to my strengths.

  31. i really love ancient history and am looking at studying at liverpool or manchester – however in the future i would like to be a travel journalist writing about classical sites! i have gained work experience in journalism – do you think that i could gain a job in this sector?

  32. Hi,

    I currently have both a BA in Ancient History, Classics and Archaeology and an MA in the Reception of the Classical World. I have worked for over 2 years (whilst studying and after) for a local magazine. I am now looking at moving on from my current employment, having missed being immersed in Classics, but am slightly unsure what direction to take. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  33. I have a first in Classics at B.A, and a pass at M.A. in Classical Tradition. Today week I will be referred to a government quango Work Program, to enable me to work. I am close to suicide as nobody wants me, even though I have this first class degree. The world hates me, and employers hate me !

  34. Reblogged this on Approaches to Approaches and commented:
    Interesting exploration of the future prospects of a classics student.

  35. I have a Masters in Local History, and though I am kept busy with volunteer projects there is very little work out there for this kind of education.

  36. “What jobs can you do with an Ancient History or Classics degree?
    | Love of History Blog” ended up being a really good post, .

    Keep creating and I’ll keep browsing! Thanks for the post ,Ashley

  37. I enjoy ancient history but recognizing the lack of jobs and no desire to go into academia I changed my undergraduate degree to museum studies major and a minor in ancient history. Upon completion hope to find a job, any job and see how it goes. Will likely follow that up with MA in archaeology or maybe journalism eventually. Eager to wrap this up now, university is becoming tedious.

  38. I just recently stumbled across your blog while searching for job options with a Classics degree. I am a sophomore at the University of North Dakota and am in the process of switching my major to the Classics degree offered here. Since I’m in the U.S. do you have any additional advice for finding a job? The job outlook is the only thing I’m worried about right now.

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  40. I found this thread very interesting! I realise it is a few years old now but I wanted to get a feel for what career options I might have. I took a look at the options suggested to see what might suit me, because I actually already went for the option of setting up my own company on graduation (so was very interested that was a suggestion).

    I graduated 2011 with a 1st class Ancient World (Classics, History & Archaeology combined) degree from UCL. I was three years older than most graduates and had a lot of working experience and drive and felt it was right for me to start something up myself. Sadly, after 3.5years, I have had to close my company and so essentially it’s back to the drawing board on a career. I think it’s likely I’ll have another go at setting up my own company in the future but due to being self employed I have not been eligible to get a mortgage and at my age REALLY need to move out now and start earning something decent!!!! I live in Surrey and due to the house prices here I really need a salary of 30k+ to be able to get a mortgage for a 1 bed flat.

    I loved my degree sooo much and would really enjoy something related, but there really isn’t much out there to do with the ancient world per say unless I create my own role (which I may just do some day). I’ve been to a lot of interviews since closing my company and keep getting told that, as a previous MD and 1st class graduate, I’m over qualified… Yet higher paid roles are too specific in differing fields that I do not have enough direct experience for. I’m finding myself pretty stuck. I’m overqualified to go for graduate roles and completely ‘start again’ but finding I’m under qualified in most industries for a more senior role…

    At the moment I’m torn between business development, politics, film production or something to do with the corporate side of museums (the dream would be the British Museum). all very different, I know. I feel like networking is the way forward but have no clear path/choice to choose from or chase to be able to make a start… Know anyone who might be a good contact for my unusual skill set?

    P.S thelondonartscene who is/was your partner from UCL Classics, I’m sure I was in his/her department the same year? It was a small department, I bet we knew one another…!

  41. Hello, everyone.
    Although it hasn’t been too long since started my high school career, I am very interested in pursuing a Classics degree for I have always loved the wisdom of the time’s philosophers, the literature, and the mythology. In addition, there were beloved books, my ambition for learning more languages, and my dream to travel the world some day. There is all that passion I have for the ancient civilizations, but my family is unconvinced about letting me learn Latin and Ancient Greek. They insist that Latin and Ancient Greek are a dead language, learning these languages won’t help me on the SAT, among other things.
    Since I love to learn more languages and because I want to take the AP Latin exam, in which much of it is in Latin, I am wishing with all my heart that I will gather enough money to be able to pay for the online classes, since Latin isn’t offered at my school. Can anyone help me convince my parents to let me learn Latin and Ancient Greek?

  42. Hi,i am studying western classics and history because i loved the subject.but what everyone would be asking is ” what will you be doing with that subject?” “how will it help professionally help?”. all these questions disheartened me.but yes this was a ray of hope.and yes at the same time i have an idea of studying for human resources.im glad that western classics and ancient history can relate that.Thank you!

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