Careers in History plus Pre-Law and Pre-Med

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Decades’ worth of data gathered by the Rhodes College Alumni Office shows without a doubt that the answer to the old question:  “What are you going to do with your history degree” really is “Anything you want!”  To hear what some of our alumni have done,  visit the Alumni Reflections section on the History website. 

Rhodes History alumni have succeeded in an amazingly wide range of occupations -- everything from business, finance, and investing to medicine and health professions to law (including several judges), politics, and government--even working at the White House.  

History alumni have done it all, from filmmaking and urban planning to museums and teaching at the university level.  Our graduates work as members of the clergy, account executives, business managers, musicians, journalists, members of the US military, counselors, business analysts, marketers, librarians and archivists, coaches, IT specialists, pilots, social workers, brokers, Peace Corps veterans, real estate developers, non-profit executives, artists, flight attendants, restauranteurs, land use planners -- and that’s just the beginning. 

There really is no limit to what you can do with a Rhodes history major because studying history is preparation for life. Check out the national data on what History majors do.

What Do Rhodes History Majors Do?

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Studying history trains the mind. History majors develop highly marketable skills that employers and graduate school entrance committees desire in their candidates. These include excellent writing, research, critical thinking, oral presentation, and interpersonal skills.

Among humanities and liberal arts majors, history majors have the highest annual wage according to a recent Georgetown University study.  A recent article in the Los Angeles Times also discusses the personal and financial power of studying History.  Other experts agree that History gives students the “intangible edge” in the job market.  And, according to the Harvard Business Review, pre-professionalization can often hurt students in the long run and that “generalists get better job offers” than those who specialize, especially in business programs. 

The Wall Street Journal agrees.

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Why I Was Wrong About Liberal-Arts Majors     Good News Liberal-Arts Majors

A degree in history cultivates your ability to articulate significant questions, find and evaluate evidence, weigh alternative methods and interpretations, appreciate complexity and ambiguity, draw sound conclusions, and articulate substantive arguments with clarity and precision. These skills prepare you for the global information-based economy while allowing you to pursue your interest in learning about the past. Read more about how History majors are putting their degrees to work at the Best Colleges website.

For additional information about career options for history majors, students should visit Career Services.

History and Pre-Med 

As applicants to medical schools, History majors stand out in the crowd.  History majors successfully pursue graduate training in a range of health professions, in part because these programs are actively seeking them out.  Medical schools are hungering for students with humanities degrees because they bring a unique skill-set.  

According to Dr. Edward Abraham, professor and dean at Wake Forest School of Medicine, “Focusing on students with strong humanities backgrounds adds diversity to our medical school class and brings humanistic qualities such as empathy and good communications skills to the student body as a whole.”

The department’s signature medical history courses are "Disease and Epidemics" and "History of Human Reproduction." We offer additional courses when available.

Prof. Tait Keller is the History Department’s pre-health advisor and is able to discuss specific scheduling issues for history majors who are also pursuing health professions.  He works closely with Dr. Alan Jaslow, the College’s Director of Health Professions Advising to make sure that history majors get the guidance they need. In fact, according to one author, History majors might just make the best health care providers.

History and Pre-Law

History has always been considered one of the best preparations for law school because of its emphasis on creating and defending arguments, finding and deploying evidence, clear and effective written and oral communication, and deep historical understanding of the context in which laws and policies are made.  The department has long-established internships with several outstanding local law firms to provide students with hands-on experience.    

The Department of History advises its pre-law students to do the following:

  • Contact Prof. Huebner, the history pre-legal advisor, to ask to be added to the Department’s pre-legal email list. This will ensure that you will not miss out on special lectures and events of interest to pre-law students.
  • Take a course of study that will provide strong preparation for law school. This includes European and United States history courses, particularly The Supreme Court in U.S. History (History 105) and U.S. Constitutional History (History 351-352). Students should consider United States Political History (2 semesters), African-American History, Civil Rights, and Modern Britain as well as adding courses in English, logic, and political science. 
  • Register for one of the Department’s four internships at well-established Memphis law firms. Enrollment in one of these internships requires completion of the internship application, as well as registration in History 461.

In the past decade and a half, Rhodes history majors have been accepted to and graduated from many of the top 50 law schools in the country, including Harvard, New York University, Duke University, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas, Tulane University, Washington University, Emory University, Boston University, George Washington University, University of Colorado, University of North Carolina, University of Florida, and Southern Methodist University.

Legal Internships Available through the History Department

Stiles Law Firm, Shadow attorney in his day-to-day activities, including preparing and executing Elder Care Law and  Real Estate Law legal documents. Assemble files for the real estate closing, including contract with the realtors and mortgage companies. Prepare and proof Life Care Planning documents as well as sit in on the execution of these documents.

Holland & Associates, PLLC Legal Intern – Work with a “holistic” lawyer in office work and legal project such as a legal brief, legal memorandum, settlement or negotiation letter; meet with supervising attorney at least bi-weekly; participate in trials when possible. Holistic law is a multidisciplinary, or more client-oriented and problem-solving oriented approach to legal problems, than traditional legal practice which tends to be more litigation and adversarial in approach. 

Lawrence & Russell, Attorneys – Interns must possess excellent organizational skills and basic computer knowledge to provide assistance to Case Managers and Associates in an East Memphis law firm that focuses on employee benefits/labor and employment law. As these positions require direct interaction with our firm′s senior partners, the applicant should be self-driven and possess excellent writing skills. The applicants must be able to work independently and to work well with others. Undergraduate interns will assist the firm’s staff with a variety of legal tasks. For example, the selected individual(s) will conduct detailed telephonic interviews and will negotiate with attorneys nationwide to settle lien claims on behalf of Lawrence & Russell’s clients. The intern(s) will be responsible for supporting a wide variety of assignments and responsibilities and will be exposed to a range of legal issues. 

Padgett, Whitworth, Donohue and Mickiewicz, Legal Intern – Assist with case management, research for cases, writing letters to clients, opposing attorneys, and any other individual or company involved in the cases, brief preparation of files for clients, court dates, and hearings.  Interns ill have direct contact with clients.

Law Offices of J. Vincent Perryman – Assist attorneys in drafting legal memoranda, legal briefs, and demand letters, as well as performing legal research in a law firm that practices family law, probate law, estate planning, business law, and tax law. The intern will participate in court and trials when possible and will meet with a supervising attorney at least once a week to discuss progress and assignments.

Shelby County Juvenile Court, Administrative Technician-Intern (Volunteer Services Bureau) – Interns perform a variety of duties, sometimes complex in nature, with Juvenile Court of Memphis & Shelby County’s Volunteer Services Bureau. Typical duties include conducting probationer orientation with the child and his/her legal guardian, assisting APS Coordinator with probationer case assignments to Auxiliary Probation Officers, accepting new probation cases and close completed probation cases, conducting Summons Conferences with 1st and 2nd time misdemeanor offenders, conducting Day Reporting Conferences with probationers and families, contacting volunteer applicants to schedule interviews, trainings, background checks as needed. Assist with interviews and trainings as needed, entering probationer monthly status reports into Court database, and attending on-site meetings with Volunteers and Staff.