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Get Rich. Major in History?

It is common cocktail chatter that historians as a rule don’t earn high salaries. This, it turns out, happens to be true. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 a historian’s salary range was between $27,920 to $101,880, with a median of $55,800. The top factors that influence salary in this field include: experience, industry, and location. Historians working in colleges, universities, and professional schools earn an annual mean wage of $59,840, which is $31,210 lower than historians working for the Federal government, where historians earn some of the highest incomes. Salaries in this field are expected to grow slower than average compared to other occupations at just 2 percent annually from 2014 to 2024.

But there is one path history majors can take that leads to riches. It’s to become a college president. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that in 2014, 39 private college leaders earned more than $1 million a year, up from 32 in 2013. Among the highest earners, five earned a B.A. or A.B. in History and four in American Studies/Civilization/Religion. Listed below are the nine college presidents in the Chronicle’s database with an educational background in history.

#1 Donna E. Shalala, University of Miami (2001-2015)
Total Compensation $1,570,761
Education AB in History from Western College for Women, PhD from The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University

#2 Arthur F. Kirk Jr., Saint Leo University (1997-2015)
Total Compensation $1,509,342
Education BA in History, master’s degree in Administration and Supervision from Kean University, doctorate from Rutgers University

#3 John E. Sexton, New York University (2002-2015)
Total Compensation $1,484,685
Education BA in History from Fordham College, MA in Comparative Religion, PhD in History of American Religion from Fordham University, JD from Harvard Law School

#4 Nicholas S. Zeppos, Vanderbilt University (2008-present)
Total Compensation $1,377,924
Education BA in History and JD from University of Wisconsin

#5 John A. Fry, Drexel University (2012-present)
Total Compensation $1,284,630
Education BA in American Civilization from Lafayette College, MBA in Business Administration from the New York University Stern School of Business

#6 Nathan O. Hatch, Wake Forest University (2005-present)
Total Compensation $1,084,511
Education Graduate of Wheaton College, master’s and doctoral degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, specialization in American religion

#7 David W. Leebron, Rice University (2004-present)
Total Compensation $1,048,994
Education BA in History and Science from Harvard College, JD, from Harvard Law School

#8 Edward L. Ayers, University of Richmond (2007-2015)
Total Compensation $1,044,367
Education BA in American Studies from the University of Tennessee, MA and PhD in American Studies from Yale University

#9 Andrew K. Benton, Pepperdine University (2000-present)
Total Compensation $1,038,605
Education BS in American Studies from Oklahoma Christian University, JD from Oklahoma City University