Job Market News for History PhDs

4 01 2010

The American Historical Association has released statistics regarding the job market for history PhDs in the United States.

I’m going to quote some of the more interesting things in the report:

“Openings for historians working on the United States, for instance, fell by 30.3 percent, while openings for specialists in the history the Middle East and the Islamic World fell by a slightly larger 34.5 percent. Most of the other broad fields suffered declines of around 20 percent, including world and transnational history (down 20.9 percent), European history (down 19.7 percent), and Latin American history (off 18.8 percent). Only two fields saw declines of less than five percent—African history (down 4.4 percent) and Asian history (off 3.1 percent).”

“Unfortunately, the growing number of applications for each available job was not the only problem this past year, as an unusually large number of positions were cancelled after the job was advertised—and in many cases, even after applications had been received. Of the 338 advertisers that responded to the survey, 22 percent (representing 75 positions) reported that the search had not resulted in a hire by fall 2009. Of that number, 51 indicated that the budget line had been cancelled, 9 indicated that they were still trying to complete the hire, and the rest reported that they either could not find a worthy candidate or their choice(s) had taken another offer.”

“The differences in the average number of applicants in particular fields were also reflected in the satisfaction of the job advertisers and their success in completing the search. While close to 90 percent of the advertisers for U.S. and European history jobs expressed satisfaction with the applications received, less than 80 percent of the advertisers in the fields of African, Asian, and Latin American history expressed similar satisfaction with their pool of candidates. Openings in fields outside U.S. and European history were also less likely to have successfully resulted in a hire—either because negotiations were still ongoing or the candidate had accepted another position.”

The report also said this:

“One real alternative now for many history PhDs seems to lie in employment outside of academia. As our recent study of public history professionals demonstrates, history PhDs employed outside of higher education are generally quite satisfied with their jobs and earning salaries comparable to, if not better than, the salaries in academia. Unfortunately, very few programs prepare their students for jobs outside of academia, placing most of their emphases and expectations on preparing their students for the relatively small—and at least for the present, diminishing—number of jobs at research universities. Until programs reduce the number of students in their programs and revise the culture of history doctoral training, the sense of crisis in the job market for history PhDs seems only likely to grow worse for the foreseeable future.”

As I said above, this data relates to the history job market in the United States. If someone has equivalent data for Canada, the United Kingdom, or other countries, please send it to me so that I can post it online.



5 responses

5 01 2010
Kevin Tennent

So what did people do in the 1970s and 1990s when the same happened? Agree about the non-academic jobs training in universities though, I applied for the UK Civil Service fast track scheme and got nowhere!

5 01 2010

I thought about asking the CHA to help me generate these for Canada, but I decided I was better off avoiding the inevitable truth that the situation is probably worse in Canada. Evidence of futility might hamper my efficiency at cranking out job apps.

6 01 2010
Shortage of PhDs in Canada? « Andrew Smith’s Blog

[…] days ago, I posted AHA data on the glut of history PhDs in the United States. Today, the Conference Board of Canada, the […]

6 03 2010

There’s a bunch of jobs, but a lot of PhD’s pursuing them. I’ve already considered a return to intelligence work when my doctorate is finished. Or hell, maybe I’ll just write. It’s why I chose history in the first place; it’s a writer’s field, a genre of storytelling that never really loses popularity.

I love teaching, particularly for the performative aspects of the classroom, but I’m perfectly happy to find something that allows me to use my training, whether in academia or otherwise.

7 03 2010
American Historical Society is Citing a Drop in Historian Jobs « Scott Rhymer: Historian and Writer

[…] 6 March, 2010 Granted, this frocused almost exclusively on public history and academic jobs.  History is useful in nearly every field of endeavor (if you’re clever enough to market yourself.)  Andrew Smith, a Canadian historian and blogger, has distilled the AHA piece here. […]

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