History Jobs Stabilized Before COVID-19

January 26, 2021

The number of faculty jobs in history increased by 0.9 percent in the 2019-20 academic year, driven by a 7 percent increase in tenure-track positions in particular. That’s according to new American Historical Association report on jobs posted last academic year. That’s pre-COVID-19 and related widespread hiring freezes, however, meaning that this temporary stability in the job market is already over. As the AHA’s Dylan Ruediger wrote in an analysis, “The long-term effects of the pandemic remain unknown, but in the short term, higher education has been rocked by news of program closures, enrollment declines, and faculty layoffs. The specter of these trends cannot but inform how we read this year’s report, which documents a new normal that might already be a thing of the past.”

The association’s data come from the AHA Career Center and H-Net. The AHA Career Center saw 512 ads for 538 full-time positions, exactly the same numbers posted in 2018-19. Full-time, non-tenure-track job ads fell from 92 to 72 year over year, while postdoctoral positions increased to 99 from 79. Together, the AHA Career Center and H-Net advertised 697 faculty positions total and 534 on the tenure track. Competition was tough, as usual. The AHA collected application data for 80 assistant professor searches and found that each had an average of 108 applicants. Ads were posted for nonfaculty jobs, too. Those pushed the total number of jobs posted with the AHA Career Center and H-Net to 1,095.

U.S. history jobs continued to make up about one-quarter of listings, while European history jobs were just 7 percent of all listings, down from 15 percent in 2015. Jobs in “multiple” and “open” fields, meanwhile, are growing.

Fewer Ph.D.s were awarded in history in 2019-20, continuing a several-year trend. According to the federal Survey of Earned Doctorates, 986 historians earned Ph.D.s in 2019, a 1.7 percent decline from 2018, and the first time in over a decade that that number fell below 1,000. The number of Ph.D.s awarded in European history and American history decreased by 36 and 26 percent, respectively, since 2014, according the AHA’s analysis.

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