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HistorianAlternative titles

Pouherenga Kōrero o-Mua

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Art Historian
Genealogist/Family Historian
Historical Researcher
Oral Historian
Public Historian

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

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733


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

Pay for historians working at universities

  • Lecturers usually earn between $64,000 and $80,000 a year.
  • Senior lecturers may earn $83,000 to $105,000.
  • Associate professors usually earn $109,000 to $118,000.
  • Professors can earn $124,000 to $154,000.

Historians working in public service positions usually earn between $30,000 and $80,000 a year.

What you will do

Historians may do some or all of the following:

  • do research on a chosen topic, or a topic received from clients
  • gather information from a wide variety of sources, including fieldwork and interviews
  • organise, analyse and interpret information
  • write reports and books, or deliver presentations on research findings
  • teach history
  • help prepare museum displays and websites
  • help identify, protect and research historic places
  • advise government departments.

Skills and knowledge

Historians need to have knowledge of:

  • the culture, history and society of the people being studied
  • the Māori language if specialising in New Zealand history
  • how to conduct research, including how to analyse and interpret information
  • project management.

Working conditions


  • usually work regular hours, but may be expected to work unusual or long hours on some projects.
  • usually work in offices, libraries and their own homes and may work for schools or universities, government departments, local authorities, museums, the Waitangi Tribunal or private clients.
  • may travel to attend meetings and conferences or to complete research in New Zealand and overseas.

What's the job really like?

Nepia Mahuika - Historian

Nepia Mahuika

Nepia Mahuika initially wanted to be a history and English teacher at secondary school, but as he progressed through university his priorities changed.

"After seeing the historical landscape in New Zealand I realised there was a need for Māori historians. There's not a lot of Māori historians, so I felt it would be a viable pathway for me to take."

Combining research with teaching

Nepia now works as a researcher and lecturer, teaching Māori and iwi history. "I find it really exhilarating teaching students – being involved with them and seeing them grow and develop. My teaching has also helped me become involved in Māori initiatives at the university, such as setting up a mentoring programme for Māori students."

Getting to meet like-minded people from around the world

Another part of being an historian, says Nepia is meeting some amazing people who are doing similar research in different countries. "The fascinating part is that the culture where they come from means their lives are sometimes in danger because of the research they do."

Learn as much history as you can

Nepia's advice for anyone wanting to be an historian is to go to university. "Learn as much as you can. Try and give yourself a broad historical background. Get the basics like historical methodology and then flesh out your knowledge in other areas."

What's hot

  • Being able to work in a university and do research in an area you’re passionate about, and teach students.
  • Getting to meet other historians from around the world.

What's not

  • Having a fairly limited range of work opportunities in New Zealand.
  • Facing a lot of competition for jobs at universities and government departments who employ historians.


Historians working in public service positions usually earn
per year
Historians working at universities usually earn
per year

Updated 15 Feb 2013