Career Diversity for Historians

Thinking about Where Historians Work before Graduate School

Working at the American Historical Association for the past two years has made it impossible to shield myself from the uglier truths about pursuing a graduate degree in history—from the imbalance between the number of graduate degrees conferred and jobs available in the professoriate to the increasingly precarious nature of employment in higher education. Taken alone, these challenges might have convinced me (or any rational person) to run in the other direction. Instead, two years after getting my bachelor’s degree, I’m starting a history PhD program in the fall. 

Preparing Students for Career Diversity: What Role Should History Departments Play?

By Kristina Markman and Michael A. Ryan

Last year, we participated in a panel on “Career Diversity for the Medievalist” at the 51st annual meeting of the International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS). The ICMS is a premier academic conference in the field of medieval studies that draws over 3,000 specialists in all aspects of the medieval past from around the world to bucolic Kalamazoo for four days of scholarship and conviviality. As we both come from institutions whose history departments received the AHA’s Career Diversity for Historians Departmental Grants to reevaluate the training of historians for a variety of careers within and outside of academia, we intended to center this panel on the question of how medievalists can use their specific skill sets for many careers.

History in Harmony: How I Apply My Historical Training to Music Criticism

By David Allen

Whether critics are interested in painting, sculpture, jazz, fiction, or any other art, they are, or at least can be, engaged in historical work. They root descriptions of, and judgments about, contemporary art in an understanding of the past. They might be more prone than professional historians to treating the past on the terms of the present, granted, but they do work that engages history all the same. 

The “Practical Value of History”: Historians in the Federal Government

What is the “practical value of history”? This was the framing question of J. Samuel Walker’s Roger R. Trask Lecture delivered at the annual meeting of the Society for History in the Federal Government (SHFG) on April 13. Walker, who’s the former historian of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the author of several acclaimed books on the history of nuclear power, argued that historians must answer this question if they are to survive the never-ending austerity that the profession faces.

Playing the Long Game: Career Diversity for Future PhDs

By Taylor Perk

At any AHA annual meeting, it’s easy to spot dozens of well-dressed individuals preparing for interviews in the hopes of finding a job within the academy. In the past few years, however, with the advent of Career Diversity, the flavor of the meeting has changed a bit. At the Colorado Convention Center, only a few rooms over from the Job Center, one could find several PhD students and faculty members gathered to think beyond the professorial life.