If You Want to Be a Dentist, Major in History

eric ricci photo

It happens in the classroom, in office hours, in advising, at Open Houses, at Admissions events, before job interviews, in letters of recommendation, and in public conversation. . . . In all these places we talk with students, parents, and employers about the value of a liberal arts education.

While we stress the crucial personal, civic, and employment values of critical thinking, clear writing, data analysis, and information literacy, students often want to know: will it get me a job? Shouldn’t I pick something my parents will value?

If your parents want you to be happy, and they want you to make money, it turns out the liberal arts are a very good choice.

A 2011 study of liberal arts college graduates found that they rated their education more highly than any other group of students in three areas:  preparing them for their first job, gaining admission to graduate school, and readying them for life’s challenges. You can find a summary of the results here:


This year the American Association of Colleges and Universities explored career incomes and once again found the value of the liberal arts confirmed. The study looked at the incomes of humanities and social science majors, science and engineering majors and pre-professional majors (business and education primarily). It found that while earnings at a first job were higher for those in science and pre-professional fields, the income disparity got smaller and smaller over time, such that only engineering majors were likely to have significantly higher “prime-year” incomes than other majors.  A summary of the results is here:


Finally we often tell students that while there are some obvious jobs you can get with a history major, all kinds of employers value the skills, the breadth, and the passion you can develop in a history major.  Eric Ricci ’10 is a great example.  But we’ll let him tell you that story.  Eric wrote us:

“I am fairly certain that I am the only history major from Saint Anselm to ever become a dentist! After St. A’s, I completed a Master’s degree in Biology at Rhode Island College and am now a dental student at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston.

Despite choosing such a different career path, being a history major at Saint Anselm has helped me in both getting accepted to dental school and subsequently succeeding academically. Terms like ‘Phi Alpha Theta’ and ‘Bachelor of Arts in History’ helped me stand out as a unique applicant when applying to dental schools. The acceptance rate for Tufts Dental is approximately 5%; in my interview they told me they were looking for well-rounded applicants and that being a history major was one of the reasons I received an interview. After admission, the next hurdle was being able to complete the academic work for the next four years. Being a history major made this part slightly easier for a few reasons. The majority of any medical or dental program contains a lot of reading, being able to quickly decipher important information, and finally, being able to memorize that information. In this sense, my Saint Anselm education helped tremendously. My highest section on the DAT (Dental Admission Test) exam was the reading comprehension. This skill that I learned while reading historical texts at St. Anselm has made ‘surviving’ in dental school just that much more manageable.”

Eric has offered to be of help to any history student who might want a career in dentistry or medicine.  If you post a comment, we’ll be happy to connect you.

If you are interested in any other kind of work, keep an eye on the blog.  We might well have a history alum who does that job!


One comment

  1. I know that’s hate this post isn’t from three years ago but maybe I’ll get a comment I don’t know. I’m really invested in history and becoming a dentist so why not have them both. It’s my first year at college and today I explained to my school counselor that I want to become a dentist with a history major. He basically laughed at me and told me to switch to biology or chemistry. I feel kinda stupid for even thinking about becoming a history major now I’m not even sure. He told me that it’ll take me longer to complete since I still need my pre re. I just wanna know how you did it and do you regret it. Thanks a ton.

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