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 2013—A Report to the American Historical Association, http://historians.org/Documents/Many_Careers_of_History_PhDs_Final.pdf