Job ads in the AHA Career Center, the leading venue for job advertisements aimed at history PhDs, have declined for the fifth straight year and are now at their lowest level since the mid-1980s. During the period from June 2016 to June 2017, the Career Center posted 501 listings for full-time positions, a steep 12 percent decline compared to the same period from 2015–16. Of these positions, 289 were on the tenure track, 94 were full-time, non-tenure-track positions (including both permanent and visiting positions), and 60 were postdocs.
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.
In an effort to keep our readers informed about the different academic positions trending on the job market, we are offering a breakdown of the job ads submitted to the AHA each week.
Academics have talked about an impending mass retirement of baby boomer professors for decades, but young PhDs continue to wait for full-time, permanent positions to crop up. On Monday night, PBS NewsHour ran a short report on the “dilemmas colleges and universities face as their teaching work force is graying.”
Are there career options for history PhDs beyond the academy? In today’s Chronicle of Higher Education L. Maren Wood (a recent graduate from the University of North Carolina) offers an emphatic yes.
In response to a question from Stacy Patton for her Chronicle of Higher Education
article, “Stale PhDs Need Not Apply
,” I put together the accompanying chart from my surveys of job advertisers. The trends are quite fascinating, and could have significant implications for the training and preparation of new PhDs and the expectations of those currently in the history job market.
There’s a possible bright spot emerging in the job market. The October issue of Perspective on History last year included 133 job ads, but this year’s issue will feature 189. This does not in itself constitute a breakthrough, and we should point out that what matters most is how many total ads are placed by the end of the season. Still, we hope that this increase over last year’s numbers is the start of a trend. Over the past year, the American Historical Association has been active in addressing the tough academic job market, the single most important issue faced by history students and recent graduates These efforts have taken place on several fronts.
Average faculty salaries in history were essentially unchanged from the previous year, as average salaries for regular full-time faculty at most ranks grew by less than one percent. This represents the smallest average increase in salaries for historians in 15 years.
Article By: Robert B. Townsend