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Where Historians Work

July 9, 2018
 
 

The American Historical Association this week launches Where Historians Work, an online tool tracking career outcomes for the more than 8,500 historians who earned their Ph.D.s at U.S. institutions between 2004 and 2014. Where Historians Work is the fullest picture of Ph.D. careers available in any discipline, according to AHA, and signals the association’s “commitment to transparency and breadth in discussions of careers for history Ph.D.s.”

The association says the tool will help “answer long-standing questions about the discipline and prompt new conversations about where historical work happens, what it means to ‘do’ history, and ultimately what it means to be a historian.”

A key finding is that more than two-thirds of history Ph.D.s end up as college and university faculty members, despite declines in academic hiring. The vast majority work at teaching-focused institutions. History Ph.D.s have low rates of unemployment, and those who work outside academe do so across a wide variety of fields. Specialization and degree-granting institution do appear to affect career outcomes, while gender appears to have little to no effect, according to the AHA’s analysis.

The association notes that Where Historians Work focuses on outcomes, not motivations, but that the findings reveal important questions about the “agency” of Ph.D.s. Many history Ph.D.s remain in the cities or regions where they earned their degrees, for example, suggesting location plays a role in educational and career decisions. Where Historians Work is part of a national trend toward increased transparency about Ph.D. employment outcomes.

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