A marine historian researches, analyzes, and interprets events.

5 Career Options for a Marine Historian

Military History

From some of the world’s earliest major battles to the American Revolution and modern conflicts, marine historians document details and provide perspectives on maritime events. Today, marine historians may practice their professions in a variety of careers such as a U.S. command historian, teacher, museum curator, archivist, or a history writer. Though diverse, careers require common skills, including research, analysis, and decision-making. Aspiring marine historians can enroll in an online Master of Arts in Military History to prepare for careers in the field.

Marine History at a Glance

When the Continental Marines conducted their first amphibious raid at Fort Nassau in 1776, British troops surrendered within minutes. Nearly 250 years later, a marine historian can share the details of the military operation and offer perspectives on how it impacted the future. For example, this event marks the beginning of a long legacy of battles for what’s today known as the U.S. Marine Corps. But marine historians aren’t limited to the last few centuries of past events or Marine Corps engagements. The field goes as far back as the fifth century BC when Greek fleets were heavily armed with sea soldiers and extends to the present.

A marine historian researches, analyzes, and interprets historical events, providing perspectives on how marine history fits within the context of scientific and industrial history. An example of U.S. military history’s relationship to science took place before the start of World War II when the threat of German U-boats and Japan’s increasing influence in the Pacific helped to spark interest in the use of oceanography for military tactics. Oceanography became a bigger part of the U.S. military strategy shortly after the U.S. Marines experienced heavy losses in the 1943 Battle of Tarawa, according to the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Thanks to the insights provided by Dr. Mary Sears, an oceanographer recognized as a pioneer in advanced marine science, the U.S. military was successful in sinking Japanese vessels in subsequent battles.

Marine history also relates to other elements of history. For example, organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research shipwrecks to record the history of people’s interactions with the oceans, lakes, and rivers, with the ultimate aim of preserving maritime history and applying lessons learned from the past.

Marine Historian Career Options

Marine historians work in research settings, academic environments, and museums for various organizations including the military. Much of the work performed by historians occurs indoors, but historians do fieldwork, especially aboard ships. Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Military History curriculum explores conflicts in Africa, the Americas, and Asia, providing students with global perspectives. Graduates of the program can follow several career paths, including the following:

U.S. Command Historian              

U.S. command historians offer leaders historical insights related to what’s happening today on the battlefield. They provide military commanders with information on lessons learned from history, participate in operations planning and execution, and help to develop and train soldiers.

Since World War II, command historians go to the battlefield to research, interview and write about what’s happening in light of historical events. In recent decades, historians have worked in Operation Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, and other military theaters. In the field, marine historians take photographs of actions and events, collect and preserve historical documents and artifacts, and write the official history of operations.

Command historians are typically hired at the civil service GS-12 to GS-15 levels. Starting pay for these levels ranged from $63,600 to $105,123 in 2018, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For historians overall, employment is expected to increase by about 6% between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


In the role of a high school teacher, those with an advanced military history background may choose to specialize in teaching history. Activities for teachers include planning and adapting lessons, assessing students’ abilities, interacting with parents, staff, and administrators, and developing classroom rules and procedures.

High school teachers earned a median annual wage of $60,320 in 2018, according to the BLS. Job opportunities for high school teachers are projected to grow by 4% from 2018 to 2028.

Museum Curator              

From collecting and interpreting pieces to designing public exhibits and properly presenting works in private collections, museum curators preserve historical objects and artifacts. Other common duties for curators include interacting and building relationships with trustees, tracking the inventory and movement of historical objects, and researching and properly labeling exhibits.

While museums are funded by various sources, including membership dues, donors, private foundations, and government agencies, sometimes they’re underfunded. This means that in addition to the central role of preserving the integrity of historical works, museum curators often participate in publicity and fundraising initiatives and write grant applications to raise money.

 The median annual wage for curators was $53,780 in 2018, according to the BLS. Employment for curators is expected to increase by 10% from 2018 to 2028.


Archivists preserve original historical documents, photographs, and artifacts and guide people in accessing them. They often work with sensitive materials, including paper documents, photographs, maps, and films, to record life cycles. Some archivists work as conservators, using chemicals, tools, and specialized methods to preserve materials.

Typical duties for archivists include authenticating and appraising historical documents and objects, creating systems to electronically track records of materials, implementing systems that simplify document retrieval, acquiring new materials, and creating digital and film copies to safeguard records. Archivists can choose to specialize in a historical subject and often work with researchers to gain a better understanding of documents.

The median annual wage for archivists was $52,240 in 2018, according to the BLS. Employment for archivists is expected to increase by 9% from 2018 to 2028.

History Writer              

Historians who are also writers help expand knowledge of the human experience. They present chronologies of events and offer perspectives and meaning to them. Many historians who work in academia often write for history journals. Historians who write for the public often do so in the form of stories.

Before putting pen to paper, history writers first research the subject area about which they want to write. Aiming to present detailed factual information to attract readers, they must deeply understand the subject matter. Writers typically collaborate with editors at journals, publishing houses, and magazines to refine their pieces and help prepare them for publication.

Writers and authors earned a median annual wage of $62,170 in 2018, according to the BLS. Employment of writers and authors is expected to stay about the same from 2018 to 2028.

Develop Essential Skills to Become a Marine Historian

Among the skills identified as essential for history students by the American Historical Association are chronological thinking and historical comprehension.

Chronological thinking skills enable marine historians to distinguish key elements of historical events and place them in context. Historians with chronological thinking skills interpret historical data and identify patterns.

Another key skill, historical comprehension, involves the use of creativity. It enables historians to imagine the event as if present when it happened. Historical data comes in many different forms: maps, numbers, photographs, paintings, music, and technology. Historical comprehension enables the historian to see history in the context of when those artifacts were created and used.

Additional skills essential for marine historians include analytical and research competencies, as well as advanced decision-making, presentation, and writing skills.

Prepared by distinguished faculty, the curriculum of Norwich’s online Master of Arts in Military History helps students acquire extensive historical insight as well as essential critical thinking, research, writing, and analytical skills. Graduates learn how to apply and interpret historical knowledge in the field of military history to succeed in various historian roles.

Prepare to Advance as a Marine Historian              

As the nation’s first private military college, Norwich promotes an unbiased approach to history to prepare students to explore military thought, theory, and engagement, through a global, cross-cultural lens. Explore how Norwich’s online Master of Arts in Military History can help students build proficiency as marine historians and advance in their careers.

Recommended Readings

How Roles Have Changed for Women in the Military
Five Major African Wars and Conflicts of the Twentieth Century
Who Won the Second Battle of Marne?


Battles Through Time, U.S. Marine Corps
Marine Soldier, Encyclopaedia Britannica
Historians, Today’s Military
The Military’s Role in Stimulating Science and Technology: The Turning Point, Foreign Policy Research Institute
Mary Sears, Harvard Magazine
Science and Shipwrecks: Preserving America’s Maritime History, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Master of Arts in Military History, Norwich University
U.S. Army Command Historians: What We Are and What We Do, Perspectives on History
Field Historians, U.S. Army Center of Military History
General Schedule (GS) Payscale Table for 2018, FederalPay.org
Historians, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Making History Relevant for the Social Media Generation, Education Week
High School Teachers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Curator, The Princeton Review
Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Writing History: An Introductory Guide to How History Is Produced, American Historical Association
Writers and Authors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Importance of Academic (History) Writing, The Scholarly Kitchen
Why Become a Historian?, American Historical Association
Historical Thinking Skills, American Historical Association

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