Historian Pouherenga Kōrero o-Mua

Historians research, write and present information about events and people of the past and present. They may also teach history.

Historians may do some or all of the following:

  • research topics they choose, or topics their clients have requested
  • gather information from sources such as books and articles, fieldwork and interviews
  • organise, analyse and interpret information
  • prepare reports, webpages and books, or speak to the media about historical topics
  • teach history
  • help prepare museum displays and websites
  • help identify, protect and research historic places
  • advise government departments or Treaty of Waitangi claimants.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for historians includes:

  • research, library, or archive work
  • practical experience of Māori culture and language
  • volunteer work at a museum, art gallery or historical society.

Tutoring experience is also useful for academic or teaching positions.

Personal Qualities

Historians need to be:

  • accurate, enquiring, patient and persistent
  • able to keep information private
  • able to make good judgements
  • open-minded, with an understanding of a range of cultures
  • skilled written and spoken communicators
  • good at planning and organising.


Historians need to have knowledge of:

  • the culture, history and society of the people being studied
  • te reo Māori and Māori culture if specialising in New Zealand history
  • how to conduct research, including interviewing, analysing, interpreting
  • how to produce written, multi-media and spoken information effectively
  • project management.



  • usually work regular hours, but may be expected to work long hours
  • usually work in offices, libraries or their own homes
  • may travel within New Zealand and overseas to attend meetings and conferences or to complete research.

Subject Recommendations

NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include English, te reo Māori and other languages, history, classics, art history, social studies and geography. 

Historians can earn around $47K-$120K per year.

Pay for historians varies depending on what type of work they do, where they work, and their experience.

Just over half of all historians are self-employed and their income depends on the success of their business.

Pay for historians working in the public sector 

Public historians may start work as researchers, and progress to historian and senior historian roles.

  • Historians working as researchers usually earn between $47,000 and $60,000 a year.
  • Historians can earn between $70,000 and $80,000.
  • Senior historians can earn between $80,000 and $100,000.

Pay for historians working at universities

Historians at universities may start work as a tutor and then progress to lecturer and senior lecturer roles.

  • Tutors usually earn between $47,000 and $74,000 a year.
  • Senior tutors usually earn between $63,000 and $95,000.
  • University lecturers and senior lecturers can earn between $73,000 and $120,000.
  • Associate or assistant professors and professors can earn from $120,000 to $173,000.

Sources: Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 2018; The University of Auckland, 'Academic Staff Collective Agreement, 1 July 2016 – 31 August 2017', 2017; The University of Waikato, 'Academic Staff Collective, Employment Agreement, 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2018', 2017; and Victoria University of Wellington, 'Academic Staff Collective Agreement, 1 July 2017 – 30 June 2019', 2017.

Historians who work for government agencies may progress to senior historian roles or move into management.

Historians who work for universities may progress to more senior academic roles such as senior lecturer, associate professor and professor.

They can also specialise as an art historian.

Art Historian
Art historians study and write about works of art.They may also deliver lectures on art history, advise on art, look after historical and contemporary art collections, and research and present exhibitions.


Years Of Training

>5 years of training usually required.

To become an historian you need to have a post-graduate qualification.

To work as a public historian in a government department you need to have a Masters or higher post-graduate degree in history or a closely related subject, such as politics.

To work as an academic historian in a university you need a Doctorate (PhD) in history and a portfolio of relevant published work.