History Job Openings Drop

American Historical Association analysis sees drop for second year in a row.

September 4, 2014

The American Historical Association typically releases its annual jobs report at the annual meeting in January. The report was moved up to Wednesday, but not because of good news.

The association listed 638 history jobs in 2013-14, down 7 percent from the previous year. That total is greater than the 569 jobs listed in 2009-10, the point at which the recession was having its most significant impact on academic hiring. But history job listings don't appear in any way headed back to their pre-recession total in 2007-8 of 1,064.

Not all history faculty jobs are posted with the AHA. But the ups and downs of its job postings generally reflect the discipline's health in hiring.

The AHA study has for the last two years done additional analysis of jobs listed with H-Net, but not the association. This year, the association found 763 unduplicated jobs for early-career scholars listed in the two sources. That represents a drop of 15 percent from a year ago. Because the National Science Foundation's Survey of Earned Doctorates suggests that more than 1,000 new history Ph.D.s are awarded eachs year, the new data from the AHA point to a very tight job market for those leaving graduate school. And this is made more challenging because many people who received their Ph.D.s since 2008, when the economic downturn hit, have had a difficult job finding good long-term jobs, especially in academe.

The geographic specialties being sought are similar to those in recent years. There are far more openings for North American or European history than for the study of other regions. However, there are also far more Ph.D.s awarded in North American and European history, and there are still departments where those regions have dominated hiring for years but that are now trying to diversify their offerings. As a result, those with Ph.D.s in the study of Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa may have better prospects (although jobs aren't easy to come by, no matter one's field).

The bad news may disappoint many historians, but it is unlikely to shock them. Scholars have for several years been discussing whether to reshape graduate education, place more value on (and provide more preparation for) non-academic careers and/or become more transparent about job issues with prospective graduate students.

The author of the new jobs report is Allen Mikaelian, editor of the AHA publication Perspectives on History. He concludes this way: "We clearly cannot be sanguine about the possibility that a recovery in the academic job market for historians will closely follow the U.S. job market in general. Even if the academic market returns to what it was before the recession, the last two years suggest that it will be a bumpy ride back up."


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