Monday, January 31, 2011

Blog LXXIV (74): Another Video

Here is another one of those xtranormal videos. This one is "Why you Shouldn't Become an Archivist." According to the comments that are posted on the hosting site, this video has a lot of truth to it as did the ones that were posted in Blog LIX. The best satire always uses the truth. Enjoy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blog LXXIII (73): The Disposable Academic

At the AHA meeting, I stated that there is only a 16 percent chance of a Ph.D. finding a job as a faculty member. That statistic comes from this powerful article that appeared in the December 16 issue of The Economist. It is entitled: "Doctoral Degrees - The Disposable Academic Why Doing a PhD is Often a Waste of Time". This article makes for grim reading. It shows that the glut in Ph.D.s is not limited to the field of history or the United States:

On the evening before All Saints' Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research - a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master's degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as "slave labour". Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. "It isn't graduate school itself that is discouraging," says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. "What's discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach."

Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical "professional doctorates" in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.
Rich PickingsFor most of history even a first degree at a university was the privilege of a rich few, and many academic staff did not hold doctorates. But as higher education expanded after the second world war, so did the expectation that lecturers would hold advanced degrees. American universities geared up first: by 1970 America was producing just under a third of the world's university students and half of its science and technology PhDs (at that time it had only 6% of the global population). Since then America's annual output of PhDs has doubled, to 64,000.

Other countries are catching up. Between 1998 and 2006 the number of doctorates handed out in all OECD countries grew by 40%, compared with 22% for America. PhD production sped up most dramatically in Mexico, Portugal, Italy and Slovakia. Even Japan, where the number of young people is shrinking, churned out about 46% more PhDs. Part of that growth reflects the expansion of university education outside America. Richard Freeman, a labour economist at Harvard University, says that by 2006 America was enrolling just 12% of the world's students.

But universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries more teaching, with less money. A graduate assistant at Yale might earn $20,000 a year for nine months of teaching. The average pay of full professors in America was $109,000 in 2009-higher than the average for judges and magistrates.

Indeed, the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships. Using PhD students to do much of the undergraduate teaching cuts the number of full-time jobs. Even in Canada, where the output of PhD graduates has grown relatively modestly, universities conferred 4,800 doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time professors. Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now seem short of PhDs.
A Short Course in Supply and DemandIn research the story is similar. PhD students and contract staff known as "postdocs", described by one student as "the ugly underbelly of academia", do much of the research these days. There is a glut of postdocs too. Dr Freeman concluded from pre-2000 data that if American faculty jobs in the life sciences were increasing at 5% a year, just 20% of students would land one. In Canada 80% of postdocs earn $38,600 or less per year before tax - the average salary of a construction worker. The rise of the postdoc has created another obstacle on the way to an academic post. In some areas five years as a postdoc is now a prerequisite for landing a secure full-time job.

These armies of low-paid PhD researchers and postdocs boost universities', and therefore countries', research capacity. Yet that is not always a good thing. Brilliant, well-trained minds can go to waste when fashions change. The post-Sputnik era drove the rapid growth in PhD physicists that came to an abrupt halt as the Vietnam war drained the science budget. Brian Schwartz, a professor of physics at the City University of New York, says that in the 1970s as many as 5,000 physicists had to find jobs in other areas.

In America the rise of PhD teachers' unions reflects the breakdown of an implicit contract between universities and PhD students: crummy pay now for a good academic job later. Student teachers in public universities such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison formed unions as early as the 1960s, but the pace of unionisation has increased recently. Unions are now spreading to private universities; though Yale and Cornell, where university administrators and some faculty argue that PhD students who teach are not workers but apprentices, have resisted union drives. In 2002 New York University was the first private university to recognise a PhD teachers' union, but stopped negotiating with it three years later.

In some countries, such as Britain and America, poor pay and job prospects are reflected in the number of foreign-born PhD students. Dr Freeman estimates that in 1966 only 23% of science and engineering PhDs in America were awarded to students born outside the country. By 2006 that proportion had increased to 48%. Foreign students tend to tolerate poorer working conditions, and the supply of cheap, brilliant, foreign labour also keeps wages down.

Proponents of the PhD argue that it is worthwhile even if it does not lead to permanent academic employment. Not every student embarks on a PhD wanting a university career and many move successfully into private-sector jobs in, for instance, industrial research. That is true; but drop-out rates suggest that many students become dispirited. In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years after their first date of enrolment. In the humanities, where most students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49%. Worse still, whereas in other subject areas students tend to jump ship in the early years, in the humanities they cling like limpets before eventually falling off. And these students started out as the academic cream of the nation. Research at one American university found that those who finish are no cleverer than those who do not. Poor supervision, bad job prospects or lack of money cause them to run out of steam.

