The Many Careers of History Ph.Ds

The American Historical Association has just released a study of job outcomes for 2500 history PhDs (randomly chosen out of 10,976), all of whom received their degrees between 1998 and 2009.  Here are some of the findings:

  • Only two people in the sample were unemployed
  • Over half of PhDs were employed at a four-year college or university.
  • American historians were 25 percent less likely to be employed on the tenure track than those who specialized in other fields
  • A PhD from a top-ranked university improved the odds of landing a tenure-track job at a research university
  • Gender was not a factor in these employment patterns
  • 17.8 percent held jobs “off the tenure-track”
  • 0.4 percent were employed at “for profit” colleges
  • Those employed outside of postsecondary teaching were working in academic administration, nonprofits, the federal government, business, K-12 teaching, libraries, museums, archives, state or local government, publishing, editing, and research.  About 5 percent identified themselves as “independent scholars” or “self-employed.”  Of those employed outside of postsecondary teaching, about 7 percent would fall into the category of “public history.”  Also, at least “half a dozen” had started a history-related consulting or research firm.
  • The conclusion: roughly 75 percent of PhDs in the sample “had worked in some capacity as historians–either as teachers or authors of history articles and books–during the past five years.”
Read the entire report here.

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik provides his take on the report.  Here is a taste:
A new study looking at large cohorts of Ph.D. recipients in history is quick to point out that the doctorate in the field almost always seems to result in employment — and not of the barista variety. Further, the study finds that many new doctorates are finding their way to the tenure track — and that such positions still exist for those starting their careers.
At the same time, the report found large numbers of history Ph.D.s working as adjuncts well after they earned their doctorates — apparently working off the tenure track for the long term. Further, the study found significant disparities by history specialty in the likelihood of landing a tenure-track job. And the most popular specialty for doctoral work (American history) appears to be the least likely to get someone a tenure-track slot.

2 thoughts on “The Many Careers of History Ph.Ds

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  2. It seemed to me that there was a lack of focus on community colleges. It also focused squarely on Ph.Ds. Community colleges are not always willing to hire a Ph.D because a CC is about teaching students and not on research. Some private schools fit this bill too. I just feel that this report is missing some information by not looking at the field of history with a larger lens.


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