Conflicting Signals in the Academic Job Market for History

Historians in the News
tags: education, history crisis



Related Link Teaching jobs for historians are down, but data suggest their opportunities outside the professoriate are on the rise

Each year the AHA, as the leading venue for job advertisements for history PhDs, reports data on the contours of the job market for historians. This year, we’ve included a follow-up survey of advertisers to obtain quantitative and qualitative information on search outcomes—picking up where the ads leave off.

Since the recession, the number of jobs advertised with the AHA at careers.historians.org has typically dropped while the applicant pool has grown. But the newest data on the academic job market in history signal a slightly different picture. In 2015–16, the number of ads once more edged down slightly, but the average number of applications for some jobs appeared to shrink as well.

Figure 1 charts long-term trends in the job market. In the 2015–16 academic year, the AHA received 572 job advertisements for full-time positions, including tenure-track jobs, non-tenure-track jobs, and term-limited fellowships, as well as positions beyond the professoriate. This marked a 2.6 percent drop from the year before and the fourth consecutive year in which the number of advertisements posted a decline.

On the other side of the job market, a new federal tabulation of PhDs conferred in the 2014–15 academic year reported a small (3.1 percent) decrease in the number of history degrees awarded. Even with the decrease, however, the number of new history doctorates (1,145) was the second largest in 40 years.

As in years past, the largest number of history PhDs went to specialists in the history of North America (413), but as a share of all history PhDs, the specialty fell for the fourth consecutive year—from 40 percent of history PhDs in 2010–11 to 36 percent in the most recent year. The number and share of PhDs conferred in European history fell over the same span—from 224 to 198, and from 21 percent to 17 percent of all history doctoral degrees. 

Available data indicate that PhDs earned by specialists in the history of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East have all grown in the most recent five years. Doctorates awarded in Asian history, for instance, increased from 68 to 89. Degrees awarded in the field of Middle Eastern history were not tabulated until the 2007–08 academic year (when 45 were conferred), but as of 2014–15, the number had grown to 82. Among the other specialties, 30 doctorates were awarded in African history and 63 in Latin American history. ...




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