Even graduates who find work outside universities may not fare all that well. PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to have little interest in students who are leaving academia. One OECD study shows that five years after receiving their degrees, more than 60% of PhDs in Slovakia and more than 45% in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain were still on temporary contracts. Many were postdocs. About one-third of Austria's PhD graduates take jobs unrelated to their degrees. In Germany 13% of all PhD graduates end up in lowly occupations. In the Netherlands the proportion is 21%.
A Very Slim PremiumPhD graduates do at least earn more than those with a bachelor's degree. A study in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management by Bernard Casey shows that British men with a bachelor's degree earn 14% more than those who could have gone to university but chose not to. The earnings premium for a PhD is 26%. But the premium for a master's degree, which can be accomplished in as little as one year, is almost as high, at 23%. In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely. PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master's degrees. The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master's degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3% premium over a master's degree.

Dr Schwartz, the New York physicist, says the skills learned in the course of a PhD can be readily acquired through much shorter courses. Thirty years ago, he says, Wall Street firms realised that some physicists could work out differential equations and recruited them to become "quants", analysts and traders. Today several short courses offer the advanced maths useful for finance. "A PhD physicist with one course on differential equations is not competitive," says Dr Schwartz.

Many students say they are pursuing their subject out of love, and that education is an end in itself. Some give little thought to where the qualification might lead. In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to this. Scientists can easily get stipends, and therefore drift into doing a PhD. But there are penalties, as well as benefits, to staying at university. Workers with "surplus schooling"-more education than a job requires-are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs.

Academics tend to regard asking whether a PhD is worthwhile as analogous to wondering whether there is too much art or culture in the world. They believe that knowledge spills from universities into society, making it more productive and healthier. That may well be true; but doing a PhD may still be a bad choice for an individual.

The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned. The more bright students stay at universities, the better it is for academics. Postgraduate students bring in grants and beef up their supervisors' publication records. Academics pick bright undergraduate students and groom them as potential graduate students. It isn't in their interests to turn the smart kids away, at least at the beginning. One female student spoke of being told of glowing opportunities at the outset, but after seven years of hard slog she was fobbed off with a joke about finding a rich husband.

Monica Harris, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, is a rare exception. She believes that too many PhDs are being produced, and has stopped admitting them. But such unilateral academic birth control is rare. One Ivy-League president, asked recently about PhD oversupply, said that if the top universities cut back others will step in to offer them instead.

Noble PursuitsMany of the drawbacks of doing a PhD are well known. Your correspondent was aware of them over a decade ago while she slogged through a largely pointless PhD in theoretical ecology. As Europeans try to harmonise higher education, some institutions are pushing the more structured learning that comes with an American PhD.

The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market. Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience. Some universities are now offering their PhD students training in soft skills such as communication and teamwork that may be useful in the labour market. In Britain a four-year NewRoutePhD claims to develop just such skills in graduates.

Measurements and incentives might be changed, too. Some university departments and academics regard numbers of PhD graduates as an indicator of success and compete to produce more. For the students, a measure of how quickly those students get a permanent job, and what they earn, would be more useful. Where penalties are levied on academics who allow PhDs to overrun, the number of students who complete rises abruptly, suggesting that students were previously allowed to fester.

Many of those who embark on a PhD are the smartest in their class and will have been the best at everything they have done. They will have amassed awards and prizes. As this year's new crop of graduate students bounce into their research, few will be willing to accept that the system they are entering could be designed for the benefit of others, that even hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed, and that they would be better off doing something else. They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blog LXXII (72): Reflections on the AHA

I had a good AHA conference. Only the second time that has happened. One of the main reasons is because I stayed away from the job center where all the interviews were taking place.

The good people at AHA central have spent some time collecting links to a number of blogs that discussed the 125th annual meeting in Boston. I spent an hour reading them and learned a lot. Most confirmed my view that the more you avoid the interviews the better. A few blogs were extremely informative, many were a waste of time. Several mentioned my session, which makes me feel we did something useful, but then a lot of the points we were trying to make do not seem to have gotten understood, which gives you pause. All four of my previous postings for this blog are listed. That development is gratifying. Someone seems to paying attention to what gets discussed on this blog.

