More History PhDs (Again) but Fewer with Jobs out of the Gate (Again)

Historians in the News
tags: history



Allen Mikaelian is a Washington DC-based writer, editor, and historian.

In contrast to the declining number of bachelors degrees in history, the number of PhDs in history continues to rise, according to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). I’ve updated 2013’s visualizations with numbers covering those who graduated in 2014 (released last month). The updates are below, with a few brief comments.

 The 2014 survey shows the gap between those who have definite employment and those still seeking a job widening dramatically. Nearly 46 percent of new history PhDs were still seeking employment at the time they took the survey. Only 37 percent had definite jobs. In 2013 the difference in percentages was less than one percent.

● The difference in 2014 was even more pronounced for men, with the percentage of male PhD grads with definite jobs dropping by almost ten points. Women saw a slight uptick, but they had seen a faster decline in previous years.

 Fourteen percent had postgraduate study plans (mostly postdocs). If we combine those with jobs and those with postdocs (and you can do this in the viz), the percentage of those with definite plans is larger than those without, but the lines are converging.

Labels show percent change from previous year.

 History PhDs were more likely to be seeking employment than those who elected to study “letters” (English, English literature,American literature) or foreign languages/literatures. Both of these saw an uptick in those who had jobs out of the gate.

 The uptick in employment prospects of PhDs in the language/literature categories might have something to do with the fact that they both also saw declines in the total number of graduates.

 The increase in the number of history PhDs was almost all male.

● History PhDs who reported having jobs were significantly less likely to have academic jobs than job havers who graduated with PhDs in letters or foreign languages/literatures.

Six years after the job crash (graph here), there is still a steady stream of new PhDs competing for fewer jobs. It’s hard to imagine how this can continue, but few recent PhDs and candidates I know regret their decision, even in the face of declining academic job prospects.




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