History Jobs Down 7.3%

January 2, 2014

The number of history faculty jobs fell by 7.3 percent in 2012-13, according to data released Wednesday by the American Historical Association.

The drop follows two years of modest gains, but even those gains hadn't come close to returning to the level of openings before the economic downturn hit in the fall of 2008. This year, the AHA posted 686 jobs, and the pre-recession total was 1,064.

The AHA's drop following modest gains for two years is exactly what the Modern Language Association reported last month with regard to its data on jobs in English and foreign languages. The American Economic Association also last month reported a drop in job openings. All three associations hold large annual meetings in January at which many departments conduct interviews, making January a crucial period in the academic job search process.

The AHA's jobs report notes that it is based only on jobs listed with the association, and that many jobs are not listed with the association. Even with this limitation, the disciplinary job totals have generally been considered a good indicator of overall trends in the job market.

At the same time, this year the AHA expanded parts of its study to include jobs posted with H-Net (only counting ads posted on both sites once). While the AHA only has the most recent year's data with both sources of jobs, and thus can't compare year-to-year trends, this information does allow for a more detailed analysis of the match between the history fields of study of new Ph.D.s and of job openings. As in past such analyses, the comparison shows that the fields in which most history Ph.D.s earn their doctorates face a much tougher job market than do others. Generally, those who study non-Western history have much better job prospects.

Entry-Level History Positions vs. Specialties of New Ph.D.s

Field Number of Openings Number of New Ph.D.s
North America 199 441
Europe 129 187
Asia 110 73
Latin America 51 64
Middle East 41 60
Africa 40 38

The tough academic job market has prompted leaders of the AHA to encourage graduate students to think about non-academic careers not as a fallback position, but as something to aspire to throughout a doctoral program. And the AHA -- under the slogan "No More Plan B" -- has urged graduate programs to broaden their training so that doctoral students have important non-academic skills as well as traditional research skills.

The AHA's jobs report was written by Allen Mikaelian, who is the editor of Perspectives on History.

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