I have been thinking long and hard about the problems facing the history profession. The biggest issue in my mind is the job market. All other issues seem fairly insignificant in comparison. Bluntly put: supply exceeds demand—it has for over a decade—and the supply seems to be increasing just as the demand is shrinking. This issue will get better before it gets worse. There are many history Ph.D.s already in the pipeline who will be finishing their degrees in the next year or two and problems in the national economy, which are the systemic cause for the decline in jobs, are not going to get fixed anytime soon.

What is a historian to do? Officials of the AHA does not seem to have a ready response. To be fair it is not a problem of their making, but the response of the leadership of the profession to this crisis seems to be lame. (I will define the “leadership of the profession” to be the elected officers of the AHA and the faculty at the leading history departments—I will leave that one a little vague on purpose.)

Many of the faculty at leading institutions actually seem to be more of the problem than the solution. It was well clear by the mid-1990s that history departments across the country had admitted too many students in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The job market was not particularly good back then—I know I was looking for a job at the time—but they continued to admit students.

Why? Why would departments do that? The short answer: it was—and still is—in the short term institutional interests of departments to have strong graduate programs even if their were no jobs for those students once they graduated. Having grad students serve as teaching assistants or as instructors was how departments managed to honor the low teaching loads they offered to their faculty and yet how they managed to meet their undergraduate teaching obligations. The surplus and the use of adjuncts also allows departmental faculty to enjoy low teaching loads. I also suspect the history faculty at prestige schools expected that their reputation would trump the numbers. (“We’re Stanford, damn it! Our students are better and will always be able to get jobs.”)

The comments of Todd A. Diacon, deputy chancellor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, have been weighing on me. Diacon, a distinguished historian in his own right, pointed out that the number of history departments with Ph.D. programs in the country is not sustainable because faculty in these programs often carry light teaching loads, with the extra classes transferred to graduate students and adjuncts.

The leadership of the AHA seems to think the organization is fairly weak and has little power beyond shinning a light on certain problems or coming up with best practice guidelines. Some of the other bloggers have made a good point that developing guidelines has little impact and simply saying things are bad is not all that helpful.

I agree, and have been thinking up a series of ideas on how to solve these problems. I have several ideas in mind and I am basically trying to figure out ways both to decrease the supply and increase the demand for the history Ph.D. I am currently thinking through the positives and negatives in each proposal and trying to think through the objections to each idea in order to make them stronger. I am going to run them by a few friends before I announce them to the rest of the world. I think they will work, but I want to be realistic; if they do work, it is still going to take time (and by “time” I mean several years) for them to kick in and have their full impact. Finally, if you do not like what I have to propose, I hope you will see these ideas as a constructive effort to offer some type of solution to problems facing the profession. If you disagree, I hope you will offer positive contributions to solve a serious problem facing the history business.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Blog LXXI (71): The AHA is Here: Day 4

Sunday, January 9: the last day of the AHA conference.

It snowed through the night. A lot more snow on the ground.

Another early morning workout. The hotel fitness center was full of historians.

I was at the book display when it opened at 9 a.m. Actually was there ten minutes before and spent some time chatting with people from my session. There was a nice crowd of people waiting to get in and I was joking that was like the mad dash of the brides when Filene’s Basement has their yearly bridal sale. That is an exaggeration, but it looked like it a little. I was one of the worst. I spent two hours in the ballroom and got book after book after book. I started acquiring books on the first day of the conference, but Sunday morning was the big day. One of the major reasons I go to the AHA is to acquire books at a steep discount. The book sellers go to the meeting for two reasons. They want their products to be adopted in courses, which is why they give texts to faculty at a huge discount. The main reason booksellers are at the meeting is to meet with authors and potential authors.

All told I spent roughly $200 and walked away with 75 books. That came down to $2.60 per book. If I bought all these books at a Barnes & Noble I would have paid $2200. Now, not all of these books were for me. Fifteen are books that I acquired for review in Presidential Studies Quarterly, where I am one of the book review editors.

After finishing with the book fair, I went to a session entitled: “The Public’s ‘Need to Know’ and National Security.” It was interesting session on the standing of the Foreign Relations of the United States series, a historical editing project the Historian’s Office at the State Department is responsible for producing. The FRUS series started in 1861 and is very important to diplomatic historians. The session was broadcast live on C-Span. Some of the stuff that got discussed was not new, but some of it was quite interesting. The recent Wikileaks incident was a topic. The consensus of the panel was that the information that was released was fairly insignificant. The exact word used was "chatter." Mitch Lerner of The Ohio State University gave a talk on a survey he did of diplomatic historians and their opinions on the state of the FRUS series. I was one of the people that Lerner contacted, and in the question/answer session I asked about the perception in the profession about the current quality of the series. It was a really good session, and a good way to end the AHA conference.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blog LXX (70): The AHA is Here: Day 3

My apologies for the delay in posting this blog. Most of it was written on January 8, but I was not able to get it posted in a timely fashion.

