Sunday, March 29, 2015

Blog CLXXVI (176): Another Study

Last week, I discussed The Many Careers of History PhDs, the first of two studies on the job market for history professors.  This week I want to look at a second study, which is profoundly troubling for a number of reasons; particularly when read in combination with Many Careers.

This statistical studycame out in the journal Science Advances and it examined the hiring practices in the academic fields of history, business, and computer science. This article has gotten a lot of attention because Aaron Clauset, the lead professor of the research team that produced this study, condensed the findings into a short essay on Slate.com. If you want to read either article in full, you can find them here:
Here is the short version: this research team of three examined the placement of more than 16,000 faculty at 242 schools. What they found was a “steeply hierarchical structure that reflects profound social inequality.”

What does that mean? Long story made short, it ain't good.  Only a fourth of all universities accounted for 71 to 86 percent of the tenure-track faculty positions in both the U.S. and Canada. In the case of history—which is what this blog is all about—eight schools filled half of all the professor jobs. That is right—eight.

The data the team collected also suggests that merit plays less of a role in the hiring process than people would like to think. Schools from the top ten history programs place three times as many future professors than those in the second ten. Overproduction is a problem even at the “Magic Eight.” These elite schools are training more Ph.D.s than they can hire, so even if you go to one of these prestige programs, the odds indicate you will end up at a lessor school. To quote the Slate.com article, these “findings suggest that upward career mobility in the world of professors is mostly a myth.”

I got curious about this study. Who are the “Magic Eight” of history? I went to the original study and found the answer to that question as well as their rankings of the top 60 programs in history. (They got different results in their examination of business and computer science.)  I have a lot of comments to make about these articles, this list, and the AHA study, but that will all come in other postings. For now, here are their rankings of the top 60 schools for a history Ph.D. with links to the department web sites. They are:
  1. Harvard University
  2. Yale University
  3. University of California, Berkeley
  4. Princeton University
  5. Stanford University
  6. University of Chicago
  7. Columbia University
  8. Brandeis University
  9. The Johns Hopkins University
  10. University of Pennsylvania
  11. University of Wisconsin
  12. University of Michigan
  13. University of California, Los Angeles
  14. Northwestern University
  15. Cornell University
  16. Brown University
  17. University of California, Davis
  18. University of Rochester
  19. New York University
  20. University of California, San Diego
  21. Duke University
  22. University of Minnesota
  23. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  24. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  25. University of Virginia
  26. University of Southern California
  27. University of Washington
  28. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  29. University of Texas
  30. Emory University
  31. Indiana University
  32. Stony Brook University-State University of New York
  33. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  34. Washington University in St. Louis
  35. University of California, Riverside
  36. Michigan State University
  37. University of California, Irvine
  38. University of California, Santa Barbara
  39. Binghamton University-State University of New York
  40. Georgetown University  
  41. University of Arizona
  42. University of Maryland
  43. Catholic University
  44. University of Florida
  45. Carnegie Mellon University
  46. University of Pittsburgh
  47. Tufts University
  48. University of Notre Dame
  49. Rice University
  50. University at Buffalo-State University of New York
  51. University of California, Santa Cruz 
  52. Boston University
  53. Vanderbilt University
  54. George Washington University 
  55. University of Connecticut
  56. University of New Mexico
  57. The Ohio State University
  58. University of Georgia 
  59. University of Iowa
  60. University of Massachusetts 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Blog CLXXV (175): A Study

Guess what? The job crisis in history is over. At least that is the impression a report by the American Historical Association suggests. Or—and this is important—it gives hard data that shows how dire job market is for the history Ph.D.

This examination is the first of two studies on job placement in history that all of us should read and consider seriously.  (I will get to the other study in the next posting on the blog.)

Returning to the AHA report—this study did a random sampling of 2,500 Ph.D.s earned from May 1998 through August 2009, which the researchers took from the 10,976 names that appeared in the AHA’s Directory of History Departments and Historical Organizations during that period.  It found that 50.6 percent of the individuals it sampled had tenure-track jobs at four year institutions.

In the Perspectives on History article announcing the findings of this report, Allen Mikaelian, the newsletter's editor, and Julia Brookins, a member of the AHA staff observed that it was “a perfect half—empty, half-­full finding. In sharing this discovery informally with historians and graduate students, we’ve found that people tend to take it as evidence of their already-­formed attitude—­be that optimistic or pessimistic.”

Other important findings: sub-fields are important to the history profession and this study found that non-Americanists had a better chance of finding jobs than Americanists.  Job placement broke even on gender.

My take: these numbers are better than what I expected.  The thing is, though, a half-full glass is actually not that great considering the amount of work that an individual invests in getting the Ph.D.  I should also note that there is a big difference in having a job in some place like Chicago versus an isolated region of the country, like southwestern Nebraska.

