“What can you do with a history degree?” It’s a common question for students studying history. In many cases, the unspoken assumption is that the main (or only) reason for getting a history degree is to become a college professor and teach history. But people in a wide variety of professions and backgrounds have gotten their degree in history — you might even be surprised to find out who.
1. Joe Biden
Joe Biden, 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden attended the University of Delaware in Newark, graduating in 1965 with a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in history and political science. Before beginning his political career, Biden also earned a Juris Doctor from the Syracuse University College of Law.
Joe Biden was also far from the only president to have a degree in history. Other history-major presidents of note include George W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Woodrow Wilson.
2. Gordon Brown (British Prime Minister)
James Gordon Brown (b. 1951) was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2010. Prior to that, Brown was the Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997 to 2007. Brown received a First Honours degree in history from Edinburgh University, which he started at the age of only 16, and became the youngest Rector of Edinburgh University in 1972.
Brown was faced with the difficult task of replacing Tony Blair during the worldwide financial crisis and recession, and hosted the G20 Summit in London which sought to address the problems facing the world economy and improve financial regulation.
3. Wolf Blitzer
Well-known for his role as host of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and later the lead political anchor for CNN, Wolf Blitzer was born in Augsburg, Germany in 1948. Blitzer’s parents were refugees from German-occupied Poland, and Blitzer emigrated to America with his family soon after his birth. Blitzer grew up in Buffalo, New York, and received his Bachelor of Arts in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1970. He later went on to receive a Master of Arts in International Relations from John Hopkins University before beginning his journalism career with Reuters and the Jerusalem Post.
4. Meredith Whitney
Meredith Whitney is an American businesswoman, often known as the “Oracle of Wall Street” because of her successful forecasting of events during the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Whitney attended Lawrenceville School as part of the first ever co-ed graduating class, before graduating with honors with a B.A. in history from Brown University in 1992.
After receiving her degree, Whitney went on to become Executive Director at Wachovia, before establishing her own firm, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group (MWAG) in 2009. Whitney’s accurate prediction of Citibank’s financial difficulties during the crisis (in which Citigroup stock lost 97% of its value) led to her making the cover of Fortune magazine and later being listed as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business.”
5. Larry David
Best known as the creator of legendary sitcom Seinfeld and later starring in his own long-running HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended the University of Maryland in College Park, where he received his bachelor’s degree in history, and afterward enlisted in the Army Reserve for five years.
6. Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart is perhaps the best-known American businesswoman of the 20th century, having authored several best-selling books, published her own magazine, hosted the syndicated program Martha Stewart Living, and generally become a household name in the United States. But before that, Stewart attended Barnard College of Columbia University. She originally planned to major in chemistry, but later decided to switch to art and history, graduating with a double major in history and architectural history.
7. Steve Carrell
Best known for his stint as a correspondent for The Daily Show and later a starring role in the American version of The Office, actor Steve Carrell got interested in history when he joined a re-enactment group portraying the North Lincoln Regiment of Foot. He went on to earn a degree in history from Denison University in Ohio in 1984 before embarking on his acting career.
8. Katherine Hepburn
Katherine Hepburn was a titan among Hollywood actors for over 60 years, being named by the AFI as the greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema. Hepburn attended Bryn Mawr College, mostly out of desire to appease her mother, and pursued good grades to facilitate her interest in acting, as participation in college plays were dependent on good grades. She graduated with degrees in history and philosophy in 1928 before taking Hollywood by storm.
9. Art Garfunkel
Art Garfunkel was studying architecture at Columbia University before he became half of one of the world’s best-known musical duos, Simon and Garfunkel. He even went on to earn his BA in art history and an MA in mathematics education and was preparing to pursue his doctorate before his success in the music world led him to drop out.
10. Julia Child
Born in 1912, Julia Child was a fixture of household television in the 1960s, and is largely credited with having introduced the United States to French Cuisine. But before she became a well-known media personality, Child graduated with a degree in history from Smith College in Northampton, shortly before joining the OSS in 1942 — where her first foray into cooking was making an experimental shark repellent to keep sharks from setting off underwater explosives during WWII.