Still snowing. Boston is covered in a light blanket of white. Started the morning with a work out in the fitness center of the hotel. It was full of historians.

Turned on the television and discovered HistoriansTV. Basically it is a cable network channel about the conference and it is broadcast to everyone staying in the conference hotels. I learned that there are a 150 job interviews taking place. That is not that many particularly when you consider information from the AHA study that I mentioned yesterday. There were 569 jobs advertised in the AHA newsletter this year. The fewest number of listings in the last 10 years. Jobs listings in the newsletter dropped 29.4 percent in 2009-2010 and 23.8 in 2008-2009.

It gets worse. In 2009, history departments awarded 989 degrees, a nine-year high. The year before it was 969. Now here is where it goes from bad to worse: in response to budge shortfalls departments are instituting a number of cost cutting measures: they are eliminating courses, increasing class sizes, and using even more part-timers instructors. Put another way: supply is increasing at the same time that demand is decreasing.

And it won’t get better any time soon. According to the report, "the number of faculty [in history departments] approaching retirement age in the next 10 years is reaching the lowest level in 30 years." Put another way: "even if there were no hiring freezes to factor into the equation, it is clear that over the next 10 to 15 years the discipline will not be generating as many jobs from retiring faculty as it has in the recent past."

The report did not offer an actions that departments, the AHA as an organization, or individual historians can take. It simply stated, "Most history doctoral students are being trained for an academic job market that is now beset by crises," the report says. "Departments should begin to carefully reflect on the type of training they are providing their students and the number of students they are admitting to their programs."

In a later interview, Robert B. Townsend, the primary author of this study, gave, he said he had no advice to offer to a new Ph.D. on the job market. He said these scholars should think about "how long it is reasonable to linger on in part-time and postdoc positions." The numbers suggest that after three years the odds of getting a job drop. "Typically, our advice is that after about three years, your odds of getting on to the tenure track go down significantly," he remarked. What we do not know is if attitudes about such historians will change in light of the exceptionally poor job market faced by those going on the market now.

Went to a conference on the academic job market. The participants were not offering much useful news and there were only 25 people in the room. The question and answer session was more useful. One member of the crowd was Todd A. Diacon, deputy chancellor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “We don’t wake up every day thinking, ‘How are we going to stick it to the humanities?’ ” he explained. “We have to face a very different reality.” Diacon stated that the “either/or” view of the world that pits academics against administrators is simplistic and misleading. Many administrators who are trying to measure productivity and maximize efficiency in higher education are trained scholars. “The enemy is us,” he said. Diacon added that there are too many universities with Ph.D. programs. These programs are extremely expensive due to the light teaching loads that they mandate and that he expects to see dozens shut down in the next decade, given the current economic environment. History just does not bring in the same money that the sciences do.

To me that sounds like market forces might solve the glut, but it does little for those currently on the job market.

One very frustrated grad student asked for specifics on where to find the non-traditional jobs that everyone was discussing. I stood up and made several comments. First, I told everyone about this blog and the listing of websites with jobs. Needless to say, after the conference, I was flooded with people wanting the address. Second, in response to Sarah Maza, the incoming vice president of the professional division’s request for ideas, I suggested that the AHA begin seriously making efforts to broaden its leadership. Prior to 1945, the organization had people serve as president who were political scientists, anthropologists, archeologists, and/or professional writers. Some like Alfred Thayer Mahan and Theodore Roosevelt did not even have a Ph.D. The organization needs to bring in public historians, archivists, and others the way it once did. This is the first step in broadening the organization’s knowledge of other job out there in the history business. This idea went over fairly well.

Talked with a friend of mine from grad school. He is at a research university that is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. They were doing a search for a historian of Early Republic America. They had over 100 applicants. I asked how they narrowed down that list. He explained that about 60 were historians of Colonial America, but were applying for the job, thinking they could do this other period. He suspected they could, but they wanted someone who could do the Early Republic, and excluded all these colonial era specialists.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Blog LXIX (69): The AHA is Here: Day 2

Yesterday was an average second day at the AHA. The problem I (and many others) have with the AHA is that most of the sessions seem irrelevant to my interests. History is simply too big and too diverse for there to be an organization for the entire profession.