The 16-page study is available on the AHA website: L. Maren Wood and Robert B. Townsend, The Many Careers of History PhDs: A Study of Job Outcomes, Spring 2013A Report to the American Historical Association, http://historians.org/Documents/Many_Careers_of_History_PhDs_Final.pdf 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Blog CLXXIV (174): The History Ph.D. as a Lot More of Things

Over the past couple of years the American Historical Association has had a feature on its website called "AHA Member Spotlight."  These biographical profiles, offer short professional sketches of various historians.  After going through all of these postings I have come to the less than startling conclusion that most AHA members are primarily academics.  No big surprise there.  Every once in a while, though, there were some outliers.  Below are a series of links to the "Spotlight" of AHA members that are doing something that is a bit unique; that are teaching in departments other than history; that are working overseas; that teach in high schools; or those that are public historians of one sort or another. These features are highlighted here in the hopes that they might give the viewers of this blog unconventional ideas about future employment.  The "Spotlights" were not developed with that purpose in mind, but a highly creative mind can look at these features analytically and find new insights in them.  Enjoy:
  • Blaine Brownell, academic administration, University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of North Texas; University of Memphis; Ball State University; University of South Florida
  • Nancy McTygue, Executive Director, California History-Social Science Project, University of California, Davis
  • Carl Abbott, Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University
  • Craig Perrier, high school social studies and history specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools
  • Marty Blatt, Chief of Cultural Resources and Historian, Boston National Historical Park/Boston African American National Historic Site
  • Colin F. Wilder, Associate Director, Center for Digital Humanities, University of South Carolina
  • Jeffrey S. Reznick, Chief, History of Medicine Division U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Monday, March 9, 2015

Blog CLXXIII (173): The History Ph.D. as a Lot of Things

This post represents a return of the "History Ph.D. as ...." series (sort of).  The original series was a series of guest essays from individuals with a Ph.D. in history (with one or two notable exceptions) who found themselves working somewhere other than in a history department.  Starting in 2013 the American Historical Association's newsletter Perspectives on History began a similar series called "Career Paths."  In running this blog I have always preferred to avoid articles from other media outlets that were widely available elsewhere.  When I have reproduced stories, I have tried to do so from outlets that most of the readers of this blog would not regularly consult.   While Perspectives is clearly a publication that many readers of this blog read regularly, there are a number of articles in it that are similar to the "History Ph.D. as ..." series and since there are so many accounts that can be consulted quickly I am presenting links to these first-person accounts here:

Friday, March 6, 2015

Administrative Post 32

The blog is in the middle of a small break.  (The semesters at the Naval War College differ a lot from most of those in use at colleges and universities around the USA).  I am currently using this time to work on some of my writing projects.  (This blog can often be quite demanding when it comes to time; which is one of the reasons it saw so little attention in 2014 and 2013).  Rest assured, the blog will return next week with the return of "The History Ph.D. as..." series and several other posts about publishing, writing, and employment trends in history. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Administrative Post 31

This note is the last post to the "Job Tips" series (sort of).  This series was enormously popular by the standards of this blog, drawing on average a thousand visitors a week.  The individuals who contributed their insights did so out of their own generosityso if you have the chance you should thank them.  A few of them, though, sent in replies after I had already posted the relevant collection of comments.  As a result, I decided to take advantage of the dynamic nature of the internet and folded their advice in after the initial posting.  As a result, every essay in the "Job Tips" series saw revision and expansion in this past week.  Go back and take a look at them again.  There is a lot of good stuff in these new points.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blog CLXXII (172): Job Hunting Tips: Follow Up

What "dos" and "don'ts" would you pass on to a new scholar going out on the job market.  That is a question I asked a number of friends and colleagues.  The response was overwhelming.  Dozens and dozens of people replied.  These comments come from scholars working at community colleges (Lorain County Community College), small liberal arts colleges (Concordia University Wisconsin), regional state schools (Humboldt State University and Texas A&M University—Commerce), and research universities both public (Ohio State and North Carolina) and private (Brigham Young and Vanderbilt).  They are mostly historians working in academic departments, but some teach in professional programs (U.S. Naval War College and the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University).  Click here to see Part 1 entitled "Before Hand." Click here to see Part 2 entitled "The Application."  Click here to see Part 3 entitled "Know Yourself."  Click here to see Part 4 entitled "Be Prepared."  Click here to see Part 5 entitled "The Interview(s)."  Here is the sixth and final part of this series entitled: "Follow Up":
  • Don't forget that rejection is part of the game—don't take it personally and don't let it get you down.—Hillary Gleason, Laredo Community College
  • Never forget it's a crapshoot—there are no guarantees and nothing you can do except improve your odds (which remain, nonetheless, “odds”).—Jason Parker, Department of History, Texas A&M University
  • If you receive a rejection letter, take some time and then write a thank you note for the consideration and time to look at your application. It was one of these that led to my first year long teaching job.—Salvatore Mercogliano, Department of History, Campbell University
  • Perhaps the biggest change since I was last on the market has been the crowdsourcing of the entire process. For example, http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Academic_Jobs_Wiki is now the one stop shop for the job search. For those on the market, this site is valuable not only to read the experiences of others who are applying for the same positions, but a forum where one can post their own experiences. In a nutshell, I think one of the most frustrating parts of the job market, for applicants, is information asymmetry. One applies for a position, doesn't hear anything for months or never at all, and never feels fully part of the process. This site helps to reduce information asymmetry.—Luke A. Nichter, Texas A&M University—Central Texas