Went to a session on publishing: “‘Beyond Chaps and Maps’: A Roundtable on Publishing International History.” Kathleen McDermott of Harvard University Press said “History is a big selling category to the outside world.” I also learned that books that cross disciplines are difficult for publishers to market and sell. They tend to like books that fit solidly in a category. Interdisciplinary work is difficult because it can often be peripheral to the main issues in several different fields. A book needs to be central to the debate or area of concern in some field. Susan Ferber of Oxford University noted that there are many specializations in certain historical subfields, that they are splitting. In this current economic environment, that is not a wise move. The thing that impressed her the most of late was the debate that took place at the 2009 annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations about changing the name of the organization and journal. That organization has managed to maintain a big tent approach and is one of the most civil and collegial learned societies in the history profession. As a diplomatic historian, that made me feel good.

Spent a lot of time at the book fair, grabbing books. Ran into several old friends. Had some interesting conversations—typical AHA stuff. A friend asked about my session and then talked about an article in Inside Higher Ed that discussed academic employment. It sounds like an interesting article and I will dig it up for this blog.

Went back to my room and worked out.

Had an interesting conversation with a friend on the way to a reception. His university is doing a search for a Latin Americanist. They had 140 applicants and are interviewing 15 at the conference. I asked how did they reduce that number. He said each committee member took a third of the applicants and weeded them down. First, they would only look at people with a Ph.D. No ABDs. Second, they were looking for true Latin Americanists, not someone who did U.S.-Latin America—they have a diplomatic historian and they need a real Latin Americanist. Third, the decided that they would look only at people that had already had some type of teaching experience. The problem they were facing is that none of the candidates had given a bad interview. I include this little incident in hopes of giving readers of this blog a better idea of what happens in the interview process and how tough it is to get a job in history.

I then spent time at the reception for the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. A good group and I saw a lot of old friends. I then went to a very small reception afterwards for AHA book prize winners and the leadership of the AHA. (I was invited as the chair of an AHA book prize committee. Very good food, but the session seemed reflective of the problems with the AHA—there was little mingling. People talked to those in their little niches.

Started snowing last night.

I had dinner in Boston at Mother Anna’s, an Italian place in Boston’s North End. There were about 25 other diplomatic historians in attendance. We had a good conversation about university administration with Randall Woods, a former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas. Woods, myself, William Hitchcock of the University of Virginia, and Fredrik Logevall of Cornell University were at one end of a long table and our conversation also discussed publishing. Basically books are not selling that well—which is hardly surprising given the current economic environment.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blog LXVIII (68): The AHA is Here: Day 1

The 125th annual meeting of the American Historical Association started yesterday, January 6, 2011. The next couple of blog entries will focus on the AHA conference, it strengths and weaknesses.

The conference is being held at the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston. The AHA seems to like cold, chilly places with San Diego being a notable exception. While the weather is okay considering the season, the location is a good one. The Convention center is connected to a number of hotels and offers a number of decent eateries. There are also good places within walking distance where you can get a real meal, if you want.

My AHA started with arrival at the hotel and a quick valet of auto and the checking of my bags. I taught in the morning at the NWC and arrived worried about making the start of my session. As it was I was the first person to walk in the room. Our session started on time. The session was recorded by the AHA, but C-Span was not there. We had 73 people in the room, which was the best turnout I have had in the three times I have been on the AHA conference program.

Robert Kane of Air University began his talk by discussing his work as a unit historian for the U.S. Air Force. He was the only person in our session to use power point in his presentation. The military is civilianizing its historian program. There are 220 of these positions in the Air Force. What do they do? They research and write the annual histories of the units to which they are assigned—think of this as a year end report. They also do oral histories with unit commanders, and collect and maintain unit documents. The jobs are at air bases around the country and the pay ranges from $38,000-$100,000. There is a cost of living adjustment as well (if a job in South Dakota pays $50,000, it will pay much more in Washington, D.C. where the cost of living is more). The job does not require specialization in military history—all fields are welcome and if you do not have a Ph.D., the service will pay for you to obtain one.

Kevin Allen from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation then spoke. He might be considered a public historian, but he specifically works in historic preservation. His job is to preserve historical buildings, which are abundant in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “These buildings are the primary documents,” he remarked. Historic preservation is a bit fuzzy as a field. It does not have a specific career track. It requires skills from a number of different fields including history, architecture, and the law to name just a few. It is a growing field.

The next speaker was Steven Luckert, a curator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “If you are a historian, it’s a great place to be,” he remarked. As a curator he reaches a huge audience; 2 million people visit the museum a year. Like many museums, the Holocaust Memorial has an archive, which allows him to do historical research in primary sources. Museums sponsor speaker series and conferences, which leads to “fruitful discussions” with professional colleagues. Most curators are historians. “It’s an extremely creative process,” he said. He also called it the “most rewarding job I’ve every had.”

I spoke next. My presentation was sweet and sour—actually the sour part came first. I said the problems historians faced was one of simple economics. Supply vastly exceeded demand with supply being people with a history Ph.D. and demand being jobs available for them. I cited statistics from an article in December 16, 2010 issue of The Economist. Overproduction of Ph.D.s was not limited to history. American universities produced 100,000 Ph.D.s in the last five years and there were only 16,000 jobs. That is to say there are jobs for only 16 percent of these newly minted scholars. The days of thinking that having a good degree from a good school would be enough to get you a job are over. There are probably less than five schools in the country that can take that attitude, and I pointed out that there are more than five schools in the Ivy League. (That got a few laughs). I created this blog to address these issue and many others , and made references to many of the on this blog about other careers not being discussed in this session. I then discussed working in the military school system, and recommended it highly.

Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, the University Archivist at Harvard University spoke next. She said being archivists are in the history business, they build history and they, not historians, are the ones that first find new documents. Being an archivist is fuzzy it is part library science and party history and people doing that work have backgrounds in both. For a long time, she was the only historian working among archivists. “It’s the history part of the job that keeps me going,” she explained. Her job now is primarily administrative and managerial as she has 23 people working for her. Public and private archives also work differently as they have different missions and purposes. Private archives are far more scholarly in nature, while public archives often have a mission of public accountability for state, local, and federal governments.

C. James Taylor of the Papers of John Adams project at the Massachusetts Historical Society spoke last. He said the job market situation today was worse than it had been when he finished his Ph.D. in the early 1970s. He stumbled into historical editing on accident. “I have never looked back.” He also noted that the history Ph.D. was the perfect type of degree and most projects require that credential. “You have been prepared for this kind of work.” Historical editing is still fairly new. The earliest projects date back to the 1940s, but most of the growth in the field started in the 1960s. Taylor said there were pluses and minuses to this type of work. One the positive side, the salaries are competitive and in some cases better than what faculty make; competition for these jobs is “keen” but nowhere near as savage as the jobs for a tenure track appointment. Finally, a published volume of historical papers will have a much longer shelf life than any academic monograph. “They go on to have a lasting impact.” The negatives to the job include having to keep regular office hours; work on a 12 month basis with no summer vacations; no tenure; and most of the projects operate on soft money, which is to say grants from private foundations, and state and federal governments. As a result, there is a constant need to show results. Taylor also said that academic historians also are condescending to historical editing staffs even if they are unemployed. Good research and writings skills are a must and a strong candidate needs to show that they can work as part of a team.

A healthy question and answer session followed. During this discussion, a number of the following job bank web sites were recommended for people looking for jobs in these non-traditional fields:

American Association of Museums Job Headquarters Section

PreserveNet Job Board Facebook Page

The Association of Documentary Editing Job Listings

The Society of American Archivisits Online Career Center (federal government)

The Special Libraries Association Career Center

Association of Research Libraries Career Resources

The rest of the first day as the typical AHA. I ran into a few old friends and colleagues. I also spent some time at the book display talking to the editor at Kansas about my next book.

Overall, the leadership of the AHA still seems reluctant to address major problems facing the profession. The first conference in Boston proper was 1912 (there were two previous conferences in Cambridge) and the president of the AHA that year was Theodore Roosevelt. (You might have heard of him). His speech addressed discussed the marginalization of history in American society. He focused on the quality of writing of historical studies, which was a major factor in scholars not having an audience. He wanted scholars to realize that history is literature. His speech is still highly, highly relevant, because the situation has only gotten worse in the intervening 99 years. The other major issue facing the history business—as I have already stated—is the vast surplus of historians with a Ph.D. Tonight the president of the AHA, Barbara D. Metcalf of the University of California, Davis, emerita will be giving a talk entitled: “Islam and Power in Colonial India: The Making and Unmaking of a Muslim Prince(ss).” That talk is about as relevant to me as it is to you.